Design Activism: An exploration of how different repertoires of design activism facilitate citizen participation, with emphasis on everyday resistance

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Loughborough University in London


Social movements are instrumental to an agonistic democracy, which positively harnesses conflict and resistance within society. The past decade has witnessed a steady increase in the frequency and scale of protest movements, and the trajectory predicts that there will be a further rise in resistance and struggle in the forthcoming years. Many protest movements deploy creative methods (or repertoires, which are the tools used to perform a protest) that have transcended the traditional practices of demonstrations, marches and strikes to include arresting visuals, communication through digital platforms and even memetic warfare. Employing such methods, namely leveraging digital platforms and equipping citizens with the resources to practice design activism, has led to a rise in participation from citizens in protesting more creatively. For example, mobilization in a post-pandemic world has included the innovative deployment of social media, new technologies and design tactics. Subsequently, this births an opportunity to investigate the relationship between different creative methods (or repertoires) of design activism, the ways in which designers may facilitate this process, and the effect on public participation and engagement. This research project seeks to address the gap in theory surrounding design as an inclusive discipline that can help practice an agonistic democracy in more radical and actionable ways. There is immense value in examining how design activism may permeate into the daily lives of citizens as they use, promote, display solidarity, or engage with the deployment of daily 'political' or 'disobedient' objects. The study further explores the repertoires that may be deployed by citizen-designers to practice and perform 'everyday resistance' and the impact of such activism, while also investigating the role of designers within this process of facilitating participation and using creativity within dissent. It aims to investigate how design can be used as a tool to facilitate dissent, with emphasis on understanding how citizens can be empowered to participate more creatively. Therefore, it is significant to inspect the possibility of designers and non-designers to collaboratively use creative tactics to effect social change.


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