The Tute Handout

The course handout for this section. Has the calendar and the bibliography.



Old Bio Text

Soumitri Varadarajan has a keen interest in marginal and neglected discourses. This has led him to construct projects dealing with marginalised communities (Waste workers), the rescuing of the ignored artefact (object culture of the poor) and the amplification of the marginal voices (Diabetes). His approach amplifies the social discourse surrounding objects and systems, and provides a location where the faint voices can be heard. His theoretical writings, rather than take issue with the dominant discourse of material constructions, talk about his projects and demonstrate a practice of collective action. Soumitri Varadarajan is Associate Professor in Industrial Design Program at RMIT University, Melbourne (Australia). He also holds the position of Adjunct Professor at Zhejiang University (Hangzhou, PRC) and Research Fellow at the National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad, India).

The focus of his undergraduate teaching has often been upon sustainability and the community orientated practice of design. In his master’s and PhD supervisions students’ focus upon marginal discourses and the privileging of the other, such as research in the area of sustainability, material culture, ethics, tsunami in Aceh and Iraq. He has an active interest in community work and people’s ways of learning. His current projects are in the areas of Diabetes and capacity building in RMIT students and staff to work on design projects in China and India.

Soumitri has a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Mysore University (India), and studied Design at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad (India). He then went on to do a PhD at Indian Institute of Technology ( Delhi) on the construction of a design theory that included the account of marginal and neglected objects.

You can write to him at:

Submission Template

Method Template

This is a quick submission Template – for the Methods and Practices.

All submissions will be uploaded to an Archive. In time to be subject to tests and review.

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On Methods

Methods are good to think. They help us along the way.

  1. Methods – as mental categories or ways are shared between all walks of life. Its just that we discuss them in different places in different ways.
  2. Change – Design is about change. And change is confronting – avoidance of change is a common enough practice. Making change happen is a proactive way.
  3. Communities – Design is often the act of bringing into existence something that will live in communities – as an idea, practice or thing. Communities often reject the intervention, or are hurt by the intervention- it is better to work collaboratively.

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A big Campaign

Campaigns tend to be big and have a tinge of truth about them. Till someone decides to take a look. Cliamte change has come in for a critical inspection in a Channel 4 documentary: The Great Global Warming Swindle.

It will begin to look like sustainability is the in-thng even for this course. That is not so – its just that I have sustainability examples easily accessible. But good to remember the voice of Green Peace in the above film: "The environmental movement has evolved into the strongest force there is for preventing development in the developing countries." – Patrick Moore Co-founder of Greenpeace

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Films Screenings

There ought to be an Audiovisual resource for this area of inquiry, approach. And so here is a list:

  1. Four Corners
  2. Insight
  3. Music: John Butler, M Oil
  4. Indegenous stories
  5. The Great Global Warming Swindle
  6. You tube/ Google video resources

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Visits are possible

I made a list of plaaces tht could be visited – as a still point and a place for inspiration.

  1. Problem Spots, blight spots
  2. NGOs – FOE
  3. Events
  4. Sustainability Victoria
  5. Election year – forums
  6. Trades Hall
  7. City/ Municipal Councils, functions, consultation
  8. Aboriginal issues
  9. Powerhouse museum

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The Campaign

The Campaign is an interesting way of speaking about a particular kind of project – one that involves working with communities and implementing change. Often in these situations the forces against change may not be overt – though sometimes they are – but equally the established manufacturers and service providers are not interested in adopting the solution of the designer. This may be ebcause they are set in their ways, see no need for change or the process of change requires too much effort. This is the classic ‘inertia’ that established agenices have – and this is also a situation where the designer may have stumbled upon a paaraadigm shift or a different way of looking at the situaation.

When the ‘big’ agency says – ‘forget it’ to the idea of the designer we have a problem. Should the designer walk away and save themselves the bother – or should they stay and provide the solution/ product/ service themselves? In the ‘new inventors’ the inventor/ designer goes ahead and dveelops the product and becomes a manufacturer. But this usually takes years and years of working away. Designers are of the view that they must not hang around doing just one thing – which is sensible as they cant make a living on the job then – and that they should move on after really short/rapid stints at any one job/ project.

Can one walk away from communities? Obviously not – and here lies one problem. Is the designer equipped to function in a project that involves them hanging around to see the implementation of their ideas? Not necessarily I would say – but they can function in this environment – by developing their skills as they go along. Which makes the acquisition of the skills as a student worth while.

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Quick Details

Title: Communities and Change

1. Stakeholder Processes
2. Back-casting
3. Scenario Thinking
4. Community Consultation
5. Risk
6. Intervention
7. Change
8. Participatory Action Research

The Campaign Project

A large number of Design Projects are “producer side contributions”. Infact historically design in the twentieth century was characterised by the practice of contributiing to an existing business enterprise. However these days the situation is not so clear – and what may have been marginal in the past has come to prominence especially in the area of designers working ‘independent of client prerogatives’ (to deal anticipatorily with the external organics of Industrial man – RB Fuller).

One area where a lot of this can be seen is sustainability – which has demanded a focus not upon the profits of one manufacturer or client but the greater good of humanity. There are many other areas.

In recent years this kind of work – especially in design – is referred to as the ‘campaign approach’.