Multispecies design and ethnographic practice: Following other-than-humans as a mode of exploring environmental issues

2019-09-18T11:00:16Z (GMT) by Gionata Gatto John McCardle
Since the early 1980s, the concept of sustainability has been employed by designers to confront the problems deriving from the emergence of the environmental crisis. On the one hand, if this contributed to generating systemic design approaches and methods to mitigate the human impact on the planet, little has been done to explore sustainability as a concept that extends beyond anthropocentrism. Examining environmental issues by considering other-than-human viewpoints could introduce alternative scenarios compared to those envisioned through technocentric means. This work considers a speculative design project that provides a multispecies reading of the notion of environmental contamination through the engagement of human and vegetal perspectives. The considered methodology focusses on the transdisciplinary tactic of “following” plant collectives across the multiple sites and actors that populate their life. Building on post-humanism theories and Guattari’s concept of “ecosophy”, this paper entails that sustainability should be seen not just as the outcome of a design process, but also as a behavioural attitude, and design as an implementation of that attitude. It is argued that following other-than-humans can teach designers to think sustainably by cultivating relations of reciprocity that help to shed light on the multispecies landscapes of the Anthropocene.