Archive for the 'Ethics' Category

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“In a sense, an “immoral” and a “moral” approach to data attribution are equally difficult to justify. When we make anything in human culture, we’re using the whole damned apparatus. We should either thank everyone, or thank no-one and just get on with making the stuff and putting it out there. Bending the semantic rays as they pass endlessly though our machines.”

via This is something I’ve planned to do for a while:… – Mrs Tsk *.

Women in/of Graphic Design

Women of Graphic Design - About

“Although the Graphic Design department at RISD, where this project began, is 71% female, only 6% of the designers students learn about in Graphic Design history are women. This is a severe imbalance in the curriculum, and it’s not the problem of just one institution. Though there were and are many men to impact the history and world of graphic design, there have been great female designers right along side them. In fact, the National Education Association reports that 54% of working designers are women. But why is a whole group being ignored in institutionalized design history?”

via Women of Graphic Design. On a similar topic, this book is good. Available for lends.

Why design cannot remain exclusive

The Open Design Now website is well designed. I have the book (available for loan, as are other books), but hadn’t seen the site before. A useful and interesting resource.

It’s sunny in Dundee mostly


Tentsmuir WW2 Coastal Defences

In the spirit of inter-institutional caring and sharing:


Preview: Thursday 27th March 7pm
Exhibition Open: Friday 28th March 12 – 4pm, Saturday 29th March 12 – 4pm

The White Room project space, Tin Roof Studios. 38-40 Bellfield Street
Dundee DD1 5JD

Presenting an exhibition of work created by 3rd year Illustration Students from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

Come along to our show! It consists of hand printed posters and set designs for a series of imagined theatrical adaptations of plays exploring climate change, sustainability, urban planning and related social and political issues.

Exploring subjects such as:
Hydro Fracking, Gentrification, Micro-topias, Climate Activism, Nuclear waste disposal, Nuclear War, Social Housing, The melting ice caps, Surveillance, Community Gardening.

For more information please visit:

Reading the Signs

This is very interesting, both in what it is about, and as a form of design research.

A future beyond capitalism?

The always great Dan Hancox talking about an alternative to capitalism by looking at the social-democratic and cooperative village of Marinaleda, Spain. Worth a listen if you have any interest in ways to address inequality and redistribution of wealth within society, both globally and nationally.


One of my favourite journals – Open! – which recently ceased in its print form due to funding cuts by the Dutch government, has only gone and reimagined itself in amazing website form.



Vis Com Des person James Bettney has set up Takuro as a vehicle to work with widows in Nepal, (who can be ostracised from society following the death of their husbands), assisting them in establishing sustainable employment.

2 products are ready to launch on Kickstarter at the end of this month; a waxed canvas roll-top rucksack in 3 colours, (Gold, Green or Black) and a 100% cashmere scarf in 4 different colours.

James undertook an extended visit to Nepal during his degree, reflected in work he did while at GSA.

“Eternity is too long to be wrong”

This is interesting, with some typographic and design dimensions to it.

watching us

this is a fantastic resource that has a wealth of information on topics relevant to modern society and globalised culture.

“There’s already a lot of information on the Internet, so our goal is to cut through the noise and garbage, to present valuable information in a clear way, so it’s accessible, useful and easily digested. This still may not be an easy undertaking though, and we can understand that — especially considering the complexity and interconnectedness of the topics, as well as the crossing over of sources; but also for the fact that the information here can be incomplete, sometimes contradictory or even controversial. But this is the point. It’s all part of what we’re trying to do: provoke critical thinking, questioning… and doing.

We’ve fundamentally built this resource to inform and inspire action — and no, we’re not talking about clicking the stupid ‘Like’ button on Facebook, signing online petitions or letter writing — we mean informing and inspiring real-world action; taking this information away from the computer to rejuvenate the strong networks with the people around you in the real world, to discuss, plan, act. This is not a symbolic action or clicktivism website, nor is it a simple collection of popular content, like the other websites available. It’s a resource that aims to inform, inspire and provoke action; to generate a multitude of responses and reactions. This is just some of what is needed to break paradigms, subservience, acquiescence, and to cultivate inspiration to continue work on the plethora of puzzles and problems addressed in the information published here.”

adam curtis documentaries

Marc Singer Interview

10 Years after the release of Dark Days – the award winning documentary  – Marc Singer reflects on his film at Anthem Magazine here

Design Death

The consequences of managing and mobilising design students into the sphere of fear characterises the current scheme of design education today, where design is based on the task of forecasting potential errors, delivering enjoyment and comfort, and of making things accessible in the shortest time

via Zoontechnica – Issue 02 Essay – Design and the Politics of Fear.

The Spirit of Revolt exhibition

As a possibly very interesting source/archive, an interesting exhibition, and, via the video above, an unintended assault on any of the conventions of video-making, The Spirit of Revolt exhibition, presenting one hundred years of Radical Presses Clydeside, and protest literature, photography and recordings at the Mitchell Library this week, might be worth a look.

Loose Associations

In the run up to Christmas, because I’d been exceptionally good last year and worked very hard at graphic design, when I came across a copy of ‘Did You Kiss the Foot that Kicked You?‘ – a project by Ruth Ewan – I bought it for myself. The publication consists of a book designed by Will Holder (who is quite simply a very very good designer and artist), and a 10″ red vinyl of 8 interpretations of the ‘Ballad of Accounting‘ – a song, popularised by Ewan MacColl (who wrote it) and Peggy Seeger with a great title that is at first glance an unusual and odd coupling, and at second glance forces you to re-think the word ‘accounting’ in its broadest context.

As a Christmas present, I also received a copy of 33 Revolutions per Minute, a fantastically well researched and well written book by Dorian Lynskey, charting the history of the protest song. In the book there are many mentions of Peggy and Peggy’s brother Pete Seeger, who along with Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie (1) could be said to constitute a central part of American folk music (and by association many of the political and social issues) of the 20th century. (There are also several references to Greil Marcus in the book, who coincidentally is also quoted on the reverse of Hal Fosters ‘Design and Crime‘ which is a key reference text in one of this terms forthcoming projects. Fascinating).

You can read about all aspects of Ruth Ewan’s project here, but in common with the Ballad of Accounting itself, I particularly like the reflective questioning nature of the title. The song itself is structured around a barage of questions (of which ‘Did you kiss the Foot …’ is one), seemingly directed by the singers at themselves as much as anything, and as such, might be considered to be a bit ‘meta’. It also reminded me, for some reason that’s now unclear to me, of the inquiry-led learning advocated by Neil Postman (and Charles Weingartner) in Teaching as a Subversive Activity – which, while fairly bombastic in style, and a product of its time (the early 1970’s), contains some highly pertinent observations and thoughts on learning and teaching.

At the outset of this post I had a sense that this would all come a full circle, and join up with where we started. But it hasn’t.

1. Full-time GSA staff Doppelgänger and part-time singer/songwriter Billy Bragg, in a collaboration with Wilco, recorded a number of Guthrie’s unfinished songs in the Mermaid Avenue series of recordings. One of Bragg’s earliest songs, A New England, was recorded and released by Kirsty MacColl, daughter of the aforementioned Ewan. Compelling!

Self-answering question spotted on directors monitor (twice)

From Brother Printer Orchestra behind the scenes (more)

Copyright (Part 1 and 2 of 2), or, ‘Oh Brother!’

Part 1

Its been all round twitter for a few days now, so you’ve probably heard that one of the latest incidences of advertisings liberal ‘borrowing’ (for which, in this case, we can probably use the word ‘copying’) of ideas from other people and places, involves GSA vis com person James Houston.

It’s not the first time that this work has been emulated, but previously its been in a completely different context. We wish Jim well with whatever action he might need to take, and imagine that we’d hopefully see, via the internet and social media, a fairly swift re-dressing of this creative liberty.

There is in addition a more complex back story to this, about Jim’s dealings with the company that used the idea. You can pick up on that in the other online discussions.

In the interests of journalistic balance, Brother have already posted this comment to the youtube video;

“Brother is a business that operates to high ethical principles, and we are therefore concerned to read some of the comments expressed here.
This film is part of a campaign that we commissioned from an external advertising agency. We have asked them to investigate the points being raised and to reassure us about the creative process behind it.”
Antony Peart, European Marketing and Communications Manager, BrotherEU

Make of that what you will.

Part 2

My own personal views on the rights and wrongs of copyright law are mixed. As a law, it is fairly arcane, and what seems worse is that in situations such as this, it appears to do little to support the (often smaller, less wealthy) originator of the work. As an issue, it has come up in other degree shows, with other people accusing students of using music etc in pieces that they have made, without proper permission. I would argue that this is a completely different set of circumstances, differentiated primarily by the lack of commercial gain or motivation in the latter cases.

I also think that, in a broader context, a free flow of materials and ideas is a good way to recognise and celebrate the fact that nothing is dreamt up in a vacuum, and that ideas come about from combinations of influences. But this is completely different to lifting and replicating an idea wholesale for purely financial gain. An important foundation of this is the acknowledgement of sources and influences – again, something the Brother incident fails to do. People may disagree with this, and we would be happy to extend this discussion in the studio. It might form a useful starting point for some of the professional and ethical discussions we plan to instigate in the second term. More on that later. In terms of further reading in this area, I think this and these are good starting points.

Spime Weapons

Defense distributed raise an interesting spectre of the point (in the not too distant future) when we will be able to access (any) object as data and fabricate it ourselves as a 3D printed object. In this case, their focus in the gun, (or as they call it the ‘personal defence system’). The project, as I’m sure it’s intended to do, raises a number of ethical and social issues, and while I personally feel that their libertarian manifesto is a bit muddled (not seeming to recognise individual and collective rights as being connected in any way), its interesting to think about whether we feel any different were we to contextualise this technology in the arab spring, or other recent uprisings, and how this makes us feel about the more traditional methods of arms manufacturing, distribution and control.

Thanks to the person from 2nd year who raised this in a discussion group (and whose name unfortunately I don’t have to hand), as i think it raises some really interesting questions.