Session IV

Multivocality, Design and Public Space

Chairs: Catharina Dyrssen & Jon Geib (Chalmers University of Technology)

New configurations and temporalities of social-spatial relations are intensifying the already pluralistic dynamics of public space, further challenging the traditional notion of the designer’s privileged hand in its formation.

Historically, and by habit, designers have been strongly tempted to seek unifying strategies, whether in aiming their assumedly neutral work towards an unspecified public, or, in taking sides and teaming up with specific publics.  In either case, many designers’ methodologies, even if open and ambiguous initially, eventually filter and steer towards a single consistent outcome—a clarifying resolution. This reflex towards univocality and its implications in terms of urban form, dialogue, participation, the public and democracy can be critically challenged and experimented with through dialogical approaches rooted in the concept of multivocality.

As the design paradigm continues to expand its emphasis on processes and purposes, the multivocal can open up a new role for design in the dynamic formation of public space: designing with and for multivocality.  

This call is an invitation to rethink the formation of public space and to reconceptualise design aims and methodologies in terms of multivocality—both figurative and literal. Might design processes, in producing difference and diversity in a dynamic interactivity, become public space?  And, might this lead to an expanded notion of participation as a democratic cultural practice?

We welcome contributions in the form of research papers that critically address one or more of these themes:

–        Dialogical approaches: designing with and/or for multivocality

–        Relational public space and implications for dialogue, participation and/or urban form

–        Participation as a [multivocal] democratic cultural practice

–        Explorative, possibly hybrid modes of design collaboration including pluri- and transdisciplinarity

–        New forms and strategies of multivocal urban activity and activism

–        Issues of access and agency

–        Engagements with the material and the digital (as actors with ‘voices’)

–        Multivocal artistic devices and artistic research approaches

–        Multivocal urban narratives linked to public space(s)