N E X T .

Collective wondering:
Enabling productive uncertainty in agroecological codesign

Published in: CoDesign, International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts

Special issue Designing for Reimagined Communities, edited by Brian Dixon and Lynn Sayers McHattie.

DOI: 10.1080/15710882.2021.2001534. 15 November, 2021.

This paper explores the transformative relations of unknowable possibility in three urban communities which upcycle human waste. Working with communities – human and nonhuman – is approached by applying the dynamic model of collective wondering conceived as (i) provisional proposition, (ii) responsiveness to difference, and (iii) affirmation in/of uncertainty. The communities act in concert with people, microbes, and earthworms to address unsustainable food systems. Their profoundly self-implicating engagement on the material, social and cultural level stems from a pendulation between actionable immersion (wondering at) and perspectival detachment (wondering about). Community – understood as togetherness in wondering – becomes a conduit for imaginative, counter-intuitive thinking, and doing that can diversify existent, dominant, and hegemonic perspectives. Three agroecological cases illustrate how cultivating a rich, interactive context for exchanging or moving positions give birth to a plurality of perspectives, human and nonhuman, on the world. Since physical, social, and cultural positions in people and groups are never fully determined, codesign that provides ample possibility for repositioning – including unsettling bathroom routines, group debates, compost care, and agroecological tinkering – is crucial for opening perspectives and influencing how people act in close relation with unknowable otherness.

DOI link

Keywords: Agroecological exploration; community; ferment; human waste; situational analysis; social creativity.

Acknowledgements:: Heartfelt thanks to Sarah Daher, Benson Law, Britta Boyer, Noel Benson, Timothy Jachna, Gerhard Bruyns, Nathan Felde, Vlad Glăveanu, Tang ManYi and the three anonymous reviewers for contributing generously to this paper.