Pendarvis Harshaw spoke at the Creative Mornings Oakland‘s (free!) monthly event today. He is a journalist and educator who lives and reflects on the issues of Black culture in Oakland and everywhere. He is probably most known for collecting wisdom from older Black men and sharing those stories at #OGToldMe.
As I listened, I heard several opportunities for Transition Design level analysis and fresh ideas for reversing social tragedies.
“If you think that the system doesn’t work, SHOW that it doesn’t work.”
[design mapping, Tufte-level diagrams?]
How might we stop the cycle of “babies and bullets?” And how might we care for the women who are left holding it all together?
[Transition Design interventions at government, community and individual levels]
And when a woman in the audience shared her story of being shot for disrupting an abusive conversation, she talked about healing for herself and the young man who shot her. “I am glad the police didn’t catch him, that would only perpetuate the cycle.”
OGPenn responded with, “[How might we] redesign what justice looks like?”
To sum it up far too quickly, Jonathan Haidt and his team of moral psychologists have researched and identified 6 foundations that make up our individual sense of what is right and wrong. Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians different greatly.
Democrats rely on 3 core values that take precedence over others:
Care/harm: attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
Liberty/oppression: resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.
Fairness/cheating: reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.
While Republicans value all 6, nearly equally, adding in:
Loyalty/betrayal: our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
Authority/subversion: our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
Sanctity/degradation: the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).
Libertarians value Liberty/Oppression and Fairness/Cheating to a much greater degree than any of the others.
In regard to our current political hostility, and as a designer, to think about how to overcome it, Haidt writes:
“From the perspective of Moral Foundations Theory, rural and working-class voters were in fact voting for the moral interests… Until Democrats understand…the difference between a six-foundation morality [Conservative] and a three-foundation morality [Liberal], they will not understand what makes people vote Republican.”
Transition Design challenges are not the “Tame Problems” of capitalism that impose artificial boundaries and do not consider social and environmental concerns. Every challenge we take on as designers is likely to exist within a changing system.
Our proposed solutions may be quickly outdated, or inconsiderate, if we deliver them as confident, final solutions rather than the tweaks to a living, human system that they are. Learning the mindset of “intervene, observe, adapt” or “seed and catalyze” may be a useful addition to all of our design toolkits.
From a Transition Design short course lead by Irwin, Kossoff and Tonkinwise
“The Anthropocene is the outcome of multitudes of uncoordinated design decisions, almost none of which take account of the scale, in terms of space and time, of designs’ collective consequences.We are not adequately seeing all these sociotechnical systems. We are missing the designed relations between these systems and our various habits and values that are proving so resistant to change toward more sustainable futures.”