Futures of Democracy?

The shared political reality of democracy as we thought we knew it in the western world is being pro-actively challenged. Amplified by the rapid technological advances in digitalisation, development in AI and social media proliferation we witness an erosion of governmental sovereignty. What are the possible futures for our democracies? How will their evolution transform us as citizens? 

These were the questions tackled by the students of Design Investigations (Industrial Design 2) in the summer semester 2019, approached in three project briefs under the guidance of Head of Program Univ. Prof. Anab Jain, visiting tutor and political scientist Denis Maksimov, and senior staff tutors Niko Heep and Stefan Zinell. 

“Active Citizenry” sent the students into the ‘democratic field’ on the Vienna city level and they realised activist projects that tested the limits of change within current political infrastructures. In “Democracy is Combat”, they designed responses to the burning issue of migration in the European Union, which has caused blasts of political agony in Austria, and around the world. 

In the final brief, “End of Democracy?”, the students were situated in the scenographic world of a future Austria, where current trends of extreme marketisation, restrictions of labour rights, climate injustice, introduction of social credit scores and omnipresent state surveillance were brought into synergistic focus. The students  envisaged living under these conditions, and designed strategies and tools for breaking the rules in order to open potentialities of resistance. 

We presented a selection of our project from the Democracy Brief at the Vienna Design Week 2019. In the selection of projects presented, visitors were introduced to the forced glitches of totalising market, guerrilla democracy existing despite the constant state observation, self-organised research of climatic turbulences and functional identity hacking. 


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