Redesign of Society

Basic information of the minor

Name of the minor: Redesign of Society

Code: ARTS3070

Extent of the minor in ECTS credits: 15-25

Teacher in charge of the minor: Kari-Hans Kommonen, director of the Arki research group

Language of instruction: English

Target group: As an essentially transdisciplinary initiative, the minor subject is targeted to MA and doctoral students from any relevant background and from any university, who have compatible study and research interests.

Level of the minor: Advanced & Doctoral studies

Application and Selection:

Number of available places: 20-30

Application time for Aalto University students for Redesign of Society minor subject studies is 1.-15.5.2015. Instructions for applying: http://studyguides.aalto.fi/minors-guide/2015/en/minor/instructions-for-applying.html

Students from other Finnish universities apply during the JOO application 1.-30.4. time via JOOPAS https://haku.joopas.fi.

In addition to the application through these systems, applicants are required to fill in and submit by the end of the due date a description of their earlier studies and experience and a motivation letter through a web form that will be published on the wiki pages of the Redesign of Society initiative at http://wiki.aalto.fi/display/redesignofsociety when the application period begins.

There is an application process in August-September for additional participants. Whether this will be offered will be announced in the wiki pages at http://wiki.aalto.fi/display/redesignofsociety.

In 2015, there is an application period in September, starting on September 2nd, with deadline for applications on September 17th. The selection of students will be completed on the 18th and the course will start on the 21st of September, with an intensive one week workshop.

Content and structure of the minor

Learning outcomes of the minor

Students are expected to gain

  • knowledge of a broad multidisciplinary set of relevant literature and contemporary movements in society
  • a more developed understanding of several global and local societal issues from the point of view of several disciplines
  • ways of communicating and working in a multidsciplinary community towards transdisciplinarity – transcending the boundaries of their native fields of expertise
  • a design oriented vocabulary and conceptual toolkit for reflecting on and speculating about society and its future
  • experience in using utopia and design fiction as methods
  • deeper insights about the current problematics and possible future of society from the point of view the topic their group will work on

Content of the minor

The Redesign of Society minor subject is a part of a wider Redesign of Society initiative at the Media Lab of Aalto ARTS, implemented as a study project that engages a multidisciplinary and multicultural group of MA and PhD students from several universities to study the design and redesign of society.

The idea is to develop a design oriented approach to thinking about at the tremendous changes and challenges in society. We will attempt to understand what kinds of designs and design ecosystems there are in society and what kinds of forces are at work; this is a certain kind of redesign process in society that is taking place whether we participate in it actively or not. At the same time, we will attempt to develop ideas of desirable future society, and consider what would it mean to develop a more proactive design stance towards making such desirable developments possible.

We will also exercise the use of utopia and design fiction as methods to sketch, illustrate and evaluate desirable and undesirable developments in society. While utopia is often understood simply as an unrealistic vision, utopia can also be developed as a tool for envisioning a future that we would find desirable (Levitas, 2013). The great challenge is, how to combine desirability with feasibility and achievability (Wright, 2010).

With design fiction we can develop insights about the design of technology, institutions, social systems and practices for a better and sustainable society. These fictions will help us to think about the details and complexities that take place when everyday life meets politics, systems, technologies, and abstract high level ideas.

Examples of the problematics we will be discussing:

  • the state and future of the global digital environment (intelligence agencies etc. hacking and spying, corporate platform dominance, growing complexity and unsustainability of digital ecosystems)
  • the growing inequality and societal unrest, future of jobs, degradation and depletion of environment and natural resources vs sustainable society, climate change
  • how to evolve the business, financial and economical systems towards greater social responsibility
  • the problems with intellectual property, and the need to preserve and strengthen the cultural and technological commons of humankind
  • critical review and envisioning of future predictions and scenarios (robots, singularity, surveillance,…), creating design propositions and making them visible and tangible for societal debate

The theme is very broad and requires us to become familiar with many topics from a large variety of disciplines. At the same time, meaningful work requires individuals and groups to focus on specific topics during their progress. To achieve this, the minor subject will include several introductory activities that enable students to get familiar with topics outside of their own fields, followed by the development of focused projects that allow deeper engagement with the selected topics.

The minor subject is organized in collaboration with several individuals and units in Aalto and other universities. More updates of the various details of the minor subject will be published on the wiki pages of the Redesign of Society initiative at http://wiki.aalto.fi/display/redesignofsociety as the development of the program proceeds.

Escobar, Arturo, 2011. Sustainability: Design for the pluriverse. Development, 54(2), 137–140.
Levitas, Ruth, 2013. Utopia as Method: The Imaginary Reconstitution of Society. Houndmills : New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ostrom, Elinor, 2005. Understanding Institutional Diversity, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Schneider, Anne Larason & Ingram, Helen, 1997. Policy Design for Democracy, Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press.
Unger, Roberto Mangabeira, 1996. What Should Legal Analysis Become?, London : New York: Verso Books.
Wright, Erik Olin, 2010. Envisioning Real Utopias, London; New York: Verso.


The course is targeted mainly to advanced MA students or doctoral students as it requires mature focus and effort; however, also especially motivated first years students are welcome to apply, but are expected to explain the justification in their application.

Structure of the minor

Credits: 15-25

The minor subject consists of (total 8-18 cr)





Redesign of Society Lectures and Project (V)



Redesign of Society Workshop
(workshops with a varying theme) x 4-6 participations


Students may get additional credits beyond the minor subject’s minimum 15 by participating in more workshops. Also, students who are not enrolled in the minor may also participate in separate workshops, if there is space.

Timing of the minor

Periods: I-V

The minor subject activities are organized as several one week workshops during Media Lab workshop weeks, and as meetings that take place mostly on Mondays between 13-16.

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