Seven Conversations on invisibility

2:00 – 5:30 PM

All 7 Conversations start on Thursday and continue on Friday.
Commitment is required for both days.
** for Full-Access-Pass only **

In the seven different Conversations, Transdisciplinary Design students, with their professional partners, community experts and participants, will implement design methodologies to facilitate exchange of perspectives and to foster generative thought. They are designed as intimate discussions and workshops. These are free, and participants are selected through a nomination process. To take part, you must be able to commit to two full afternoons. You are able to nominate yourself, or someone you think would be a good fit for a particular conversation topic. 


Invisibility In Mind – 
Thinking through the cybernetic triangle

Jack Wilkinson, Transdisciplinary Design | Lead
Location: 6 E 16th Street, NY, Room D 1618

The design of new intelligences gives us an unprecedented opportunity to redesign the human and to perhaps edit the flaws of human ontology. By exploring the relationship between the cybernetic triangle, we will attempt to bring the nonhuman voice into the design of intelligent machines in order to find increased empathy with that which we know only as data. Can a machine think like a forest about a river? How might a person think about the city as a wave thinks about the ocean? How might we incorporate nonhuman schemas of sentience and natural systems of interaction into the design of these new cognitive interfaces? Striking a balance between the applied and the theoretical, we will attempt to frame, visualize, and world these non-anthropocentric AI. Participants will not only walk away with a challenged understanding of artificial thought and its aesthetics, but also new methodologies for designing technology in an ecocentric future.

Assumptions in the Anthropocene

Elena Habre & Melika Alipour Leili, Transdisciplinary Design | Leads
Molly Johnson, University Sustainability Associate at TEDC | Design Partner
Location: 63 Fifth Ave, NY, Starr Foundation Hall

In the face of environmental crisis, the fields of sustainable and human-centered design have lacked a holistic perception of the planet and its actors, and have thus failed to reimagine their scope at the scale demanded by the challenges at hand. If climate chaos is the result of a cognitive failure, how might we design new thinking? Particularly in the face of rising climate chaos, design can play a role in shaping new perceptions of the nonhuman in order to promote other ways of being. We seek to explore new perspectives to reframe knowledge and transform understanding. Considering our sense of separation from nature, we are looking to how common languages can bridge our distances. Design has potential to create different communicative utilities for translating nonhuman perspectives. In changing our perception, how might we redesign our relation with the world to address the roots of our misbehavior?

Predictive analytics & Equality

Winnie Chang & Corey Chao, Transdisciplinary Design | Leads
Deepthi WelaratnaFounder and CEO of Thicket Labs | Design Partner
Location: 55 West 13th St, NY, Room L205

What if government were driverless? What would be its measures of equality? Happiness? Our lives are increasingly managed by blackbox decision-makers: Amazon’s warehouses ship goods closer to your home based solely on your likelihood of buying them; police distribute their resources based on likely criminal activity (making more arrests, more data points), while new algorithms flag officers more likely to commit abuse. Several blocks away, the new Hudson Yards development promises Smart City technology that knows even when the plants are thirsty. These technologies are developed with specific purpose, by organizations and corporations that have particular assumptions about the world. Designers should interrogate the long-term implications these new technologies present and propose alternative futures. Our conversation will extrapolate these technologies into possible Driverless Governments, describe their ambitions, pinpoint their limitations, and turn finally toward inventing new forms of civic engagement and Blackbox Activism.

the untold narratives 

Ankita Roy, Transdisciplinary Design | Lead
Rachel Lehrer, Design Innovation Lead, International Rescue Committee, Design Partner
Location: 25 E 13th St, NY, Maker Center

Today, we are seeing the highest levels of displacement on record. Millions of people around the world are being forced away from their homes. But the political rhetoric that surrounds displacement and migration, especially in the U.S., is rooted in fear and othering. Differences are seen as a threat, rather than a potential strength in our current political climate. What if we try something else? In this conversation, we will look past the overwhelming headlines and statistics to zoom in on individual narratives of resilience and loss, of hope and fear, that can offer new forms of thinking and discussion. By focusing on objects and places, we will reveal the process of unpacking the texture of people’s lived experiences and daily realities. We’ll do this by asking questions such as, what might found objects reveal about memories, values, beliefs and motivations? How might physical spaces contextualize stories? How might we find openings for friendship and connection by understanding the rhythms and beats of a city? This conversation seeks to shed light on the universality and uniqueness of human experiences. Through storytelling, and analyzing meaningful objects, artefacts and places, our goal is to humanize ‘the other’ and introduce new questions to address this topic--ones that blend policy with the poetics of everyday life. 

INVISIBILITY IN knowledge – 
youth empowerment and civic engagement

Kate Fisher & Valentina Branada, Transdisciplinary Design | Leads
Clare Watson, Strategy at Zago | Partner
Nicole Anand, Associate Director of Strategy at Reboot | Partner
Location: 66 W 12th St, Room A712

A community requires new approaches to the promotion of inclusivity and engagement to build social agency in times of complex change. In our past, our public education system has played a role in building those connections, but today forms of learning are a manifestation of a continuous unequal system that has not adapted to the changing society and context. Creative engagement & individual growth is achieved in the bond we make with people, when we find collective purpose, and when we engage with our society. How might we create an ecosystem of learning for youth that fosters meaning-making and self-directed action towards civic participation?

Envisioning and reclaiming spaces

Cynthia Warner & Lissa Fedrizzi, University Transdisciplinary Lab | Leads
Eduardo Staszowski, Director at Parsons DESIS Lab | Design Partner
Christian Iaione, Director of LabGov and Associate Professor of Public Law at LUISS University | Community Partner
Sheila Foster, University Professor at Fordham University | Community Partner
Location: 6 E 16th St, NY Room 1203

What if urban residents could (re)claim the city for cooperative uses? What if they could locally govern common spaces in ways that best met their needs? How might the pooling and stewarding of common resources increase a sense of entitlement to the city itself? “Urban commons” represent an opportunity for new social arrangements that enable sharing of (not always visible) spaces, resources, and information among urban denizens, to meet their needs. Using the lenses of un/reclaiming spaces, dynamic and inclusive governance, and alternative economies, this conversation explores a deeper understanding of the possibilities of the urban commons and the potential obstacles to their growth. Building on the contributions of panelists from The In/Visibility of the Urban Commons, who will also join the conversation, we will explore how applying frameworks of the “urban commons” helps us envision new arrangements and claims for a specific urban case study - 14th Street in Manhattan. Taking as our prompt the recent proposal to close 14th Street to private transit during upcoming repairs to the L subway line, our conversation will be an open space to imagine totally new uses, relationships, and interactions for the 14th Street landscape. Through field work and, imaginative exercises, we will envision and (re)claim future urban commons of 14th Street. Our conversation will explore how visibility from urban mapping exercises can help illuminate potentialities and pitfalls for urban commoning.


INVISIBILITY IN community – 
designing for inclusion

Francisco Miranda & Ruchika Lodha, Theories of Urban Practice | Leads
Sean Baker & Enrique Martinez, The Lab at OPM | Design Partners
Location: 6 E 16th St, NY Room 1203

In the contemporary Anthropocentric Era, the dichotomy between nature and society has been amplified by the divide between economies and ecologies. One overarching system - that of extractive economies - exploits the land/resources while marginalizing local communities. Extractive economies in Latin-American countries present themselves as the key towards ‘progress’. The negative byproducts of these economies (environmental hazards, violent displacements, etc.) are viewed as a sort of ‘necessary evil’ that we, as a collective, need to endure…all for the sake of ‘progress’. This argument, framed by the media, corporations and governments worldwide, as 'the only way to move forward', often excludes communities that are directly affected and obscures their needs and desires, rendering them invisible.

What is our responsibility as designers? How do we bring light where it is needed? These communities are, in the end, deliberately obstructed from exercising their right to the city and to urban democracy processes (such as participatory budgeting).

Extractive economies are cornerstone to world economy so, without advocating for a complete stop on extractive economies (something unrealistic in our time), how can we, through design strategies, reconfigure a world-wide dark reality for these disenfranchised communities?