SNU and KHU Conference - 2011

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(How) do paradigms sustain one another?

One of the 7 teams who took part in the conference's workshop

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The theme

If we are to avoid the worst climate change scenarios the average person’s lifestyle must change. This amounts to a paradigm change because we may not be able to do this by making small, disconnected improvements. Designers are usually employed as specialist, small-part players in the system. This means they cannot achieve their full potential in this process. This conference will ask whether metadesign methods can help designers to make the world a safer, saner place. Some theories will be matched to activities in a workshop.


Top-down methods are not enough

According to (Meadows (1995) government methods (setting targets, taxation, legislation, rhetorical calls to action, etc.) are too abstract and remote to make a step change . This is because paradigms are made up of subcomponents that are entangled and co-dependent. The theories and habits that sustain them are informed by a rich web of tacit assumptions, beliefs and desires.


Bottom-up initiatives need top-down support

Today, 'open source' or social networking technologies make grassroots activism and local initiatives easier to manage. However, although they may be able to address local realities in a more direct, practical way they may lack the resources and experience of government.

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Orchestrating top-down and bottom-up systems

An ideal society would probably harmonize government agendas with the best bottom-up initiatives. One reason why this does not always happen may be the language problem. Where 'top-down' logic tends to be rhetorical and strategic, bottom-up initiatives usually develop in a more organic, ad hoc way. This usually means that their discussions and beliefs emerge in a less explicit and predictable form. These language differences can make bottom-up and top-down systems seem less compatible than they really are. This conference asks whether we need a new methodological framework that would help designers to broker new possibilities between top-down and bottom-up approaches. Metadesign approaches might, for example, seek new and beneficial synergies that are hidden between top-down and bottom-up systems.

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