Search By Topic


Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production
Webinar: Consumerism technology/design
Future Earth

Join Future Earth

Webinar: Consumerism technology/design

Date: March 19, 2024

Time: 10:00-11:30 CET / 9:00-10:30 GMT

Yolande Strengers and Cameron Tonkinwise


Hosted by the Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production Working Group on Social Change Beyond Consumerism.

The Future: A crisis of imagination

Abstract: We live in an era of rapid innovation and transformation in which change occurs rapidly and at scale. Simultaneously, long-standing visions for decarbonisation and techno-living finally appear to be coming true. Yet while forecasts, visions and scenarios for the future promise further technological change at pace, they also represent stagnant social visions of the future in which everyday life proceeds more or less “the same”. In this talk I make the case that we are living in an era of stale imaginative potential, and speculate on why this may be the case. Drawing on ethnographic research in the energy and smart technology sectors, I provide examples of methodological experiments intended to access alternative imaginative futures that the world so desperately needs. I show how these methods can potentially unlock alternative design pathways for realising different ways of life.

Speaker BIO

Yolande Strengers is a Professor of Digital Technology and Society in the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University, where she leads the Energy Futures program. Her research focuses on the sustainability and inclusion impacts of smart home technologies, human-like AI and energy systems.

A History and Philosophy of Design for Degrowth

Abstract: This talk tries to locate the proposition of ‘Design for Degrowth’ historically and philosophically. The context is reducing the material scale of the global consumer class, which means predominantly societies of the Global North.

The first half of the presentation surveys selected versions across the last 50 years of ‘ecological design,’ attempting to map those initiatives across continua of conventional vs alternative economies, biological or social vs technical or infrastructural. Instances case studied are Riot4Austerity, Buy Nothing, Product Service Systems, Permaculture, Locavore, Transition Towns.

The second half of the presentation looks at the relation between people and things as they afford or disafford these different kinds of degrowth. I will talk more about the ‘social practice pull’ that leads to material growth than a ‘marketing based push.’ Modernity has involved solving problems with things, and things in turn need things (product ecologies – see Ian Hodder’s Where are we Heading? The Evolution of Humans and Things), things that are owned and renewed. In this context, the challenge of ‘Design for Degrowth’ becomes metaphysical in scale – though there are some opportunities in what Georgio Agamben has called The Use of Bodies.

Speaker BIO

Professor Cameron Tonkinwise is an international expert in design studies and transition design and the Research Director of the Design Innovation Research Centre at UTS. He writes and speaks extensively on the power of design to drive systems-level change to achieve more sustainable and equitable futures.