Design as Everyday Theatre: Towards a performative praxis of social design

Publications: Book / Anthology / Thesis / ReportPh.D. thesis

315 Downloads (Pure)


Design disciplines are transitioning from designing objects to designing transformations of service relations and experiences. Designers have now moved beyond designing for industrial production, to further engage in co-production of partnerships, entailing the complex relations of public spaces and civic spheres; co-designing with citizens as well as public and private partners. Within civic design of welfare technology there is no longer a user nor a consumer. No singular use-context and not one common temporal consumption of ‘use’. Relation s of design and use – production and consumption –are constantly distributed in feedback loops, transgressing a linear flow of time, space and social relations. Contemporary design research no longer discusses how to “design for the real world”, but rather “designs for the pluriverse” when“everybody designs”. In short: designers are not only designing with, but also within fluid partnerships for societal change. Design research doesn’t provide much scaffolding for professional designers navigating such unstable social and temporal landscapes. This thesis provides a performative framework and introduces a performance praxis, when navigating complex modes of participation. The thesis describes transitions of contemporary design roles and practices engaged in co-design of public and civic concerns, as social design within public-private partnerships of welfare innovation.

The empirical explorations of the multiple and situated roles of design are anchored in three user-driven innovation projects of citizens-centred welfare services and public-private partnerships, related to different aspects of the Danish context of welfare innovation. Exploring citizens wellbeing, across different sectors as related to social welfare technology and informal care communities within slightly supported senior commons. The research is situated within the fields of Co-Design and Participatory Design, but this thesis introduces theoretical lenses from Performance Studies. By ethnographic descriptions of situated co-design encounters, the thesis proposes three performative modes of participation, described as rehearsing,performing and reenacting. Within these performative modes both citizens, civil servants, private- and NGO partners are engaging as everyday designers as they co-design and transition welfare relations and practices. Everyday designers are invited to co-construct a liminoid and reflexive space for rehearsing; as trying out and playing with existing and altered practices. Further they engage a mode of performing; thatsustain situatedrelations, as living the embodied practices in a present and specific context. The third mode of engagement is described as reenacting and is dispersing moments of temporal completion, as a negotiation of the existing (as well as possible and undesirable) relations and by de- and re-constructing practices among partners co-designing the Everyday Theatre.

The three relational design modes are further discussed through a navigational worldmaking praxis within multiple approaches, position and practices; such as approaching multiple worldviews of trickstering, wayfaring and bartering relations in different lifeworlds when transitioning social practices in relation to others.

The thesis contributes to the fields of Co-Design and Design Anthropology by analysing design encounters in relation to the performative qualities of design - as Everyday Theatre. The thesis provides a socio-spatio-temporal rendering as a performative atlas for navigating practices in the making. Thus, positioning design praxis as entangled, embodied and performative; always in fluctuating relations to oneself as well as others. The thesis argues how designers could approach their bodies to explore different performative modes of co-producing social change.
Translated title of the contributionDesign som Hverdagsteater: En performativ praksis for socialt design
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDet Kongelige Danske Kunstakademis Skoler for Arkitektur, Design og Konservering
Number of pages468
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Artistic research

  • No

Cite this