UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA HUMANITIES RESEARCH INSTITUTE
SEMINAR IN EXPERIMENTAL CRITICAL THEORY VI: DESIGNING CHINA
SHANGHAI, AUGUST 10-22
The Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory (SECT) is an intensive two-week summer program offered by the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). SECT convenes distinguished instructors with a group of approximately 60 faculty, graduate students, independent scholars, and public intellectuals from across the international community. Neither an introductory survey nor an advanced research seminar, SECT functions as a "laboratory" where participants at all levels of experience can study with scholars at the leading edge of creative theoretical thought. The hallmark of SECT is its attention to both 'pure' and 'applied' modes of contemporary critical theory.
To date, SECT sessions have been conducted at UCHRIs facilities in Irvine, California. In August 2009, SECT VI will travel to Shanghai to hold an intensive two-week summer institute on "Designing China."
Design is more than just a matter of combining aesthetics and functionality. Today, more than ever, the stakes of design are very high, raising at every turn urgent economic, political, social, and philosophical issues. The relation between design and its context is particularly salient in a rapidly transforming space like contemporary China.
Whether we think in terms of the transformation of Chinas cities and private spaces, or of the transition to an eccentric kind of "market economy" and the production of commodities for local and global consumption that accompanies it, design plays an increasingly important role in the creation of the "new China."
This seminar proposes to focus on China, not because China leads the world in the field of design, but because China today is where design issues are raised in perhaps their most problematic and provocative form. The seminar is neither a survey of design nor a training course in design fundamentals; it is not even exclusively about China. Rather, China will be taken as a case study to explore, in the spirit of "experimental critical theory," the larger issues of design in a globalizing world.
In this seminar, design will be approached in the widest possible sense. Topics presented will include: cultures of commodification and commodification of cultures; the importance of design to capital today; architecture and the design of cities; interior design or the re-emergence of privacy and phantasmagorias of the interior; new media and digital technologies in the shifting terrain between book and web design; fakes, fashion, and global commodities; branding and packaging; cinema as critique of space and affectivity; music and cultural memory; visual arts and visual culture; censorship and other constraints on design.
One thread that runs through these topics is not so much the question "What is good design?" but "What is design culture?" In short, what are the conditions under which design is produced, circulated, and consumed? Why was it that at certain historical junctures, the USA, or Italy, or Scandinavia, or Japan, became innovators in design?
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