Faced with rapidly escalating tipping points—from climate conditions to dysfunctional policies, epidemics, sociopolitical unrest, poverty and inequality, violence and conflicts, lack of access to fundamental human rights and needs, speculative and deteriorating economies, cultural and educational decline—we need a mindset shift and transformational perspectives that are cross-functional, systemic, and exponential. The solutions pose conceptual and technical challenges and contradictions demanding profound social, political, and philosophical reconsideration. We must move beyond the simple extrapolations of current practices and overcome predominant foundational binaries to stimulate solidarity and drive cross-industries dialogue. Different economic information and valuation architectures, sociocultural frameworks and technological products, speculative and practical philosophies, resource allocation, and developmental thinking must be conceived and circulated. At the same time, there is an increasing need to abandon techno-fetishist or techno-pessimist discussions about technology and grapple with its co-evolutionary social dimension to drive towards pluralistic epistemologies.
Confluential is a research and design publication lab focusing on three areas of inquiry. Societal shifts—to understand current sociocultural, political, and economic challenges and evaluate appropriate responses. Environmental changes—to document innovative solutions and circular actions that drive sustainable outcomes. And technological advancements—to explore new ethical questions, technological transformations, and the promises of emerging technologies, focusing on how decentralized thinking can drive continual improvements. The purpose of the publication is to spark conversations, provoke new imaginaries, and inspire people to take action based on the idea that systemic change can only be achieved through collective action. We seek to balance sociocultural, economic, and environmental discourses by amplifying underrepresented voices, building new communities, and questioning the ways we create products, services, or design solutions we put out into the world.
We design Confluential as a publication platform that brings together researchers from diverse professional backgrounds to contribute to different forms of research, knowledge, product, or service building. We discuss modes of decision and orientation that are cross-disciplinarily figured as legitimate and analyze how these conversational, philosophical, technological, foundational, and ultimately political inquiries can drive conceivable, actionable, and accountable transformations. Through this publication, we ask questions such as—Should artificial objects be granted the same rights as humans, animals, and biological entities earning legal recognition and rights? How can we define and advance new modes of production and renewed forms of knowledge? Which organisms would survive the collapse of our planet’s ecosystem, and what can we learn from them? How can we encourage people to act on urgent topics like climate change, food consumption, deforestation, or inequality? How can architecture provoke new actions, circulations, and ideas of publicness? What can we expect from cutting-edge technologies, like augmented reality or decentralized applications, that is good and beneficial for society? How do we approach the possible threats to humanity in empowering and empathetic ways? Can we design technologies that support us in implementing change in our lives? How do ‘aesthetics’ contribute to the construction of ideologies and their normalization? How can we track the impact of provocations and measure if we’re actively and responsibly changing opinions? Are industry leaders, policymakers, or think tanks listening to critical analyses, speculations, and public opinion?
Whether the output is conversations, analyses, breakdowns of software solutions, critical models or prototypes, incubators of knowledge or alternative methodologies, speculative designs or policies—what we aim with Confluential is to create a confluent space where the voices of designers, thinkers, technologists, scientists, ecologists, and policymakers can positively contribute towards developing renewed conscious ideas through design and advance alternative possibilities. We collaborate with a growing network of specialists and creative enterprises worldwide to understand the confluent complexities that lead to designing new solutions. We strive to observe unassimilated patterns and to discuss the possibilities of what can be achieved together—dynamic alternatives based on innovative and actionable insights, systemic actions, and the potential to inspire new instruments, infrastructures, and institutions for a more equitable and sustainable future.
Featuring a wide range of projects and ideas—from granular projects and initiatives to metasystemic perspectives—Confluential is a publication designed to advance different architectures and drive new decisional modes of thinking. The materials we create or select for publication are topical and supported by research-driven inquiries. We talk about educational perspectives and new industry methods of sustainable and regenerative design, consider the social impacts of environmental solutions, and build cross-disciplinary knowledge networks. Common to all the projects, discussions, and articles we feature is a type of thinking that has the potential to penetrate further afield.
Confluential is a project currently in development and is expected to launch in 2023. Identity design developed in collaboration with Echo Branding © Stranger Projects OÜ, 2021—2023. Images © Shubham Dhage are used here only to illustrate the current design direction.