The Designer as a Social Agent and Promoter of Local Memories

The Designer as a Social Agent and Promoter of Local Memories

Cátia Rijo (Escola Superior de Educação de Lisboa, Politecnico de Lisboa, Portugal) and Helena Grácio (Escola Superior de Educação de Lisboa, Politecnico de Lisboa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3628-5.ch016
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The aim of this chapter is to evaluate the role of the designer as a socially responsible agent and the impact that artefacts created by designers have. The goal is to understand if the designer can help preserve local memories, as well as assess whether co-working influences how they emerge in the project. The awareness of the designer as a social agent, who works in collaboration with various agents towards the creation of value-added artefacts, is essential nowadays. As a case study, we bring the project developed by the Designlab4u laboratory in the village of Alhos Vedros, were the cultural and artistic itinerary of the village was designated as a place of memory. Ultimately, the intention is to evaluate whether or not the work developed for the exhibition was a driver of local memories.
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The Designer As A Social Agent

Today we live in the post-industrial age, also called an “information society” and “knowledge economy”. In contemporary times, that is, in the post-industrial society, the service sector is considered more capable of generating wealth than the manufacturing sector, these changes that characterize contemporary society have entailed the need to redefine the concept of design, as well as the need to identify its practical performance in the postindustrial era (Beaugard, 2011).

Bell (1974), in his book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, explains how the society of man gradually and consistently moved from a pre-industrial age to an industrial age and later to a post-industrial society. Bachman (2016), in the article Sustainable Design and Post-Industrial Society: Our Ethical and Aesthetic Crossroads, endeavors to demonstrate that as a society we have an industrial products society for a post-industrial knowledge economy and for an information society.

According to the author, post-industrial society is defined by the service economy, cyber thinking, and knowledgeable “workers”. Unlike its predecessor (i.e. the industrial society), which was characterized by the human-machine relationship, Bachman (2016) notes that post-industrial society is primarily defined through human-human collaborations, a phenomenon that transforms the concept of design. This is particularly relevant and essential in a post-industrial society.

The World Design Organization (WDO) describes the concept of (industrial) design as a strategic problem-solving process that can drive innovation and business success and lead to a better quality of life through products, systems, services and innovative experiences.

From this perspective and in order to achieve this goal, the designer should strive to design and develop products and systems by collecting, analyzing and synthesizing available and relevant data, taking into account the specific requirements and wishes / aspirations of the producer and of the final consumer. Its premise is transdisciplinary and interaction with the various agents involved in order to achieve value added solutions.

In the context of social design, Armstrong (2014) argues that the concept of social design has expanded and pierced the definition and focus of original design, blurring the boundaries of design practice resources. In most cases, they are not tangible, but intangible (Heller, 2018), as they rely primarily on human relationships and interactions.

Social Design is the awareness of the designer as a mediator rather than the designer as the producer of objects. From this perspective we can understand that the concept of social capital fits into a methodological action of social design, since the designer having the ability to hold operating social capital in the context in which he wants to act will also mean that he has the ability to successfully mediate the process of innovation and development of project practice.

Regarding the concept of social capital, it is important to clarify that despite the existence of a widely agreed definition of the term “social capital” (Robison, Schmid, & Siles, 2002), which starts from the various attempts to define it (Portes, 1998; Lin, 1982, 2002; Christopoulos & da Rocha, 2015), we understand that the term social capital implies man's ability to properly access, and properly use, the resources at his disposal. Collaboration and continued development of human-human interactions can constitute the true essence of a functional system of social design.

The concept of social capital has diverse origins dating back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but a good definition of the term may derive from an old saying: 'it's not what you know, it's who you know', which simply represents the inherent concept. The first theoretical reflections of the concept date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but it was not until the late twentieth century that they had a broader projection and development, largely due to the work of more contemporary authors.

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