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Designing Controversies : How design has been socialized and why sociology should be designed

Tommaso Venturini

Actor-network theory is one of the social theories that contributed the most to the acknowledgement of Design. Revealing the role played by technical objects in collective life and making clear that, without technology, modern societies would be unmanageable by size and complexity, ANT helped to overcome the misunderstanding that assigned to Design a mere decorative function. As ANT showed, it is through design that the technical components of objects are assembled into a functioning unity. And it is thanks to design that such ‘internal’ assembly mirrors and contributes to the external assembly of collective phenomena. Every time a designer connects separate parts or materials, she is also bounding social actors and groups. Far from being a superficial decoration, design (the art of form) guarantees the organization of modern societies by informing and formatting our sociotechnical existence. Time has now come for design to return the favor and serve ANT. Among others contributions, designers can play a crucial role in developing the controversy mapping approach. Originally conceived as a method to train students in the exploration of sociotechnical debate, controversy mapping is nowadays turning into a full research method. Its aim is to investigate the most entangled scientific issues, deploying the fabric of modern technoscience and modern societies. In such enterprise, ANT needs help from Design. Who better than the designers knows how to simplify collective imbroglios while respecting their richness? Who better than designers knows how to articulate complexity? In this communication we will discuss the potential for and ANT-design collaboration drawing on our experience in teaching controversies to design students in Paris and Milan.