Imagine a country where by many estimates 70% of the population is rural – with poor access to work, services and the benefits of technology. Where life in a sense is a curious mix of the ancient ways-practices and contemporary in the mobile phone and shampoo sachet. This context has energised many different responses –
- William Morris asking for it to be locked away as pristine and perfect.
- The Indian state initiating a central planning strategy to obliterate the past.
- The social activists setting up NGOs in rural contexts to bring modern management practices to the hinterland.
Design joined in to focus upon the rural as a manufacturing locale and designed objects and tools to make money and prosperity flow to the rural.
To be fair all of this had some effect. In pockets. And much much more needs to be done. I find the ‘design for the other 90%’ deeply irritating, in the same way I found Papanek problematic – technology and more products will not materially change the situation. Neither is income generation projects in rural areas the total answer. All this has been attempted – and its just not enough. Something else is needed.
So I ask the question – can a design school be set up which lets go of its professional anchorings (in the art and design framework ) to focus all its energies upon this population of people?