Eine Gretchenfrage an die Designtheorie

In a project on «Gentrification», which I offered in the winter term 2012/13 in cooperation with the Cape Town University of Technology, there was an immediate consensus among the students that the questioned phenomena was «evil» and that design must enable resistance underneath the population repressed by capitalist speculation. Methodically guided forms of moderation, activation and participation would be appropriate means to this end, as they were convinced. In this essay (pdf in German only), I attempt to give a theoretical justification for their hope, a participative design practice could lead to ethically and aesthetically better results and thus to the prospect of general interest-oriented changes.

For this purpose, I refer back to the terms of «communicative action» and the «lifeworld» as coined by Jürgen Habermas. After drawing a corresponding theory sketch (and thereby contribute to an long lasting discussion about social design using well known philosophical ingredients), I criticize this approach, i.a. with R. Rorty's figure of a «liberal ironist» and J.F Lyotard's general question about the reasonableness of decisions. My thoughts end in a happy ambiguity.

Prof. Dr. Oliver Baron

KISD – Köln International School of Design