Designing for Interdependence: A Poetics of Relating

  • Martín Ávila Konstfack University
  • Marcos Mortensen Steagall  (Translator)
Keywords: Alter-Natives, Design, Interdependence, Life-Affirming, Poetics


The presentation gives an overview of the book Designing for Interdependence: A Poetics of Relating which is about the practice of designing and design’s capacity to relate (or not) to beings of all kinds, human and others, in ways that are life-affirming. Sensitive to power differentials and the responsibility that this entails, the author develops the notion of alter-natives, a concept that exposes the alterity of artificial things and the potential of these things to participate in the sustainment of environments. The notion of alter-natives indicates the alterity of a thing, its own foreignness to environments by being artificial, fabricated by humans. It demands thinking how some-thing alters the relations to those that live in an environment, how it makes them different in some way. It suggests the possibility that these ‘others’ (alterity) may enter a process of ‘nativization’, if they are designed within the ecological and biological constraints of the particular places where they will be used. Finally, the notion of alter-natives does not explain, does not explicate; it demands answers, the implications need to be unfolded, traced, maintained. Alter-natives emphasize vulnerability in order to become life-affirming. The book immerses the reader in a poetics of relating, a semiotic practice of interrelating humans, artificial things and other-than-human species, a design practice that can make us more explicitly dependable on life and communication across species, a designing for interdependence that can support the necessary rewilding that must happen if we are to contribute to the stabilization of planetary dynamics and the affirmation of cultural and biological diversity.  By challenging anthropocentrism through design, a practice emerges from questioning human mastery, and thus a poetics of relating is developed by means of a letting go of control acknowledging other-than-human needs and capacities. In this sense the book is about control, at least to the extent that a human can let go of control by designing something that affirms her living. Avoiding dualistic thinking and the dichotomies harmful-benefit, construction-destruction, natural-artificial, and life-death, the author pursues the work of caring for how our mattering through design becomes both, constructive and destructive in more-than-human ecologies. 

Author Biography

Martín Ávila , Konstfack University
Martín Ávila is a designer, researcher, and Professor of Design at Konstfack, in Stockholm, Sweden. Martin’s research is design-driven and addresses forms of interspecies cohabitation. His latest book is Designing for Interdependence: A Poetics of Relating. See also