DESIAP proposed and managed a paper track theme in the Design Research Society 2018 conference in Limerick. The title of the track was ‘Designing social innovation in cultural diversity and with sensitivity’. We have extracted our Editorial written to introduce the theme and the 5 published papers in the DRS 2018 conference proceedings for ease of reference.
Design and social innovation projects are undertaken in culturally specific contexts yet they are also buffeted by the same global dynamics of economical and political influences, where assumptions of a ‘generic’ designer is just as problematic as seeing individuals or groups of people identified by a taxonomized cultural background based on geographical or nationalized categories. These insights have similarly shaped discourses in postcolonial HCI that ‘speak at once to the highly local and contingent practices that we see at work in different specific sites of technology design and use, while at the same time recognizing the ways that those localisms are conditioned and embedded within global and historical flows of material, people, capital, knowledge and technology’ (Irani et. al 2010: 1317). When design/designers enter into existing circumstances to catalyse social change, they can disrupt existing practices, reconfigure local power-dynamics and shift gender relations in intentional or unknowing ways. In other words, design/designers are implicated in becoming a constituent of transforming cultural practices. Yet nuanced and detailed understanding of cultural heterogeneity in social innovation have not been emphasised in design research as much as tools and technique. Several reasons are speculated, such as lack of theoretical and methodological knowledge that addresses the challenges of understanding their complex forms, and they cannot be controlled nor manufactured, and thus often excluded from the scope of design. In foregrounding cultural nuances when designing with others, what issues, questions and concerns are significant to keep in view? What can help those who intervene, including stakeholders with certain agendas and existing practices, as well as the ‘local community’, be aware of and work with existing and morphing cultural logics?