Pluriversal Design

This Inventio webtext is presented and accessed by readers using powerful technologies, information architectures, and databases based upon particular knowledge systems that values openness, accessibility, uniformity, and universality (Withey, 2015). Yet most notably admonished by Tony Fry (2009) and Cameron Tonkinwise (2015) is how design and technology has remained belligerently resistant to critical, ethical, and political questioning, despite being a significant field of practice that shapes and seeds "future-making". Several other scholars in Design Studies, Participatory Design, and Human Computer Interaction have argued for vigilance because design and technology is implicated, historically and contemporarily, in impacts of colonisation and neo-liberalism, entrenching modernist logics. A nascent but growing movement of these critical discourses can be seen among a pioneering research group called Decolonising Design (see Schultz et al., 2018); by a fraternity of scholars that speak of, to, and from Latin America (such as Botero, Del Gaudio, & Gutíerrez Borrero, 2018; Escobar, 2017) and the Global South (Fry, 2017). From this, we learn that design and technology need to critically interrogate technoscientific objects and systems through a sensitivity to asymmetries in culture, power, history, politics, knowledge, and practices in all their complexity and diversity (Philip, Irani & Dourish, 2012) so that dominant worldviews, values, and literacies do not become hardwired in the objects, systems, environments as design (Winschiers-Theophilus, Bidwell & Blake, 2012). What knowledge is, how, where, and when it can be imparted are critical questions for any discipline (Cushman, 2013), yet in design and technology, the dominant orientation still values research that is analysed, theoretically framed within published literatures, abstracted for generalization, and shared for replication in written form (usually English). This dominant orientation sees knowledge as movable, repeatable, and available to all (Tuhiwai-Smith, 2012). In contrast, there are other philosophies of knowledge where the knower and known cannot be separated, because knowledge is relational to the person and reality. This means knowing is also partly learning about the knower and it is "accessible only to those within the appropriate intimate locus" (Kasulis, 2002, p. 35). In this view, knowledge is absorbed and incorporated into the body through praxis, rather than acquired externally and existing independently to that person.

What and how knowledge is recognized are contested in this regard. To be open to hold these contradictory ways of knowing, sharing, and being, rather than resolving or displacing, is the work we aim to pursue. This means we must take pluralities of thoughts, knowledges, practices, and ways of being and becoming as our premise. One prominent Colombian scholar in design and anthropology, Escobar (2018), argued for an inter-epistemic, inter-cultural, inter-ontological recognition that moves beyond design studies' "intra-European conversation," calling for "pluriversal designs" so fellow travellers have a generosity of listening, acknowledge multiple linages, and mutual care to examine the location of their own geo-politics and partial acts of knowing, being, and changing they are already implicated in (p. 141).

For us in Australia, plurality also attends to Indigenous transnationalism and transcommunal practices that had always existed as a sensitivity and interest of others and the environment (De Costa, 2007), and the contemporary responsibility of many Indigenous Australians who "walk in two worlds" of knowing, experiencing, and practicing Indigenous and settler laws (McMillan, 1982). Plurality also accepts multiple Indigenous citizenships of a person, and all levels of Indigenous experience and knowledge, and to continue respecting other sovereignties existing in places when undertaking legal–cultural activities on another Indigenous nation's land. This challenges "white" hegemonic constructs that perpetuate ignorance in Australia that assumes one "pan aboriginal" culture—a colonial legacy of Indigenous cultural extinction (Moreton-Robinson, 2015).

Such ethical and epistemological issues contour this research, requiring the interdisciplinary co-authors to pursue our work with carefulness. Our team is composed of Wiradjuri artist Aunty Lorraine Tye, Wiradjuri law scholar Dr. Mark McMillan, Wiradjuri researcher in health and Indigenous education Dr. Faye McMillan, and non-Indigenous researchers in art (Linda Elliott), design and media (Peter West, Seth Keen, Yoko Akama). This care is more acute for Linda, Peter, Seth, and Yoko—the non-Indigenous art, design and media co-authors—to be vigilant of colonial acts of their respective disciplines, training, and practices as they collaborate with Wiradjuri nation members in Australia. Art, design, and media are not innocent from perpetuating cultural appropriation and creating representations that speak for and about Indigenous peoples (Kelly & Kennedy, 2016; Young, 2010). This necessitates a double-movement of critiquing hegemonic structures of these disciplines and knowledge articulation whilst creatively exploring how to act, know, make, be, and become together. Here, we argue and demonstrate how sovereign relationships become the fulcrum of how we practice through our respective disciplines and our work. Due to space, we provide two personal examples of this on-going interrogation by two non-Indigenous co-authors, Linda and Yoko, as an enactment of their own sovereign relationships.