‘For many people, it’s always been a crisis’ – a new Aalto collective engages intersecting dimensions of crises
Article by Anu Haapala, April 7, 2021
The transdisciplinary Crisis Interrogatives collective critically discusses topics at the intersection of design, technology and socially engaged practices
In September 2020, when people all over the globe had been struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic for months, a group of Aalto University researchers and students from different schools decided to start gathering for virtual coffee chats and organizing participatory online workshops together, unpacking interrelated aspects of crises.
Now the new collective called Crisis Interrogatives comes together regularly to discuss important, crisis-related topics from a critical perspective, and re-imagine them in new ways, as core members Natalia Villaman, Floris van der Marel, Henriette Friis, and Sid Rao explain in this interview.
While the collective was established during the pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis was not the only reason for the initiative. Even though the crisis caused by pandemic touches people all over the world, ‘for many people, there’s always been a crisis,’ as Floris van der Marel, doctoral candidate at Aalto and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia who studies imbalances in participatory design reminds. ‘This is just the crisis that we all are seeing and acknowledging,’ he adds. Examples of workshops conducted by the collective include Empathy in Crisis, Resilience in Crisis, Disarming Data for Activism, and Deviating Perspectives in Participatory Design.
In every culture and educational context, things go unquestioned. A designer, for example, learns a certain way to deal with an issue, which at some point, becomes a subconscious way of doing, easily overlooking its potential harmful implications and connotations. In this regard, Natalia Villaman, who is a design researcher and cultural mediator at Aalto, says that she finds the initiative crucial because the collective touches upon narratives that are not usually discussed as critically as they should.