Utrecht Manifest

UM5 - 26 juni 2015

UM slotmanifestatie 26 juni 2015

Dromen of niet dromen, dat is de kwestie

Na tien jaar kwam er op 26 juni officieel een einde aan het programma van Utrecht Manifest, op de plek waar het ooit begon, de Pastoe fabriek in Utrecht. In de oude loods die nu dienst doet als conferentiezaal luisterde op deze warme zomerdag een publiek van rond tweehonderd – van veteranen van het sociaal geëngageerd ontwerpen tot bevlogen jonge wereldverbeteraars – naar antwoorden en vervolgvragen op het centrale thema van Utrecht Manifest: hoe draagt de ontwerper bij aan een betere wereld? Met de geur van vers gebouwde kasten als een subtiel parfum op de achtergrond, zoomde een rij sprekers het weefsel van vragen, antwoorden en de discussie daartussen af, dat het afgelopen decennium was gesponnen uit de tentoonstellingen, debatten en publicaties van vijf biënnales voor Social Design.
UM5 - 06 juni 2014

Het ontwerp van het sociale - Een gesprek over social design tussen Henk Oosterling en Nynke Tromp

Waar het in het jonge vakgebied van social design vaak aan ontbreekt, is een scherpe visie op wat nu de unieke bijdrage van de ontwerper zou moeten zijn. Dat stellen filosoof-activist Henk Oosterling en sociaal ontwerper-onderzoeker Nynke Tromp vast in vurig tweegesprek over de verhouding van ontwerp en maatschappij.
UM5 - 06 juni 2014

Designing the Social - A Discussion on Social Design between Henk Oosterling and Nynke Tromp

There is one thing that the philosopher and activist Henk Oosterling and the social designer cum researcher Nynke Tromp agree on without any reservation: the recently developed field of social design still lacks is a clear perception of just what the designer’s unique contribution should be.
UM5 - 05 juni 2014

Facing Papanek

The program of the kick-off event of the 5th edition of Utrecht Manifest in December 2013 may have been a bit too dense, Rosa te Velde writes in her impression of the afternoon. On the other hand, the event made a welcome exception to the rule that social design may exclusively be discussed among designers.
UM5 - 05 juni 2014

Proposition for a ‘Skeletor Methodology’: The Curious Case of Holmes’ ‘Smart’ Murder Castle

Boris Čučković observes a rupture between the discourse of the creative industries and the critical framing of socio-economic issues in the humanities and social sciences. In this contribution Čučković speculates on the possibility of bringing into view the unchallenged problem-solving premises of contemporary design practice through spooky cases of crime design ingenuity. Surprisingly it is Skeletor, the ultimate villain in Mattel's Masters of the Universe franchise, who acts as Čučković' guide on his speculative expedition through design history.

Campus City _ Knowledge Community: een debat met Jurgen Bey

Set in the auditorium of the library of Utrecht University at the Uithof Science Park, this edition of Icons of social Design was hosted by Tim Vermeulen. As the first quartermaster of the Utrecht Manifest Biennial in 2005, he reiterated the cause UM was initiated for: to pass on what had been accumulated in the past decade in terms of knowledge and insights on social design and to dare to look to the future with the incentive to improve these insights. This orientation towards the future set the tone for the evening.

Tim Vermeulen

In his presentation Jurgen Bey, the quartermaster of the fourth UM Biennial in 2011, labeled his generic plan for the development of the university campus at the Uithof in Utrecht – the CITY campus – as "a community, a place to learn, to work and to invest in the future." The inspiration for his Campus concept came from Bey’s edition of UM, which in its ecological entanglement with the other spheres of life also concentrated on the future of work, in the Rotsoord area in Utrecht. It led him to consider the student of tomorrow to be an entrepreneur and a shareholder in the economy to be developed at the Campus. With the notion that education is becoming increasingly expensive and by giving an original twist to the neo-liberal call to be self-sustaining, Bey promoted the idea to merge studying, living and working in a mutually beneficial manner. In his view, the current design of education with the emphasis on ‘preparing for a future practice’ creates students that are not fit for the future, but for the past, as they orient themselves on a practice that is outdated when they finish their education. Education should not simply be oriented towards a future practice, but should offer the possibility for students to develop a much more advanced practice – beyond the pragmatism of the real world. After graduating they would have to become active in the world in such a way that it would adapt to the innovative practice they developed, and not the other way around.
Jurgen Bey

Why, Bey asked, let students work in meaningless jobs to pay for their study? Why not instead allow them develop work in the context of study itself, co-creating a globe-spanning economy of knowledge in the mean time. The campus then becomes not only an island – a semi-autonomous zone of creativity that happens to house a community of students –, but a co-created living community that incorporates study and work, embedded in an emerging economy of which the student is the developer. An integrated life that invests in a working landscape that entices the student to create and invent a genuine practice while studying. Such an emergent economy, which Bey compared to those of third world countries in the sense that they are created from the ground up, would allow the students to use multiple talents, not just the ones connected to their study. Bey's conception of the campus started with the idea of communities grouped around a specific shared interest, not a single discipline or field of study. He gave the example of ‘water’ as both the attractor of this shared (transdisciplinary) interest and the condition for the design of this campus. Based on this variety, campuses with different ways of living and typologies of housing would occur tailored to these interests, each creating their own specific embedded economy.
Bey’s impassioned talk, showcasing catching visualizations and compelling formal ideas concluded with the dictum: "Think like an artist, act like an industry and be a learning institute."

Bey's vision of the future Campus was in part inspired by Lars von Trier’s 1996 movie ‘The Idots,’ a group of people that have taken refuge in a community in order to act out their ‘inner idiot,’ breaching all bourgeois norms and indulging in a freedom to play around, alternating between the roles of attendant and idiot. In that sense Bey’s conception has to be understood as a critique of existing norms, which have to be outplayed in order to perceive reality with a different mindset and with a fresh view on its existing qualities and potential, rather than its stifling constraints. This slightly anarchistic and utopian impetus proved to be hard to swallow for the assembled panelists.

Reactions were formulated by Michiel de Lange, teacher at New Media Studies University of Utrecht, co-founder of the Mobile City, an independent research group investigating the relationship between digital media technologies and urban life, and its implications for urban design; Desiree Majoor, member of the Board of Directors of the School of the Arts Utrecht, and member of the Top Team for the Creative Industry; and Hein Roelfsema, Director of the Utrecht Center for Entrepreneurship.
Summarizing the discussions and reactions, the main point of dispute was the perceived isolated nature of Bey’s campus, as it seemed to be dissociated from the rest of the city, creating a city within a city. Most of the panelists opposed this view, since it seemed to be antithetical to the existing paradigm in education to embed students within the larger societal framework.
Michiel de Lange
Desiree Majoor

Exemplary was Majoor’s pointing to the recent move back to the city of the HKU, investing in educational housing and student facilities in the heart of Utrecht's urban life. The notion of mixing all disciplines and striving for the extra value created by transdisciplinarity was questioned by Roelfsema, who based his opposition on recent studies (which he regrettably forgot to reference). In his reaction, De Lange pointed to the potential of mobile media and the benefits they could offer to urban life, by stressing the socializing and energizing effects of gamification. These could not only enrich urban life in a formal sense, but on an interactional level also enhance its sociality.
Hein Roelfsema

But the rather disappointing conclusion of the evening was that all panelists did not seem to accept, or even grasp, the aggregational level of Bey’s intentions and the far reaching potential he had disclosed by fundamentally readdressing the pressing constraints of education. By not denying these constraints, but by trying to see them as challenges that could open myriad new valorizations and orientations harboring not only economic potential, but essentially contributing to an education freed from these constraints, Bey's vision forcefully shifted the focus of education back to what it is meant for: to dedicate all time and energy to the issues of study!

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