Education as a practice of affiliation: facilitating dialogue between developed and developing nations

Exploring Design research and Design education that straddles developing and developed world contexts is the aim of this paper. It is a bold ambition to identify the key debates that inform these two significant aspects of Design – much too big to cover in the limited space here. Nevertheless we speculate on some of the issues that emerge from within Architecture, Urbanism, Philosophy, Sociology, Geography, Education and Design. We do this through the idea expressed by Lang that ‘affiliation’ is the need that links to all other human needs. We hypothesize that affiliation, and our need for belonging not only within our local communities, but also at a global scale, is a central concern that links research and education in developing and developed world contexts. Some design practitioners are shown to be tackling this problem, but too often these are single projects limited in scale. We maintain that these worthwhile and noble efforts must be scaled up to deal with problems of urban planning through first, second, third and fourth order design concerns, recognizing that whilst contemporary design is increasingly occupied with ‘interaction’ and ‘environment’, the established preoccupation with ‘symbols’ and ‘things’ remains out of reach for millions of urban poor. In fact, urban designers consider ‘symbols of affiliation’ as central to city dwelling. Design research and design education must therefore aspire to a material democracy that judges the appropriateness of each given situation on its merits, recognizing the need at times for basic material provision.