Each of us is responsible for our own listening, but in our various roles, we also find ourselves responsible for establishing the conditions for specific economies of speaking-and-listening involving others, besides oneself. In each of my professional roles (designer, planner, team leader, educator, administrator…) I am expected to be a different kind of listener. In each of these roles I am also expected to establish and sustain situations in which listening in certain ways by certain participants is facilitated, encouraged and even (ostensibly) enforced! I see benevolent and nefarious dimensions to this, in theory as well as from my personal experience. I hope to use the context of the conference to discuss appropriate positions and approaches to fulfilling such roles.
Taking the theme of this conference as an occasion to think about the role of listening in the practice of design, I have the impression – which I would like to discuss and articulate further in the conference – that new paradigms or approaches in design arise with a commitment to listen intently to something that has not previously been given focused attention – to give a focused hearing to an aspect that conventional design approaches of the time may consider to be minor voices, supporting views, irrelevant distractions, peripheral chatter or background noise. Functionalist, rationalist, neo-historicist, “green”/sustainable, deconstructivist, post-modern, and participatory approaches to design (just to name some examples) all arose not from new ideas as to how to answer the questions designers were dealing with, but rather from new ideas as to how to listen, and what to listen to, in defining the questions that design should address.
I will come to the conference with my curiosity, experiences and thoughts about these two themes, and I expect that many other themes will emerge in the course of my participation and my listening.