Words, like the environments we inhabit,
are best understood in con
text.

...in the context of other words, in the context of their author as well as that of their interpreter. In the tradition of Raymond Williams, we interrogate words in attempt to better understand the intended the connotation, denotation, and signification of their author—including ourselves.

Throughout this website, keywords are highlighted with a boldface ' ° ' and underlined. If you're interested in understanding our (current) interpretation, simply click on said word. This is by no means an exhaustive analysis, but a point of departure for understanding the culpabilities and capacities of design. Brackets '[  ]' indicate instances when the thesis and antithesis of a word seem equally valid. For example, [un]learning is intended to mean learning and unlearning; [dis]assemble—assemble and disassemble; [in]visible—visible and invisible; and so on. More often than not, we've found that privileging one aspect of the dialectic over the other(s), proves too easy/reductive. Italics are used to highlight key concepts, such as theories of action that are inspired by or extracted from the investigations of other practitioners. In either case, the original text is referenced as an external link.


DESIGN

To design is to affect and/or effect change. We eat, sleep, dream, play, and even perish by design.

Yet, more often than not, we're unaware of this negotiation of meaning, making, and memory or learning.


ECOSYSTEM

A biology term used to suggest a network of interdependent human and non-human agents.

Often employed to reference the complexities of the 'free'-market.


GREEN

The word should function as
a forewarning: discretion advised! Contrary to popular belief, green is NOT inherently good. However, we've essentially green-washed very product, service, and city. Why? It sells. Look around you. Undoubtedly there's an entire rainbow of political, economic, social, and environmental pursuits that have infiltrated your life: perhaps a pink kitchen aid adorns your counter top or a red water bottle from last month's AIDS walk, an eco- notebook in your backpack or maybe a yellow bracelet wraps the aspirations of our once decorated cycling champion around your wrist, 'Livestrong'?

The majority of us, at one time or another, have fallen victim to this marketing ploy—consume to save the earth, consume to save our neighbors, consume to save yourself. Green is not merely a color. It signifies environmental consciousness…in some circles; in others, profit. But what percentage of the proceeds are actually allocated to saving the earth, our neighbors, or ourselves? And do the benefits of our investments actually trickle down to serve the needs° of the individuals, organizations, and institutions we'd intended to support?


NEED

Need is a relative concept that is difficult to qualify and quantify without careful consideration of the context and corresponding theories of action, in action. That said, in his book, Social Justice and The City, David Harvey presents a fairly nuanced assessment of need relative to:

food, housing, medical care, education, social & environmental service, consumer goods, recreational opportunities, neighborhood amenities, & transport facilities.


PUBLIC

An adaptive assembly of individuals, organizations, and infrastructures of, relating to, or affecting an area; perceived, conceived, or existing in the open; accessible by all; dedicated to well-being

adj. Of, relating to, or affecting an area; perceived, conceived, or existing in the open; accessible by all; dedicated to well-being


SUSTAINABILITY

One of the most ubiquitous keywords. According to the Free Dictionary, to sustain is to keep or prolong. Considering our current state of affairs, I'm rather suspect of initiatives that seek to sustain growth along today's trajectory.


TRANSDISCIPLINARY

As the name might suggest, a transdisciplinary framework brings together practitioners from a diversity of disciplines —art, science, technology, psychology, politics, economics,  etc.—and demographics to invent methodologies, tools, and thinking toward the cultivation of new perspectives, knowledge, and understanding.

Transdisciplinary is often confused and conflated with an interdisciplinary framework  which harnesses the capacities of each discipline to contribute its distinct methodologies, tools, and thinking toward the advancement of new perspectives, knowledge, and understanding.


[Un]LEARNING

A transdisciplinary praxis of explication that exposes latent assumptions embedded in various contexts by aligning theories of action, in action at various scales.

[Un]learning "really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience." To learn and [un]learn. To engage and [dis]engage.

Constructed upon an inverted analytic framework, this practice regards solutions as problems—prefigurative outcomes—and questions as solutions—or opportunities for reflection and adaptation.

[Un]learning engages design as a means to question 'common' sense. This question does not seek an answer, but another question—a rhetorical question.

In this context, doubt becomes the primary vector for critical thinking that interrogates the legitimacy, authority, and ethics of the cultural status quo. And design is advanced as a as a critical pedagogy to investigate, [dis]assemble, and [re]frame our political, economic, and social ecologies. Each design project is therefore an opportunity to exchange knowledge, advance critical discourse, and [re]negotiate the boundaries of Possibility...

Or as Henry Denham illustrated punctus percontativus—a typographical notation that emancipates designers from the discipline of cultural [re]presentation and [re]production. 


WaYFINDING

Wayfinding is the capacity to orient one's self within a given context. To find one's own way. To this end, we develop creative ways of interpellating our environs in dialogue with the  wayshowing strategies that attempt to define and circumscribe space. The operative logic of wayfinding (and [un]learning) foregrounds difference and dissonance or thinking in action as a vehicle to foster accountability and adaptation by aligning theories of action, in action.

According to environmental scientist and systems analyst Donella Meadows, the "highest leverage point…is to keep oneself outside the arena of paradigms, to realize that no paradigm is "true"...even the one that sweetly shapes one's comfortable world view is a tremendously limited understanding of an immense and amazing universe..." A sentiment that is echoed in the first sentence of the Tao Te Ching: "The way that is true is not the way."


WaySHOWING

Wayshowing, a term I'm borrowing from Swinburne University of Technology Communications Professor Per Mollerup, is the practice of "identifying, claiming, defining, and circumscribing space." Each macro- and micro-level strategy is constructed upon a litany theories of action—espoused responses to environmental stimuli—intended to [dis]orient someone or something. These assumptions are dependent upon the designer's capacity to investigate, [dis]assemble, and [re]frame the existing context as a dialectic of theories of action, in action—actual behaviors exhibited in response to environmental stimuli.

Consequently, as we traverse our everyday lives, we are in constant dialogue with a mix of cultural myths, beliefs and biases. Whether standing in a bar or in your kitchen, strolling down the sidewalk or excavating the interwebs, each action is a conversation with the [in]visible infrastructures—complex, often contradictory, and inherently incomplete—that frame our perception of the world, and, consequently, ourselves.

Precisely how this process of meaning, making, and memory, i.e. learning, unfolds is unknown. However, most environmental designers, urban planners, geographers, psychologists, sociologists, and even some anthropologists begin with the assertion that individuals develop cognitive maps that facilitate [dis]orientation and navigation. Each map is an assemblage of signs, symbols, and significations that translate in our minds as the sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings that guide our everyday actions.

More often than not, however, we're unaware of this negotiation of meaning, making, and memory, or learning. "All biological organisms, including sentient human beings, are continually engaged in contestation struggles to maintain the cohesion of their selfhood and territory.”