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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

We have a full day of sessions planned. More than 40 presenters will share their work. There are the 4 types of presentations to expect: full papers, rapid slide presentations, coffee time discussions and visual presentations. We will not have any parallel sessions.

We aim to generate learning and conversations around the Pluriverse. Expect to learn from authors presenting on themes of ‘the Pluriverse is now’, ‘decolonizing design education’, unlearning hegemony, and more. Expect to connect with other participants during breakout groups. Hear about new and emerging work via ‘coffee time’ conversations.

Conference Approach

Participants will present using the following approaches:

  • Full paper Presentations – 10 minutes each
  • Rapid slide presentations with 20 slides – 6 minutes
  • Coffee time sessions with 5 minute presentations
  • A virtual gallery of curated images about a world of many centers

Each session will be followed by a discussion period.

Contributions are welcomed from a wide range of disciplines: design studies, social sciences, policy and planning, anthropology, critical theory, history and other fields. 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 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.

Organizing Committee

Learn more about the Design Research Society.



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