How might the literary strategies of digression and association (rooted in the act of walking) be adopted in design practice to examine contemporary attitudes toward individual reflection, labour and common space?
This paper traces the theoretical and practice-based contexts that inform a design inquiry concerned with alternative modes of engagement within accelerated culture. The research aims to examine contemporary attitudes toward individual reflection, labour and common space through an ongoing dialogue with design practitioners, socio-political actors and everyday citizens. The strategies of digression and association have been adopted from the field of literature as a core working methodology. Consequently, the practical resolution of the project is a website that will map the terrain of this exchange, taking form as writing, walk-led conversations and workshops.
Rebecca Solnit has been central to this project. The writer, historian, and activist sees her work as ‘Finding ways to value what is elusive and overlooked, to describe nuances and shades of meaning, to celebrate public life and solitary life and – in John Berger’s phrase – to find another way of telling’ (Solnit, 2017) – an intention that this research project shares.
Presented herein are three chapters. Acceleration (or) Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds follows the thinking of cultural theorist Paul Virilio. The chapter interrogates
acceleration, which can be characterised by an emphasis on productivity and dematerialisation, and which arguably reshapes our collective consciousness. Deceleration (or) Observations on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime explores walking as a mode of deceleration through the stimulation of the mind and body. Digression (or) A portrait of the artist as a young man takes a different approach to the previous chapters, and expands the line of inquiry established in practice-based work to consider how digression might inform design practice.