Exploring Precarity in Society
MA Design for Change
Sept 2021-April 2021
Kay Mc Keon
Pooja Sivamani Selvi
As part of the MA Design for Change programme, we began researching under the theme of precarity. Precarity can be defined as a state of persistent insecurity and can be found in all aspects of society and living. It is present in the very nature of human experince. Working under this theme, we investigated the many areas where precarity manifests across the social, environmental, economic, technologic and political areas of society.
Our collective research led us to propose a research framework. The design of which has been guided by our group values. The framework does not aim to provide any solutions to the issues explored but instead is designed to help us navigate and understand these difficult topics better. It is a tool that aims to guide us towards asking better questions, to expand thought, imagination and help, ourselves and others, envision transformation.
During our first semester we individually chose an area of precarity to investigate, compiled a literature review and facilitated a workshop based on our topic.
Research areas included;
the housing crisis, access to health care, labour insecurity, austerity, gender inequality, intersectionality, access to the city, gentrification, the environmental crisis, government policies, the effects of AI technology and the COVID-19 pandemic.
After investigating precarity from each of our own perspectives, we brought our individual research together into a collective concept map. The map was created under the question of “What does Precarity in Ireland mean to us?” We began by mapping out our individual research areas and the wider connecting factors related to each issue.
We then began analysing how each issue may be affected by or impact upon other areas on the map. This allowed us to create new connections and understandings related to each topic.
Building the map allowed us to understand the complexity related to each issue. With many of the issues spanning across social, political, environmental aspects of society. Precarity itself, we found, arises as a symptom of these instabilities. What also became clear was that to approach any potential ‘solution’ to any of these issues, one must view it holistically, as we learned, that no issue exists in isolation. There are many other interconnecting and impacting factors that may not be evident at first glance. It is important then to take the time to map this out, to gain a deeper understanding of the issue when looking to towards any potential ‘design solution’.
Designing a Research Framework
To find a shared vision of where we wanted to take the project, we began to define our personal and group values. We recognised the importance of defining our values as a way of aligning ourselves with what we, as a group, believe in most. Defining our values guided us to define the group vision and purpose, and from this, to define our group goals. What we all agreed on, is that we want to imagine a better future and help others to reimagine with us. From here we began working on a creating framework to help guide our research towards our vision of the future.
What became evident in our process was the complexity and time taken in creating a framework alone. At this point we understood the levels of research, planning and investigation that needs to go in before any strategies can be realised. For this reason, and under our limited time constraints we decided to focus our time on creating a unique and meaningful research tool that would not only be beneficial to ourselves for our future research, but can be used as a tool by other researchers to navigate projects on complex research topics such as precarity.
Our final output consisted of;
The framework manual, the 'Rethink' report and a poster of 36 of the possible design tools that may be used as part of the research process.
1. The Framework Manual
2. Rethink Report
4. Design Tools Poster
Collage artwork created for the 6 phases of the framework.