The design of protest

I’ve been interested in “other kinds of design” and how they might inform instructional design for a long time. Some colleagues and I, notably Katy Campbell, Elizabeth Boling and Andy Gibbons are deeply engaged in the questions, and have done a little bit of work together on them. We’ve considered how engineers, artists, architects, stage directors, set designers in television and film, interior designers, and landscape designers approach their craft.

But what about people who design social protest? I’d never thought about it until I saw this little video about how an artist protested the lack of garbage collection in Italy. Now Italy is special; I love it and I’ve only been there once. But I noticed a distinct sense of humour, less vitriol, a dramatic flair and even less fear of litigation (climb the Tower of Pisa and you’ll understand what I mean). Well, if you are part of that culture, how might you design a protest for more garbage collection?

It made me think about how there are so many design factors in a good protest. Should the tone be self-righteous? Angry? Concerned? Self-indulgent? Gob-smacked at the stupidity of society? Well, here’s how one Italian artist approached his design problem.

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2 thoughts on “The design of protest

  1. That’s *very* clever. There are all sorts of design questions that come into play: The protest needs to be public. Non-violent (paging Hamas…). Dramatic and attention-getting. Do-able. Unlikely to create a backlash against the message you’re trying to promote (PETA, are you listening?). Hopefully, not something that’ll get you arrested (unless that’s part of your plan, Cindy Sheehan). Not something that makes you look foolish (Code Pink “witches”, please phone home.) Not something that doesn’t make the situation worse (hello, urban rioters?)

    And then once they decided on colored plastic balls, selecting balls of the right size so as not to create a slipping hazard (as marbles would), be able to be picked up by hand (beach balls would be too big), and – one hopes – not clog the intakes of the fountain (which could get really expensive).

    But what’s the answer to the Level 4 Kirkpatrick question? Did garbage collection resume?

  2. I’m not sure what happened in the end, Corrie. Love your examples by the way–interesting to see how protest often turns on itself and actually does more harm than good. Maybe “first, do no harm” is a guiding design principle?

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