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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Postgraduate Course: Anthropology, Design and the Unsustainable Future (DESI11192)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis postgraduate course brings students from across ECA and Social Anthropology together to examine unsustainable futures and engage in productive exercises to address cultures and practices, which will lead us to more sustainable futures that are repairable, circular, equitable and planet-centred.
Course description This course will introduce students to established and cutting edge conversations that link Anthropology to Design. What does it mean to think about sustainable design as an anthropologist or as a designer? Anthropologists and designers share a deep interest in cultures of making as well as a deep concern with the relationships between people and things in their respective environments.

This new course brings these common interests into fresh perspective by inviting students to explore the application of knowledge to the challenge presented by unsustainable modes of living on an overheating planet. How do anthropology and design make our unsustainable futures visible? And what kinds of responses to the unsustainable future does the coming together of anthropology and design allow us to imagine? When is the unsustainable future the unintended consequence or outcome of accidents?

This course will invite students to reflect on the unsustainable future in a comparative, global perspective, drawing on empirical and theoretical traditions in anthropology. At the same time, drawing on traditions of studio based design practice, the course will invite students to develop a practical response to unsustainable modes of contemporary living.

Lectures and practical/experiential activities take place in ECA studio and maker spaces, and are complemented/supported by visits to field sites within walking distance of the main campus across the City of Edinburgh. Students will be engaged in lectures, workshops and seminars in weekly, three hour segments, with a detailed weekly syllabus found on the LEARN page for the course.

The course will invite students to participate in a semester-long series of collaborative exercises framed around the theme of repair, maintenance and circularity which will culminate in a pop-up exhibition hosted in ECA, allowing students to showcase their work, and learning, to a wider university audience.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Evidence their strong ability to analyse current unsustainable circumstances, derived from documentation generated through secondary insights in theory and literature as well as primary experience through methods of ethnographic observation and engagement.
  2. Demonstate critical application of a range of approaches and practices that serve to address current unsustainable situations and circumstances, derived from strategic engagement and experience with the field.
  3. Communicate, clearly and coherently, opportunities for changing and challenging unsustainable futures through a variety of media and materials, including (but not limited to) images (still or moving), objects and services, highlighting plans for action to the appropriately identified audience.
Reading List
Ingram, J., Shove, E., & Watson, M. (2007). Products and Practices: Selected Concepts from Science and Technology Studies and from Social Theories of Consumption and Practice. Design Issues, 23(2), 3-16.
Manzini, E. (2015). Design, when everybody designs : an introduction to design for social innovation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
McDonough, W., & Braungart, M. (2002). Cradle to cradle : remaking the way we make things (1st ed.). New York: North Point Press.
McLaren, D., Niskanen, J., & Anshelm, J. (2020). Reconfiguring repair: Contested politics and values of repair challenge instrumental discourses found in circular economies literature. Resources, Conservation & Recycling: X, 8. doi:10.1016/j.rcrx.2020.100046
Papanek, V. (1985). Design for the real world : human ecology and social change (Second , completely revised ed.): Thames & Hudson.
van der Velden, M. (2021). "Fixing the World One Thing at a Time": Community repair and a sustainable circular economy. Journal of Cleaner Production, 304. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.127151
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills You will develop skills in research, intellectual autonomy, and effective communication, with a view to lifelong learning, personal development and ethical engagement in line with the University's 'Mindset' and 'Skill Group' criteria. Graduates will develop competencies allowing them to:
- apply knowledge, skills and understanding from Social Anthropology to questions, techniques, practices and/or materials associated with Design.
- work and contribute effectively in researching and addressing complex systems-oriented challenges relevant to sustainability, in partnership with specialists from across discipilinary perspectives
- identify and analyse problems, and create processes and frameworks to address them through observation, situated practice, and co-design with others
- exercise initiative and autonomy in the development of written and practical projects, both individually and in groupwork
KeywordsAnthropology,Design,Sustainability,Repair,Circular Economy
Course organiserDr Arno Verhoeven
Tel: (0131 6)51 5808
Course secretaryMiss Emili Astrom
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