Wayne State University

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Faculty Fellows Conference

Theme: "Design: Intention, Creativity, Agency, Society"

In 2015, Detroit became the first U.S. city to be designated UNESCO “City of Design,” a testament to the region’s outsized influence in shaping the cultural and creative forces of the 21st century. By selecting “design” as the theme for the 2018 Faculty Fellowship conference, the Humanities Center solicits research proposals that emphasize the creative potential of humanity, both in terms of aesthetics and social utility. We encourage “design thinking” in every sense of the word—from its traditional bastions of art, architecture, and cultural studies to more contemporary interpretations in the hallways of science, engineering, and information technologies (among others). For instance, how do policymakers, scientists, artists, and everyday citizens design spaces and forums that enable the free flow of ideas? How might interdisciplinary teams engage in design thinking to create models, prototypes, and final products that move society forward? What are the complex forces of individualism and collectivism, intention and unforeseen circumstances, and agency and passivity, which go into designing sustainable solutions and structures? Even as we strive to design better systems of human existence, what are the ethical issues and questions that we should be considering? Finally, what are the potential limitations or even dangers of design thinking, and the values it inspires? The Humanities Center welcomes interdisciplinary contributions that speak to these and other aspects of design.

Conference date:April 5, 2019 in room BC of the McGregor Memorial Conference Center

Click HERE for the flyer

Click HERE for the Conference Schedule

Click HERE for the Conference Video PlayList

Keynote Speaker - Ellie Schneider

Detroit City of Design: Using Inclusive Design to Generate Inclusive Growth

In 2015, Detroit became the first and only city in the United States to receive the UNESCO City of Design designation, joining a network of 30 design cities and 180 cities focused on using creativity as a driver for sustainable and equitable development around the world. From automobiles to architecture to advertising, Detroit has a rich design legacy, but what role does design plan in Detroit's economy today and, more important, in the city's future? As stewards of Detroit's UNESCO designation, Design Core and its 50 local partners envision a brighter future through inclusive design that includes a larger, more diverse design workforce, increased investment in design businesses and design infrastructure in neighborhoods, and more progressive policies that help Detroiters experience the good life. This talk will explore what inclusive design is and provide examples of how local partners of all shapes and sizes are using it to make Detroit a model for driving more sustainable, equitable, and inclusive development over the next ten years.


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Speakers Abstracts/Excerpts


"Communist Headphones"

Jonathan Flatley, Professor, English

“This paper returns to that moment in the 1920s and 1930s when the Soviet Union was a beacon for all manner of utopian thinking about alternatives to capitalism and when a range of astoundingly energized and talented artists set to the task of imagining and designing a communist way of life. Centering on an analysis of the opening of Dziga Vertov’s 1930 filmEnthusiasm (which features a young woman listening to the radio with headphones), this paper examines the role of the radio in the early Soviet efforts to imagine and create new modes of communist sensation and feeling. It argues that the radio was central to this project because listening to the radio could change what Sergei Tretyakov called one’s “world-sense,” the overall emotional atmosphere that creates a system of habits, inclinations, likes and dislikes. Although headphones are commonly understood today to create a kind of private bubble, I argue here that in the early Soviet period, their capacity to bring the distant (and even the dead) right to one’s ears meant that they were understood to have the capacity to change one’s sense of both space and time in a way that recharged the near with a new sense of collective, internationalist potential."

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"Letterpress Now: Typographic Design and the Visual Interpretation of Scientific Concepts"

Judith A. Moldenhauer, Associate Professor, Art and Art History

"Gutenberg’s invention in the mid-1400s of the type mold to cast bits of metal into movable and reusable letterforms and his development of letterpress printing provided the platform for “the immense potential for human dialogue and the new horizons for graphic design” (Meggs and Purvis 73). As the WSU 2018-19 Murray Jackson Creative Scholar in the Arts, Professor Moldenhauer is continuing the letterpress legacy by restoring a Vandercook 325 flatbed letterpress in the Department of Art and Art History and printing a series of folios, posters, and wood engravings for the project, Letterpress Now: Typographic Design and the Visual Interpretation of Scientific Concepts. The project’s designs typographically explore seven scientific concepts that profoundly affect our lives and our interaction with the world – genetic inheritance, plate tectonics, the special theory of relativity, germs, evolution, electromagnetism, and atomic theory. This presentation will discuss the use of typography as “an essential act of interpretation” (Bringhurst 19) and the tactile user-centered qualities of letterpress that enable people to understand information in new ways through highlighting the materials, methods, and printing of the project’s work to date."

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"Home is Where the Metropoliz Is: Global Movements and Local Commoning in a Roman Squat/Occupation"

Nicole Trujillo-Pagan, Associate Professor, Sociology

" Cities manage refugees, but can refugees politicize cities? Conventional understandings of globalization assert the state operates through cities to regulate mobility and align migrant refugees with the state. This paradigm obscures how urban space can magnify the unstable restlessness, the creative force, of migration. I draw upon an autonomy of migration approach and use a case study of an occupied factory to illustrate two interrelated phenomena. First, migrant refugees’ demand for housing expanded “right to the city” claims in Rome. Second, migrant action redeveloped a post-industrial suburban neighborhood. In particular, squatters turned the Roman “Metropoliz” into an “occupied museum,” engaging local and an international communities in reclaiming urban space and transforming it from a “non-place” to a “super place.” The case illustrates not only that global migration is reflected at the local level, but also that migrant refugees can act upon the local, transforming it and rearticulating it as provocation for the global.&quoe;

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"Olympian Aspirations: The Nation’s Global Design"

Heidi Gottfried, Assistant Professor, Sociology

"An investigation of the 1964 and 2020 Tokyo Olympics seeks to understand the art of creating and shaping the urban grid as a nation-building project. Theorizing urban design for the Olympics joins aesthetics of the built environment to political economy. Japan’s Olympian aspirations focuses attention on the nation’s global designs in Tokyo unfolding in three main historical conjunctures; each period demarcated by the bid to the Olympic games. Japan’s winning bid for the 1964 Olympics occurred at an early critical turning point for the city and for the war-torn nation. Massive infrastructural construction jumpstarted the economy on the cusp of the 1960s, showcasing modern Japan on the move joining the new liberal world order. In the interregnum between the two Olympiads, neoliberal planning underwrote the curatorship of new themed districts in the process of urban renewal. Half a century later, designing the 2020 Olympics recall the triumphal first Olympiad, tapping into current nostalgic yearning for a more optimistic time, repurposed to rescue Tokyo’s global stature battered and buffeted during the economic crisis. Contextual urban theory applied to the Olympics provides us with a greater understanding of how global cities are dependent both on policies and practices locally initiated, and on the shifting geopolitical terrains of regional and global challenges." 

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"The purpose of this project is to design diverse, inclusive, and viable"

Rahul Mitra, Assistant Professor, Communication

"Entrepreneurial ecosystems for long-term urban sustainability. I draw on the communicationas- design (CAD) approach both to gather data and create strategic interventions on the ground, driven by grassroots stakeholder concerns and ideas. Detroit, MI, is an ideal site for study, as evidenced by the emergence of a fairly robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, led by a consortium of philanthropies after the city’s recent emergence from bankruptcy. I have been ethnographically immersed in the Detroit ecosystem since August 2017, attending panels, workshops, and informal meetings with ecosystem organizations."

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"The Ford Foundation’s American-Yugoslav Project"

Tracy Neumann, Associate Professor, History

"The American-Yugoslav Project was a binational regional planning program intended to transfer American urban planning expertise to Yugoslavia as part of a Cold War democracy-building project. Funded by the US State Department, the Yugoslavian government, and the Ford Foundation, it was initially intended to be a small and shortterm; instead, it turned into a fourteen-year program and was ultimately the Ford Foundation’s largest project in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The American-Yugoslav Project is an instructive case of how urban design was politically instrumentalized for several reasons: first, it was the Ford Foundation’s major Cold War-era project in Eastern Europe and involved a range of state and non-state actors. Second, it drew into its orbit academic and professional planners from host of other countries. Third, it was clearly intended to serve as a demonstration project: Foundation officials anticipated that if the program succeeded in Ljubljana (which it did not, or at least not on the terms the Foundation intended), the model would be exported to other communist countries. Fourth, it exposed Foundation officials’ assumptions that the “scientific” knowledge embodied in technical expertise in general and urban planning in particular was somehow politically and morally neutral; it also showed how quickly those officials learned that urban design is hardly apolitical."

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