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Agency in the anthropocene

As we tick off another Gregorian Calendar year, we wanted to kickstart this lap of the sun with a newsletter about agency – that is, the choices and actions that people make.

Scientists have proposed that the Earth has entered a new geological epoch, known as the Anthropocene, in which humanity has displaced the sun as the most dominant force on the climate and environment. 

When faced with scales like epochs and planets, it can be difficult to know how to act, and what to do, here and now. So this newsletter is filled with examples of humans making choices, pushing back against the seemingly inevitable, and designing better environments for themselves and others.

We hope it inspires you to make your own changes and take a stand, locally and with others. 

Happy 2019 from all of us here at Paper Giant. We're in this together. 


PS. We have just announced new dates for our Design Research for Product and Service Innovation course. If you want to learn how to better understand complex problems, it might be for you. 

The people rebelling against self-driving cars
Recommended by Reuben Stanton, Design Director & Co-Founder
“They didn’t ask us if we wanted to be part of their beta test,” said Elizabeth O’Polka, who [said] she had forced driverless cars to pull over so she could yell at them. “They said they need real-world examples, but I don’t want to be their real-world mistake,” said her husband.

What was most interesting about this article for me was the idea of ‘community consent’ for AI and other types of automation and disruption. (From the corporate point of view, this is called ‘social licence to operate’). Yes, new technology comes with risks. But who is taking the risk? It’s rarely the designers or ‘disruptors’, it’s the communities they purport to serve.

This is not about the narrow question of whether self-driving cars are ready to be on the roads, but about who should have the right to make that type of decision.
Design at the individual level: your household as a mini-economy
Recommended by Priscilla Hough-Davies, Senior Design Researcher
When I think about systems design, my mind always seems to leap to the largest and most overwhelming problems climate change, overpopulation, childhood obesity and so on. What appeals to me about this article is how the writers (a married couple) demonstrate how to practise systems design at a tangible and human scale, at the level of their own household. They regularly examine the needs and priorities of each person and pet in their household, and look for 'slack' in the system (that is, surplus time, money or energy) that can be re-channeled to meet those needs; thereby ensuring the emotional, mental, financial and physical health and harmony of all household occupants.

This is systems design that we can all try out at home.
How graphic designers can run a 'radically expansive', unequivocally feminist organisation
Recommended by Ryley Lawson, Design Researcher
I see it as a duty of designers to work towards dismantling systems based on unbalanced power dynamics. It's therefore also important to be conscious of how those same power dynamics might influence your work. The B-Corp movement is a great example of practising that consciousness.

This case study gripped me because it looks at what can happen when a design collective’s first priority is the way they organise.

[The Women’s Center for Creative Work] advocates for a radically expansive understanding of both feminism and creative practice, collectivity and ownership. Anchoring that radical, idealistic mission is a real, concrete dedication to and understanding of that less-glamorous side of grassroots organizing: systems, processes, planning and logistics.

Organisational structures and hierarchies, the distribution of power and the recognition given to certain kinds of labour all shape the way we work. In the context of ‘innovation’ – of businesses, organisations and groups making and doing in novel ways – this article is a great place to start thinking about how the way a group organises supports a particular kind of making and doing.

Training: Design Research for Product and Service Innovation
Designing for service and product innovation requires that designers spend time with people, understanding not just
what they do, but how and why. Observing, documenting and analysing human behaviour helps us identify the similarities and differences between people, and the outliers and workarounds that highlight service gaps or failures.

This two-day workshop will introduce you to the tools and methods of ethnography – the foundation of design research. It will give you a mix of theory and practical experience that you can directly apply to your design and research projects.
February 2122, Melbourne
Full program and tickets

||Reflections|| ritual by Lisa Greenaway
 A spatial sound experience that responds to and echoes its location. Sound artist Lisa Greenaway draws on recordings of the natural and urban rhythms and music of the Queen Victoria Gardens, composing in collaboration with the environment to create a synergistic, hyper-real experience of place and space.
Every morning and evening until February 3, Melbourne
Event details (free event)

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Paper Giant acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the lands on which we live and work. We recognise that sovereignty over the land was never ceded, and pay respects to elders past, present and emerging.

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