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Towards the Pluriverse

PIVOT 2020 will transition to a one-day virtual event, to build community among researchers. We are creating a schedule for the day and updating the call for participation. The coordinating team is excited to envision what a virtual gathering can offer.


Pivot 2020: Designing a world of many centers—

What does a world of many centers look like? How might we get there?

The Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking (Taylor) at Tulane University  together with the The Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society (DRS) invite you to join us in jointly reimagining a world of many centers.

We are co-hosting a mini-conference and writing retreat in June 4-6, 2020 in New Orleans to encourage conversations around shifting centers, methods, epistemologies and ontologies.  

We invite you to pivot the discussion of decolonization from an academic critical perspective to a creative and generative one:

What does a world in which many worlds fit look like?
What is needed to create this reality?
Who is needed to create this?
How does it operate?

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A World of Many Centers

Western Europe and, subsequently, North America have been viewed as the main focus of what is good, innovative and desirable —namely The Center.

The rest of the world and its countless cultures, worldviews, ways of knowing and ways of designing have been peripheral to the main narrative of the world. As the movement to decolonize design gains strength, more diverse voices have been featured on the stages of the Center—including, for example, Indigenous voices, more people of color, and more people from countries from the Global South (not just predominantly white men from the Global North). In short, the Center is slowly starting to include people who have been excluded from the main narrative of design.

We believe, however, that the purpose of a radical design practice is not to fix the Center, but to help to create a world with multiple centers — in which many realities can co-exist. To refer to this world, we adopt the concept of the Pluriverse, proposed by Arturo Escobar (2017), inspired by a Zapatista dictum, that refers to a “world where many worlds fit”. The Pluriverse does not only refer to the immense diversity of worlds—of diverse ontologies and epistemologies— available on our planet; but also to the fact that these multiple worlds have been shaped and harnessed, oppressed and suppressed by the scientific, technological, and hegemonic forces of Colonialism and Modernity.

In design literature, we see two different notions of the term design: design as problem-solving and design as world-creating. In the relationship between the Center and its so-called periphery, the first notion tends to be the most noticeable, emphasizing design to address societal challenges. Yet design, in its essence, is not only about making things “less bad”, but about making something new. Design can be defined as the ability to imagine what does not yet exist and to bring it into tangible reality (Nelson & Stolterman 2012).

Conference Aims

The aims of the conference are to:

  • Nurture, cultivate and connect changemakers through the Pluriversal Design community
  • Build and support a network of collaborators and allies with shared values
  • Connect across disciplines in the work of decentering mainstream practices
  • Share knowledge about how to decenter design practices
  • Create space for scholars who are often invisible: to offer support, greater visibility and recognition
  • Create conversations that are meaningful and generative
  • Decolonize /deconstruct the conventional academic conference model

What to Expect

During the conference, participants will have the opportunity to be inspired by change leaders in New Orleans who are creating their own “centers” and disrupting the traditional narratives of their fields. The experience will include keynotes, workshops, networking, and field trips.

There will be opportunities for individual support with your draft manuscripts to get them ready for publication/dissemination; to connect with new people and ideas and to surface more generative partnerships; to continue design/research practices in the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group.  

How to Participate: Submit to the Conference

  • We are inviting interested scholars to submit long abstracts, draft papers, or other scholarly work in progress to participate in this conference. During the conference we will also collaborate on joint publication of the work.
  • We will accept contributions in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
  • Contributions are welcomed from a wide range of disciplines: design studies, social sciences, policy and planning, anthropology, critical theory, history and other fields.
  • We also welcome a variety of contributions — such as case studies, theoretical  reflections, visual presentations, and methodological considerations — as long as the work considers a world of many centers and the relationships between these many centers.

Submissions may address one or more of the following themes:  

  • Strengthening centers at the margins
  • Moving the Center
  • Widening the Center
  • Connecting multiple centers
  • Teaching across centers and margins
  • Unlearning oppression
  • Building bridges
  • Global/local challenges
  • Building empathy across centers
  • Alternative modes of practice – between “centers” and “margins”.

Please submit applications by email to:

The deadline for submissions is March 30, 2020 11:59 PM CST.

How to participate: Face to Face

  • Pivot 2020 will take place June 4th – 6th,  2020 at Tulane University in New Orleans.
  • A nominal registration fee ($200) will cover the cost of lunch and transport/field trips.
  • Participants will be expected to pay for their own airfare to New Orleans and 3 nights local accommodation and meals outside of the conference program.

How to Participate: Can’t join us in person?

We still want to hear from you!

We are aiming to co-publish, and therefore, even if you can’t join us face to face, this call can be considered a Call for Chapters. So please contact us if you still want to be part of the conversations. We will have regular online discussions with the participants of this mini-conference.

Organizing Committee

Learn more about the Design Research Society.


Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel smiling and sitting in front of trees.


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