Care(ful) Design
An exploration of contemporary design boundaries

What is care? A moral obligation? A joy? Is it only human? What role does it play in knowledge and design processes, and in the production and use of products, services, or technologies? 


While the term care in design has traditionally been associated with design for healthcare, feminist scholarship on the topic has long argued for a broader use of the term. Care is everything we do to maintain, contain, and repair the world we live in, ourselves and the environment, so that our life and existence are the best they can be.  

In this way, we can understand care as both the outcome of and as the ethic with which we approach the work of designing. This allows us to bring care beyond the domestic and medical realms and to consider care enabled through the design of everyday places, services and things, and care for the non-human, as in the case of the natural or technological world.     

The second edition of Open Polifactory, CARE(ful) Design, explores the many nuances of care in design and its potential for a systemic and large-scale change from a more-than-human perspective. What does it mean to design for care and with care? How might we think of designing with care as an ongoing political activity that questions traditional power structures and engagement methods? We will reflect on the role of the designer in these fields, exploring diverse dimensions and contexts of care, from mainstream social systems to the experiences of those at the margins.      


Some parts of the program may be subject to change.
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Event #1

Dignity, Autonomy and Care: Service Design for Older Adults

with Miso Kim | Associate Professor of Experience Design in the Department of Art + Design at Northeastern University

11 December 2023, 6pm – Polifactory
curated by Martina Carraro, Erin McAuliffe and Laura Cipriani – Politecnico di Milano

Miso will present her study on dignity as a design principle, featuring service design projects for older adults. In service co-production, individuals with diverse backgrounds and needs collectively participate, emphasizing the importance of understanding and considering the principle of dignity in service design. During her talk at Open Polifactory, she will specifically focus on autonomy and care as key dimensions of dignity. These concepts will be explored through her service design projects for older adults, conducted in collaboration with local senior organizations. The number of senior citizens has increased rapidly over the last decade. However, prevailing cultural preconceptions still create social barriers, hindering individuals from pursuing well-being and receiving adequate support in later life. Miso argues that comprehending the relationship between autonomy and care is essential in designing services for the long life after retirement. She will introduce four projects: Transformative Research for Elder Autonomy, Older Adults’ Technology Literacy, Health Autonomy for Older Adults with HIV, and Designing for People You Can’t Meet: Isolation During COVID-19 at Senior Homes.

Free in-presence event in English.
Registration on Eventbrite is required.

Event #2

Design and care in data ecosystems

with Donata Columbro, Silvia Castellanza (Comune di Milano), Simona Chiodo (Politecnico di Milano)

23 April 2024, 5.45 pm – Polifactory
curated by Martina Carraro, Erin McAuliffe and Laura Cipriani – Politecnico di Milano

The second event in the Care(ful) Design edition encourages us to reflect on the concept of care applied to data ecosystems, where sets of technologies, communities, bodies and values coexist. In what way can bringing the lens of care to these ecosystems help design to envision innovative and technological artifacts, spaces, and services that are inclusive, accessible and personalised?

We will explore this through a presentation of the book “Quando i dati discriminano. Bias e pregiudizi in grafici, statistiche e algoritmi” by Donata Columbro, Journalist, Writer and Populiser. This will be followed by a panel with Silvia Castellanza, Director of the Data Interoperability Area – Comune di Milano and Simona Chiodo, Full Professor in Philosophy – Politecnico di Milano. 

The event will close with an open discussion between the audience and the panelists. An aperitivo will follow.  

Free in-presence event in Italian.
Registration on Eventbrite is required.

Event #3

Hills for Pleasures

with Verônica Natividade| Associate Professor – PUC-Rio, PhD candidate – ETH Zürich

10th Jube 2024, 5.45 – 7.30 pm, Polifactory

The third event in the Care(ful) Design schedule features Verônica Natividade presenting her work on exploring innovative perspectives to address favelas through the dual lens of machine learning as both a technical tool and a philosophical framework. Despite advanced technology and vast accumulated knowledge, urban planning has failed in favelas worldwide. According to UN-Habitat, urban poverty is one of the most significant challenges of the century, amplified by climate change. While architecture’s philosophical and educational foundations remain intact, it is essential to expand interdisciplinary knowledge and consider the semiotic and philosophical aspects of technology. Our analytical achievements often remain intellectual constructs confined to our comfort zones. New projects on favelas proliferate every year, yet favelas continue to grow. What actions are we taking? Through various projects, Verônica Natividade will illustrate how machine learning can offer new insights and approaches to one of our time’s most pressing urban challenges.

Free in-presence event in English.
Registration on Eventbrite is required.

Open Polifactory is an annual cycle of presentations, events and debates dealing with complex issues in contemporary design research in order to build a debate that is as popular and open as possible.
Open Polifactory, curated and produced by Polifactory, the makerspace and fablab of the Politecnico di Milano, together with the Service Design research group and the Design Policy Lab, is addressed to professors, researchers and students of the Politecnico community, as well as to citizens, designers, professionals and civil servants interested in exploring the advanced perspectives of design culture.

The first edition (2023) was titled “More-than-human(ity). An Exploration of Contemporary Design Boundaries”.