Designing Economic Cultures: cultivating socially and politically engaged design practices against procedures of precarisation

Elzenbaumer, Bianca. 2013. Designing Economic Cultures: cultivating socially and politically engaged design practices against procedures of precarisation. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Designing Economic Cultures: cultivating socially and politically engaged design practices against procedures of precarisation)
DES_Elzenbaumer_thesis_2014.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (100MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This practice-based research sets out to investigate and intervene in the tense relationship between the production of socially and politically relevant design work and the socio-economic precariousness many designers experience. Starting from an engagement with the precarious working conditions of designers, their genealogy over the last 30+ years and the role precarisation plays in forming docile creative subjects, the research moves on to a wider critique of the political economy and its precarising value practices. Based on this analysis, it then considers the strategic possibilities of mobilising design practices around commonly produced, used and reproduced resources in order to undo procedures of precarisation.

The trajectory of this process of exploration is shaped by a series of practical experiments constructed around the inhabitation of micro-economies of support that allowed for a collective engagement with the issues and strategies researched. These inhabitations took as their starting point the resources my own design practice, Brave New Alps, was offered throughout the course of this research. Thus, they took the form of two shared residencies, one of three months in Warsaw (My castle is your castle) and a second of two months in Milan (Cantiere per pratiche non-affermative), out of which a design collective emerged that still works together. It is the experience of living through these support structures that directs the engagement with theory in order to establish decisive elements to overcome blockages and loops in practice.

The core elements that emerged as helpful in moving this research forward were characterised by an engagement with how designers are trained to accept and reproduce the conditions that precarise them, with how this training inserts itself in the wider logic of a capitalist economy and, finally, with how noncapitalist values can serve as points of orientation for constructing de-precarising design practices. In considering these key points, the aim of this research is to provide a series of both conceptual and practical tools for designers that can be mobilised in the creation of economic cultures that defy precarisation within and beyond the field of the profession. However, the research is not primarily concerned with stabilising pre- carious design practices as they are, but rather with creating conditions in which it is possible for designers to imagine and actuate what they could become when not pressured by precariousness to conform to the needs of the market.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Design, work, precariousness, precarity, values, value-practices, commons, social, political, critical, feminist, reproduction, care, support, innovation, capitalism, noncapitalist, education, inquiry, militant research, Marx, De Angelis, Federici, Foucault

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



December 2013

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

07 Mar 2014 10:10

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:57


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)