Interakcije 2022 – Open Call

October 18, 2022

After 3 years of pause caused by the coordination of the SpeculativeEdu project, Interakcije – the educational platform is back with a series of activities dealing with contemporary design practices in the local context, with the local communities and toward common futures.

Community Resilience: Building Common Futures

Community Participative Practices and Speculations
24, 25 and 26 November 2022
Arts Academy, University of Split

This year’s 3-day intensive event emerged from the SpeculativeEdu experience will host lectures and a short workshop/seminar for students and young practitioners in the field of design and related practices (from digital technologies, visual arts, and psychology, to social sciences). The call for participation is open for all applicants from any field/background who could contribute to this topic. Interakcije 2022 will be held at the Department of Visual Communication Design at the Arts Academy, University of Split (Croatia), and will be coordinated by assoc. prof. Ivica Mitrović and assist. prof. Oleg Šuran.

Participation is free for all selected participants. The number of participants is limited (due to venue logistics and expected educational outcomes). DEADLINE for applications is Sunday 30th October (feedback for participants on Friday 4th November).

This year’s guests are Dash N’ Dem (Dash Macdonald and Demitrios Kargotis), a design action group from the UK; Ana Jeinić, an independent architectural researcher, educator and curator from Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Sara Božanić, a transmedia designer, strategist and educator from Slovenia.

Interakcije (eng. Interactions) is an informal educational platform at the Department of Visual Communication Design at the Arts Academy in Split, connected with its master program module Interactive media, aiming to go beyond the limits of design definitions and re-thinking what design is today. Activities started in 2001 (during summer school at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea) with the first event in 2004, the International Interaction Design Summer School “Convivio – Communities in Transition”. Among others, we hosted the following names as workshop leaders and lecturers: James Auger, Tuur Van Balen, Nelly Ben Hayoun, Nicolas Nova, Liam Young, Noam Toran, Tobias Revell, Anab Jain, Demitrios Kargotis and Dash Macdonald (Dashndem), Michael Smyth, Steffen P. Walz, Chris Hand, Victor Vina, Erik Sandelin and Magnus Torstensson (Unsworn industries), Gordan Savičić, Martin Avila, Liam Healy, Dionysia Mylonaki and many more.



Since its rapid growth during the 20th Century, design has mostly played an uncritical supporting role for industry and the applications of technology in our everyday life. Originating from critical design practices, speculative design emerged about 20 years ago to provide a counter-approach to mainstream market-oriented design. For many years speculative design was known (and criticised) for its tendency to create future dystopias. Now, as reality threatens to become more dystopian than fiction, it is important to re-think the role of speculative design practice (and design practice in general).

Current crises have once again presented us with an entire series of exemplars – a collection of brilliant, effective, and alternative bottom-up methods – on the issue of how to combat disasters. It has mostly been brought to the fore by various citizen-led initiatives and collectives whose work involves a notably collaborative and participatory approach, and whose origins can largely be traced to the (economic and geographical) margins of society. For example, the 2020 disaster in Croatia has demonstrated that self-organised bottom-up activism appears to be significantly more effective at providing aid and repairing damage in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake compared to more large-scale and systematic forms of disaster defence mechanisms. These are the cases where the most interesting activities in contemporary design are conceived of, free from any need for glamorous, self-serving provocativeness for its own sake and released from the visions of a technology-centred future. Arturo Escobar, outlined in Designs for the Pluriverse, published in 2018, the progressive transformation of design from a process led mainly by experts to produce various objects and services appropriate for the prevailing socio-economic order, which itself remains unexamined and unchallenged, towards a new kind of design practice rooted in participation, aimed at the betterment of society, and valuing an openness which allows for the questioning and re-evaluation of the most commonly accepted ways of conducting business and managing production and consumption.

A Practicum of Resilience: Split 2021 (The System, catastrophes, and communities of resilience and actions) (Mitrović&Šuran, 2021)

Those speculative practices seek to encourage action and effect change in the real world. Naturally, it does not presume itself able to change the world in one fell swoop, nor does it hope to eradicate prevalent socio-economic structures overnight; yet it can indeed initiate a series of bottom-up changes and restore faith/hope in the future and the reimagining of the unseen horizons it holds. To achieve this, the speculative practice gradually replaces the idea of “predicting” the future with real actionable plans with the overarching goal of securing the conditions needed to usher/achieve a better, i.e. more favourable future. For instance, Ana Jeinić criticises the attitude which hopes to find a kind of “salvation” in disastrous circumstances, an attitude founded on the mere hope that such circumstances may potentially lead to spontaneous new restructurings of society that would ideally engender a greater degree of social equity. The issue is that such an attitude essentially blocks the potential to act now, and in the present moment, and stifles the ability to envision a utopian future. However, the idea of such new beginnings is questionable, as even a post-apocalyptic landscape will almost certainly not be socio-economically barren. A more likely scenario would be a highly chaotic future comparable to the setting of George Miller’s 1979 film, Mad Max.

Martin Avila, a designer and educator, stresses that speculation is a duty, not a privilege, and emphasises the importance of applying this paradigm to the domain of emergency action. Moreover, the Trojan Horse collective put forward the claim that concrete action need not take the form of grand intervention, but rather modest gestures may suffice. In his 2019 book entitled Politics of the Everyday, Ezio Manzini points out that a significant number of social movements that have over time attained public recognition, and have been subject to public administrative regulation, started as bottom-up initiatives, launched and maintained by small groups of individuals, in a rather guerrilla-like fashion, and often working out of reach of the law.

Having previously dealt with questions of “life after the disaster”, these new future approaches have to shift focus towards the “here and now”, affording more attention to what can be done before potential disastrous occurrences in the near future. To clarify, when referring to disastrous occurrences we mean to address a wide array of climate-related, economic, political, technological, health-related, and community crises, but we also bear in mind a more locally determined type of crisis, especially as it pertains to tourism. With an awareness of a global abandonment of the notion of sustainability, which has unfortunately proven to be unfeasible within the confines of our current growth-driven economic system, they sought to explore the idea of resilience as it emerges as a new worldwide trend. The concept of resilience is extremely valuable in the local context, and even more so at the margins, and its value lies in its ability to motivate further sequences of actions that collectively manage to improve our future readiness in times of crises and disasters. However, resilience alone will not suffice, not unless it entails real action driven by the will to effect change.

The return to a skill-based culture in the broadest sense of the term (encompassing anything from sustainable food production to setting up digital mashup networks), which has become a global trend, essentially also reflects an attempt at rehumanizing design as such. Still, Ana Jeinić stresses the fact that those multitude of activities, and their consequent transformative potentials, are not the products of some thought-out and well-structured plan to secure a better world, or to attain some kind of utopian end-state; rather, they are merely the results of spontaneous acts of subversion from the bottom up, of disrupting and hacking the systems that are already in place, or else they are the results of new forms of solidarity emerged from the simple common need to survive. The communities of resilience and actionability are for the most part still unable to fully detach themselves from larger social/economic systems, that is to say, they remain to some degree dependent upon these systems, as parts of a whole. When taken as a whole, the “system” currently in place, though repeatedly perturbed and shaken by various disasters, remains fairly homogeneous and resistant to the kinds of changes that are conceived of in its lower echelons.

A Practicum of Resilience: Split 2021 (Mitrović&Šuran)

The challenge is how to work together more effectively as one towards the goal of systemic transformation and transition. It is a question of how to mitigate and unite often disparate practices, how to bridge the conceptual gap between global and local action, how to mediate between central and marginal, never losing sight of that final aim of creating a new, global, utopian imaginarium. But what is equally important is to work on devising practical, actionable pathways towards these end goals. For Ezio Manzini large-scale change is only possible as a result of a cumulative build-up of small-scale radical changes. He does, however, note that these various (bottom-up, peripheral) changes – the loci of the most interesting social developments of all, and the origin points of novel ideas and behaviours with the potential to become widespread – too often remain within the confines of the very system they labour to upheave. To effect real change, what is needed is above all continuity and coordination amongst those various small-scale movements. Ana Jeinić calls for an “emancipatory speculative design” philosophy, a kind of open-ended utopian collective praxis in search of new means of production and mediation in design, and of new forms of synergy with both institutional and extra-institutional subjects. With all this in mind, our possible current vision of our future trajectory can best be described as a continuation of our efforts on the local level, and in close connection to the “social periphery”, the so-called margins that we have come to know so closely.