Meg Wiessner Annotations

Megan Wiessner's picture
In response to:

Wishlist 2070 (

Monday, August 10, 2020 - 9:28pm

Potentially ethnographic projects

  • The aesthetics of biodesign, biomimicry, and other design practices that seek to “reconcile” the environment and technology; how these are grounded in specific ontologies and liberal political histories 

  • Comparing different modes of design and technological practice that seek to incorporate specific normative virtues or aims at a representational rather than operational level: e.g. ethnocentric design, non-functional biomimicry, performative parametricism, etc. 

  • Role of digital renderings, visualizations, prototypes, and speculative design exhibitions in generating “hype” around sustainable technologies and imaginary futures; economic and material impacts of these devices and imaginaries

  • 20th/21st century shifts from “environmentalism” towards new frameworks, like  “sustainability” or “climate justice”; political relevance of these re-framings 

  • Role of sustainability discourse and related technologies in green gentrification and xenophobia (and emerging eco-facism), accelerating as climate impacts become more clear 

  • Mass timber, tall timber and developments in agroforestry. Earth construction. Various attempts to “scale” the Natural building movement and similar practices to industrial levels

  • Comparing systems of mediating materiality, from embodied carbon calculations and logistics management software to language and religious beliefs 

  • Radical plant-based medicine movements and how they navigate colonial histories through peer education 

  • Attempts to cultivating “material literacy” and supply chain visibility 

Broad theoretical and historical problems; institutional goals 

  • Design and Politics 

  • Tastes, aesthetics, and visual cultures related to the historical idea of nature; intersectional approaches to these 

  • History of environmental design in conversation with histories of cybernetics, architecture, modernist design, and empire 

  • Thinking about the historical co-incidence of the rise of computation, environmental crises, and decolonization

  • Materiality/immateriality as a central problematic in media studies, environmental studies, and critical theory (technology and content, form and meaning, nature and culture, presence and representation)

  • Work to incorporate STS and the history of environmental thought into engineering and/or commercial design education (encouraging people to provincialize and contextualize certain values around environment and technology) 

  • Often unacknowledged role of social movements, particularly resistance to European colonialism but also feminism and early environmentalism, in driving theory and epistemology in the western academy (for instance, their influences on post-structuralism, early STS, and the ontological turn) 

  • Putting formalist media theory into conversation with the previous point

  • Future of the university vis-a-vis tuition costs, debt, and social stratification. Ethics of teaching practice and curriculum development? New models of university education not predicated on education as private consumer good? 

  • Role of any of these research topics in degrowth and paradigm shifts needed to address current forms of harm 

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