Pedro Reynolds-Cuellar Disseration Defense

Dissertation Title: Contesting Design: Ancestral Technology as Portal to Post-Design(s)


In this dissertation I critically examine the dominant ideologies in technology design—scalability, universal applicability, and profitability—and their implications for global socio-economic inequalities, ecological degradation, and entrenched socio-technical structures. I assert that conventional design education, theory and practice play a pivotal role in propagating these ideologies. It is not am ‘armchair’ critique. In advancing a shift in perspective in these spaces, this dissertation reports on a series of proposals including experimental university courses, field-based technology design experiences, and methods in design research I implemented throughout my doctorate. It also introduces the design of a digital platform for documenting rural innovation, and mixed-methods studies detailing the strengths and weaknesses of participatory design initiatives. The work is based in its entirely in fieldwork done in Colombia. 

In giving a language to these proposals, I advance the notion of ‘Ancestral Technology’ as an alternate framework to approach technology design. As a form of world-making (design) primarily supporting cultural cohesion, rooted in bounded geography, and with a history living through collective memory, Ancestral Technology resists the universalizing narrative of technology design offering a pathway outside the frame of relentless globalization.

In the age of toolkits, frameworks, and design guidelines, this dissertation offers a story how through relationship-building, and collective-making I came to experience technological imaginaries ‘otherwise’ while being transformed in the process.

Committee members:

Azra Akšamija 
Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
Director, Art, Culture and Technology (ACT)

Ethan Zuckerman
Associate Professor of Public Policy, Communication, and Information 
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Eden Medina 
Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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