N E X T .

‘Breathful’ design in breathless times

Co-authored with Britta Boyer

Published in Strategic Design Research Journal (SDRJ), Vol 14 (01) Jan/April, 175-186, March 30, 2021.


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This position paper seeks to address the operational logic that created the conditions for the pandemic to take hold. Grasping the crisis as an opportunity for an anthropological inquiry across disciplines, this exploration firmly anchors design inside the social commitment required by breathing bodies and life-enabling atmospheres. By infusing the self-understanding of design with experiences and conceptions from Eastern and Western ‘breathwork’ practices the adaptation strategy in uncertainty shifts from perpetuating the status quo towards the creative reinterpretation of internal priorities. It also changes the nature of our projects, from making to enacting, from preprogrammed solutions to earthly engagement, from interfacing with inert matter to caring for living matters. Taking our universally shared breath as the resounding call for action, ‘breathful’ design is about the never-finished, perpetually opening task of persisting through bodily vigilance, diligence, and self-critical forsight for ‘knowing what to do when no one knows what to do’.

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Keywords: Breathing, atmospheres, Covid-19, environmental embodiment, enlivening design, design anthropology.

Acknowledgements:: We gratefully acknowledge Petri Berndtson, Nathan Felde, Timothy Jachna, Michelle Man-Yi Tang, Pandora Syperek, Lisa Butler and the anonymous reviewers whose input greatly improved the final paper. This work is supported by author (b) supervisors, Mikko Koria, Laura Santamaria and Amalia Sabiescu, alongside a Doctorial Studentship from Loughborough University, travel bursaries from the Design Research Society and Santander travel award to conduct the fieldwork in Bali.