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3 A Social Learning Process

will design them. Some initial answers to these questions have already been given in previous chapters: the design role in this transition is not to be seen as the updated delirium on the design power that in the past has characterised occidental culture (the belief that the world could be totally redesigned by a subject – provided that he could be strong enough to control all the variables). It will appear instead as a set of partial contributions to a huge, complex and probably contradictory phenomenon of social innovation that will involve all social participants1. It must be added that because of its complex and contradictory character, at any given time, the production–consumption system entails different development hypotheses: those dominant today and those capable of giving new answers for new social demand. In other words: it is the same socio-technological system of production–consumption that in its complexity entails a field for cultivating new concepts of well-being and an incubator for the forces behind changes that could auspiciously sustain and defend them. While referring to different social participants, it is obvious (but perhaps useful) to remember that every one of them operates according to his or her own point of view, follows his or her own interests and his or her personal value and quality judgements. From the other side, since between these different social participants are established complex interactions (i. e. reciprocal connections, which influence everyone’s behaviour, which in turn is influenced by that of others), each behaviour is analysed against the behaviour of all and against the social rules within which everyone is operating. In the following paragraphs we will develop some observations related to the four principal participants of society mentioned: consumers/users, producers, the public institutions and designers.

3.3 Consumers/Users and Co-producers Let us consider people as consumers of goods and users of end-products and services, i. e. as consuming what the productive system produces. Therefore, they are the social participants, whose demand is supposed to determine what is produced and supplied. In reality, as we know and have seen in previous chapters, the relations between demand and supply are a lot more complex and the reasons behind a certain structure of demand and supply depend on another intrinsically complex set of factors (because of this it is more efficient to describe these phenomena together as a production–consumption system and not as a production system). In particular, following observations could be made: • The role of a person is never just as a consumer or a user. Every act of consumption requires active participation by the consumer/user: purchasing and preparing, which could be a simple task (buying a pre-prepared and deep-frozen meal 1 This phrase summarises the debate of last couple of decades on designing in complexes cf: Bocchi and Ceruti, 1985; Ceruti and Laszlo, 1988.

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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