A More-Than-Human Design Manifesto

We cannot separate human needs from those of other organisms in our environment. Many organisms, including humans, benefit from considering design spaces as holistic and relational. More-than-human design focuses on this mutual interdependence.

More-than-human design resists binaries and blurs notions such as nature/culture, self/environment, digital/physical, mind/body, human/technology, and human/non-human.

More-than-human design highlights the sentience, intelligence, and agency of other organisms. This implies that we need to seriously consider the needs of all organisms, their sensory capacities, and their capability for interaction.

We are humble in recognising that we will never fully understand others. More-than-human design recognises that everything is understood from a perspective. We explore how our limited human perspectives can be enriched, strengthened, and augmented in ways that increase our understanding of the more-than-human world.

There are many ways to sense and make sense. Technology can be helpful when we reach the limits of our senses. It can amplify, augment and make perceptible the seemingly imperceptible. Simultaneously, we acknowledge that technology has detrimental impacts on more-than-human worlds. It is important to be aware of the resource use and environmental harm of technologies, as well as their potential benefits.

We who practice more-than-human design are not a monolithic category but bring to our practice diverse personal and disciplinary backgrounds. Our intersectional positionalities, including privileges, oppressions and lived experiences of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability shape how we think and practice design.

More-than-human design aims to widen the scope of action through the creative development of methods for noticing, knowing and making the more-than-human world.

More-than-human design works with the co-creative capacities of living entities, lively matters and machines.

We design (into) relational systems, rather than (contributing) single artefacts.

More-than-human design recognises the direct and indirect effects of design, over time and across space, for a multitude of species. It is both microscopic and planetary, with impacts beyond.

More-than-human design recognises diverse temporalities: the millennial lifecycle of a boulder, the centennial lifecycle of an oak and the brief lifecycle of a dayfly or a microbe. We work with regenerative systems sustaining themselves but also recognise the linear reality of natural history. Nature is in constant becoming, nothing stays the same. Everything in nature is slowly changing at the pace of biological evolution – but we want to avoid abrupt harmful disturbances and mass extinction. As humans, we must tread lightly to contribute with generative suggestions rather than disturbances. We recognise multiple and complex experiences of time including linear, non-linear and more.

We resist cries for perfection and imaginaries of perfect futures. We consider diverse and conflicting needs and focus on how we make things resilient for ourselves and other organisms. We “stay with the trouble”. We live with tricky questions about justice, acknowledging that the inquiry into more-than-human design is never settled. We are in a constant process of critical reflection and becoming, not always finding answers or solutions.

We recognise that the oppression of human hierarchies and extractive abuses makes all forms of life suffer and that the living world's struggles with human patterns of domination are aligned in politics, if not the impacts experienced. This brings the suffering and abuse of humans into the frame of more-than-human design.

This is only the first part of the manifesto. The second part is inscribed in leaves and rocks, and all the more-than-human world. We need to go out and notice these inscriptions. What can we see, hear, smell, feel and taste? What might be beyond our senses? By being spokespersons, ombudsmen and diplomats, we advocate for what we notice and more - for all that is still, and might forever be, beyond our human ability to notice, understand and grasp.
Anton Poikolainen Rosen:  anton.poikolainen.rosen@sh.se @Anton_P_R