Call for Papers: Does Design Care…?

Care, like design, is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, care is defined as the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, or protection of someone or something (e.g. care of the elderly, taking care of business). In this usage, care is concerned with giving serious attention or consideration to doing something correctly or to avoid damage or risk.

As a verb, care is to feel concern or interest or attach importance to something. Care can be used negatively (e.g. they don’t care about human life) and positively to attach importance to something (e.g. I care very deeply for him). To care for means to look after and provide for the needs of someone or something (e.g. he has numerous patients to care for).

Care is often used in everyday phrases such as:

I couldn’t care less… to express complete indifference.

For all you care… to indicate that someone feels no interest or concern.

Take care… often said to someone on leaving.

Take care of… meaning to keep (someone or something) safe and provided for.

It is unlikely anyone would dispute the general intention of care as something that expresses our relationship to each other and the world. However, the same general agreement would have to be applied to the overwhelming evidence that we don’t seem to care for much at all.

So much design continues to invest energy in what design can do based on the sentimental belief in what-might-become. Does Design Care…? is interested in the more slippery but acute reality of what-might-not-become. And what-might-not-become has to confront the uncomfortable reality that design might not be able to do what it believes it can do. Care, being invisible, is a good example of a gesture that has shaped the world but now is more problem than cure. Does Design Care…? asks design what it can do with this question?

Does Design Care…?

This design thought and action project seeks to explore what it means to care now and stakes its platform on a general principle of carelessness that we express in the following 10 problems with care (based loosely on Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of “Good Design”).

We seek participation from researchers and practitioners across a wide range of disciplines to attend and contribute to a 2-day workshop at Imagination, Lancaster University, UK on 12 and 13 September 2017.

This thinking, making and doing workshop will explore different ways to explore, conceptualise, provoke, contest and disrupt care, and will serve as a venue for synthesising future visions of care. We encourage both inexperienced and experienced researchers, novices and experts, and practitioners involved in and/or interested in care to submit initially a short position paper. In your initial position paper (1 page maximum), we ask you to select and tackle one of these problems with care (see below) and make some sort of careful proposal[1].

10 Problems with Care…

Problem 1. Care is aesthetic…

A problem with care concerns not how I care for the world outside, but how I care myself or, rather, how I react to the way in which the world appears to care for me. And my appearance in the world appears to affect the way the world appears to care for me. Today everyone is subject to a visual appraisal so everyone has to take responsibility for his or her appearance in the world, for his or her self-care. Therefore care can only be perceived and if being perceived is all about appearance then care is aesthetic.
> How can we live with care once it has been aestheticised?

Problem 2. Care is universal…

A problem with care is if somebody now wants to engage with the gesture of care it is not immediately clear to him or her what care actually is, and how the gesture is supposed to be performed. In order to start taking care, we need a theory that explains what care is. Such a theory could give us the possibility to universalise care.

> What might a theory of care look and feel like?

Problem 3. Care is obtrusive…

The problem with care is it is not obtrusive as in lurid but obtrusive because it has become somewhat methodological so we now tend to insist on care resembling a transaction rather than a gesture. Perhaps care should be less implicit and more explicit / resist the contractual and consume time by intruding into everything. That way care is obtrusive.

> How can care be made more explicit?

 Problem 4. Care is transitional…

The problem with care, while we live in transitional times, is that transition these days resembles a transit lounge. And transition, is not transformation. Whereas transformation implies dramatic change, transition suggests a defined future state arrived at through some form of managed change. A central promise of care is the possibility for transition to a better future. In that sentimental sense care is transitional.

> How do we get to better care and what will it be like?

Problem 5. Care is inconsistent…

The problem with care is that in the service enterprises of the caring economy care is regulated to guarantee its delivery is consistent. But care is like conversation theory, which maintains that conversation is constituted by the listener not the speaker. In the case of care – care is regulated by the receiver not the provider – so care is best when it is inconsistent.

> Is inconsistent, unpredictable and ever-changing care desirable?

Problem 6. Care should be useful…

The problem with care is how to use it…or what is it for? We like to think the more care we use in negotiating the world the better it will get. But how we care for the world is constantly being conditioned in the same way marketing has conditioned the consumer into consuming. That is, care has become essential for both profit and pleasure. Perhaps the most useful application of care now is for people to craft with care their own personalised and customised better world.

> How do we create attractive personalised and customised care?

Problem 7. Care should be political…

A major problem with care is it is not political – not political in the partisan sense – left versus right / right versus further right / party versus media – but political in the sense that care, as a gesture, is persuasive and persuading someone to do something changes their behaviour. While we suggest care should be political quite probably it has always been political.

> What might politicised versions of care look and feel like?

Problem 8. Care should be friendly…

The problem with care in the caring economy is it is mixed up with friendship to improve its effectiveness. The trappings of caring have been tactically adopted by the corporate world where every service-oriented exchange is meant to enfold us in familial friendliness. And the entire predatory tech economy bases its imagined visionary and disruptive identity on some sentimental narrative of caring for us. Instead care should be friendly as in the noun ‘friendly’ – a friendly – as in the match between teams that does not form part of serious competition.

> Can we design friendly care?

Problem 9. Care needs to take as much care as possible…

The problem with care is it doesn’t take enough care of itself. Despite all the energy and effort thrown at sustaining life on the one planet we share, now all we can do is constantly recalibrate downward earth’s carrying capacity. Care needs to be taken with the calibrations and the calibrations tell us how much more care we need to take. Which raises the question how can care care for itself? It can only do this through the historic project of stewardship – matching the infinitely possible with the infinitely responsible. By taking care to take as much responsibility as possible only though care is a future possible.

> If the future is to last forever how can design take care of it?

Problem 10. By being care-full care becomes inevitable…

The problem with care is we are inevitably careless and we need to be careful about our carelessness. To be care-full – Care cannot be designed…(e.g. into a service); Care must remain distinctive from commerce…; Care cannot be an optional extra… And because it is possible we can restore how to extend and receive care it is inevitable that we will rediscover the gesture of care.

> Are there any consequences of inevitable, care-full care?



Prof. Paul Rodgers (Imagination, Lancaster University, UK)

Prof. Craig Bremner (Charles Sturt University, Australia)

Dr Giovanni Innella (Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology, Tokyo, Japan)

Adjunct Prof. Ian Coxon (Charles Sturt University, Australia)

Important Dates

* Initial position paper (1 page maximum) due – 30 June 2017

* Position paper acceptance notification – 10 July 2017

* Final position paper due – 28 August 2017

* 2-day workshop at Imagination, Lancaster University, UK – 12 and 13 September 2017

For more information please contact:


The outputs from the Does Design Care…? 2-day workshop will be developed for both a book and an exhibition (more details to follow).


[1] Please note that a proposal can be more problems.