Call for Papers: Design Knowledge in the Era of Environmental Collapse

Dates or Deadline: 
23 April 2019 to 1 September 2019
Organized by: 
She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation
Stanislav Roudavski

Guest editors: Stanislav Roudavski, Paul Walker1


This issue  of She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation seeks  to question  the  capacity of design to specify  preferred future states in the  conditions of environmental collapse.

The acute environmental crisis  is the  primary problem of the  future. The pervasive exploitation of the  environment leads  to severe  degradation of habitats, unprecedented levels of animal suffering,2 mass  species extinction3  and  the collapse of multiple ecosystems.4 Human activities expand beyond the  safe operating space  for planetary systems.5 Disregard for these boundaries poses global  existential risks.6

The challenge of addressing the  environmental crisis  requires innovative approaches that go beyond mitigation of harm. These approaches will have  to produce novel  techno-social orders able to emancipate all types  of nonhuman life, including animals and  plants. Beyond life, future societies will have  to value  the  agency  of abiotic environments. The resulting orders should and  can take  the  form  of shared, more-than-human cultures and  practices. Who can specify  and  bring forth such  unfamiliar futures?

Design  disciplines claim  the  possession of unique knowledge practices for making, and  implementing, successful plans.7  Such practical orientation can be very effective.  For example, seeking to save money and  energy, designers introduce  outdoor LED lighting. LED lights are brighter and  bluer than sodium and other lights. Unfortunately, their intensity and  colour dramatically increase harmful environmental light  pollution, a significant problem even before the development of LED technology. This type of adverse consequence is very common. Designers do not  intend to cause  harm, but  their anthropocentric bias is hugely damaging. Evidence and  analysis remain underused. Instead, designers prioritise technocratic approaches, overrate human ingenuity and  overvalue human traditions. The anthropocentric bias underpins unjustifiable worldviews and  motivates attitudes that might change on deeper consideration.

The problem of light  pollution is particularly vexing  because it pits  human preference for constant brightness against the  nocturnal lifestyles of many organisms. If those organisms had  a say in the  design process, the  negotiated outcomes would  have  to be different.

To be relevant to the  challenges of the  future, design knowledge needs to engage with  more-than-human concerns. Some approaches that aim to incorporate nonhuman issues  are already emerging in multiple fields that consider issues  in environmental 8  and  ecological 9 justice. They include biocentric 10, ecocentric 11, geocentric 12 and  land 13 ethics, astroethics,14 animal rights 15 and the  ethics of care.16

This issue  aims  to interrogate possible forms and  implications of post-anthropocentric design knowledge. To this  end,  it invites evidence-driven research articles that engage with  the  full range of conceptual, scientific, political, social, economic, and  technical aspects of design. The analytical frames can be historical, contemporary, or future-oriented. The editors hope to extend the conversation beyond the  confines of professional or academic design-communities. Therefore, they  welcome contributions from  a broad range of disciplines. All forms of research that consider possible futures are welcome, including:

•    all design disciplines;

•    philosophy of science, engineering, information and  computing;

•    environmental history;

•    environmental ethics and  ethics of technology;

•    social  and  cultural studies of science, design and  crafts practices;

•    science, including biology  and  ecology;

•    law and  political studies;

•    environmental humanities, including animal and  plant studies;

•    and  others.

The guest  editors encourage authors to engage with  the  following questions:

1.  What  will  design knowledge be in the  future? Is there a body of design knowledge distinct from  the  types  of learning that are produced by humanities and  sciences? Can the  authors propose a possible definition? How does the  inherently indeterminate character of complex systems frame the  concept of design knowledge? Can future design combine everyday knowledge and  traditional forms of human expertise with  nonhuman knowhow?

2.  Which approaches will  produce design knowledge? Does the  production of design knowledge require distinct practices or research methods? What are the  mechanisms of design-knowledge production? What approaches should be used  to evaluate effectiveness of such knowledge? What regulation and  funding should support the  production  and  deployment of design knowledge? How should the  acquisition of design knowledge respond to the  more-than-human ethics of the future?

3.  Who  or what  will  produce design knowledge? Who are the  typical knowledge workers in design research? What training do they  require? What are their goals? Can – or should – existing design stakeholders seek  to reconfigure and  expand design-knowledge communities and partnerships? Can nonhuman actors produce design knowledge?

4.  What  will  be the  sites of design-knowledge production? Can design knowledge be produced outside of the  disciplines, professions, and  organizations of those who have  the  specific  task  of working with  design in current economies? Should more individuals work  with  knowledge production in design than those who work  with  it today?  Should the situations and  time frames that produce design knowledge today  shift to match the  complex characteristics of interlinked and  continuous planetary environments?

5.  Which approaches can support transmission and  preservation of design knowledge? Is it possible to accrue design knowledge in a reliable, cumulative way? What conditions does this  require? What artefacts, evidence, and  storage mechanisms can support such  processes? How should future designers encourage rigor, replicability, and  reuse?

6.  Who  will  use  design knowledge? Who consumes and  pays for design knowledge? Who commissions this  knowledge production and  who stands to benefit? How do local, political, historical, and  cultural circumstances affect the  application of design knowledge? How should education or regulation direct the  future use of design knowledge?

7.  How will  design knowledge be useful? What is the  value  of design knowledge? What are the  mechanisms of quality assurance? Where is it used?  What are the  possible roles  of design knowledge in future decision  making?

The editorial team sees this  topic  as a substantial and  ongoing challenge. Consequently, it plans to invite contributors to participate in an edited book  collection  and  a long-term collaborative research project that will follow  this  issue  of She Ji.

About She Ji

She Ji is a fully open-access journal published by Tongji University and  Tongji University Press in cooperation with  Elsevier.  The journal is fully peer  reviewed.  She Ji charges no publication fees.

She Ji encourages rich  illustration. There  is no limit on the  number of images, charts, or diagrams in any article, and  no limit on the  use of colour. While  we publish a small, high quality paper edition for authors and  for exhibitions, most She Ji readers download articles direct from  the  journal web site. Thismakes it possible for She Ji authors to use as many images as an article requires. For the  complete description, see the  publisher’s website.



March  5, 2019: Call for proposals

•  up to 300 words, excluding references

•   proposals are optional, but  the  editors encourage them as a way to open a dialog  with  the  authors

•   suggested structure of the  proposals:

•  gap in current knowledge

•  research questions

•  hypotheses

•  research methods

•  research outcomes

•  discussion of the  outcomes

•  future work

•   submit via the  email to:


April 15, 2019: Proposals due

May 15, 2019: Feedback to authors

September 1, 2019: Full articles due


•  6,000-8,000  words  (excluding footnotes, references, and  captions)

•  it is permissible to submit an article without having previously submitted a proposal

•   submit via the  journal’s web page November 1, 2019: Feedback to authors January 31, 2020: Amendments due

April 30, 2020: Feedback to authors and  final  selection

September 1, 2020: Publication



Baxter, Brian.  A Theory of Ecological Justice. London: Routledge, 2005.

Butterworth, Andy,  ed. Animal Welfare in a Changing World. Wallingford: CABI, 2018. Callicott, Baird  J. Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic. New York: Oxford University Press,  2014.

Ceballos, Gerardo, Paul  R. Ehrlich, and  Rodolfo Dirzo.  “Biological Annihilation via the Ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction Signaled by Vertebrate Population Losses and  Declines.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, no. 30 (July 25, 2017): E6089–96.

Donaldson, Sue, and  Will Kymlicka. Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. New York: Oxford University Press,  2011.

Harris, Rebecca M. B., Linda  J. Beaumont, Tessa R. Vance,  Carly  R. Tozer,  Tom A. Remenyi, Sarah E. Perkins-Kirkpatrick, Patrick J. Mitchell, et al. “Biological Responses to the Press  and  Pulse  of Climate Trends and  Extreme Events.” Nature Climate Change 8, no. 7 (July 2018): 579.

Impey, Chris, Anna H. Spitz,  and  William R. Stoeger, eds. Encountering Life in the Universe: Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology. Tucson: University of Arizona Press,  2013.

Owen, Charles L. “Design Research: Building the Knowledge Base.” Design Studies b19, no. 1 (1998): 9–20.

———. “Design Thinking: Notes  on Its Nature and  Use.” Design Research Quarterly 2, no. 1 (2007): 16–27.

Puig de la Bellacasa, María, ed. Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. Posthumanities 41. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Rockström, Johan, Will Steffen, Kevin Noone, Åsa Persson, F. Stuart Chapin, Eric Lambin, Timothy M. Lenton, et al. “Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space  for Humanity.” Ecology and Society 14, no. 2 (2009).

Rolston, Holmes. A New Environmental Ethics: The Next Millennium for Life on Earth. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Schlosberg, David.  Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press,  2007.

Taylor, Paul  W. Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environment Ethics. 25th anniversary. 1986. Reprint, Princeton, US: Princeton University Press,  1983.

Wallace-Wells, David.  The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.  New York: Tim Duggan Books,  2019.

Wyss, Max, and  Silvia Peppoloni, eds. Geoethics: Ethical Challenges and Case Studies in Earth Sciences. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2015.


1  The cover image shows artificial habitats by Darren Le Roux et al., Australian Capital Territory

2    Andy Butterworth, ed., Animal Welfare in a Changing World (Wallingford: CABI, 


3    Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo, “Biological Annihilation via the Ongoing Sixth Mass Extinction Signaled by Vertebrate Population Losses and Declines,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, no. 30 (July 25, 

2017): E6089–96,

4    Rebecca M. B. Harris et al., “Biological Responses to the Press and Pulse of Climate Trends and Extreme Events,” Nature Climate Change 8, no. 7 (July 2018): 579,

5    Johan Rockström et al., “Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity,” Ecology and Society

14, no. 2 (2009),

6    David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2019).

7    Charles L. Owen, “Design Thinking: Notes on Its Nature and Use,” Design Research Quarterly 2, no. 1 (2007): 16–27; Charles L. Owen, “Design Research: Building the Knowledge Base,” Design Studies 19, no. 1 (1998): 9–20, https://doi. org/10/b2z5qm.

8 David Schlosberg, Defining Environmental Justice:Theories, Movements, and Nature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

9    Brian Baxter, A Theory of Ecological

Justice (London: Routledge, 2005).

10    Paul W. Taylor, Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environment Ethics, 25th anniversary (1986; repr., Princeton, US: Princeton University Press, 1983).

11    Holmes Rolston, A New Environmental Ethics:The Next Millennium for Life on Earth (New York: Routledge, 2012).

12    Max Wyss and Silvia Peppoloni, eds., Geoethics: Ethical Challenges and Case Studies in Earth Sciences (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 


13    Baird J. Callicott, Thinking Like a Planet: The Land Ethic and the Earth Ethic (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

14    Chris Impey, Anna H. Spitz, and William R. Stoeger, eds., Encountering Life in the Universe: Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2013).

15    Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

16    María Puig de la Bellacasa, ed., Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds, Posthumanities 41 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017).

The cover image shows artificial habitats by Darren Le Roux et al., Australian Capital Territory