Extractivism as a Design Method for Violence

Advanced seminar summer semester 2023/2024

BA Media and Cultural Studies / MA Design Studies

When: Weekly, 1,5hours

Where: TBD

Email: hello@cosmodrome.com

Note: This course can be held in English or Spanish.
The course explores the concept extractivism from historical to speculative perspectives with a special focus on understanding the role of design in creating the specific techniques and apparatuses that enact violence.

Extraction and extractivism are understood as the set of ideologies and practices of the fossil fuel energy industries and for 500 years this has been the main tool for the removal of natural resources for the further production of energy, thus influencing heavily our cultures. We live in brittle systems shaped by extractive economies with systemic forms of oppression. Extractive industrial development has shaped the social structures of gender roles, values, inequalities, local identities, economic dependency, and perceptions of health and environmental pollution.

By questioning the role of design as we discuss, unpack, and negotiate the idea of extracvisim as a cumulus of actions that are instrumentalized by design to enact forms of violence. Through this, it unfolds new possibilities of analysis in which political ecology studies and decolonial thought communicate knowledge sustainability science inquiries into historical-material conditions beyond the evincing of specific experiences (e.g. segregation, refusal), in addition, it intervenes actively on them with intersectional and embodied energy injustice frameworks. These industrial practices run in visible and invisible ways through our daily lives, how have the extractive ideologies permeated in our daily doings? Do our everyday actions and decision-making reflect our politics of extractivism?

In this course, we will investigate together different articulations of design methodologies and violence, from historical to speculative perspectives. Starting from assessing the effects of design in the body, to diverse definitions and discussions on forms of violence, we will together develop and engage with a body of knowledge—both in reading and practice—that articulates how design can be either a direct vector of/or an excuse for different forms of oppression. The readings encompass but are not limited to the use of design as directly inflicted violence, but also inquire about the use of rhythm, noise, pitch, and timbre in colonial/modern accounts of violence, historical and contemporary forms of design for surveillance, and the possible articulations of design violence in representations of the future. 

By the end of the semester you should: 

  • understand the effects of design in the body both in physical as well as in affective terms;   grasp the cultural implications of design and its relation to political violences; 
  • be able to articulate the ethics of design-as-power and their intersection with race, gender, class, and  ability; 
  • have a basic understanding of a decolonizing analytical lenses for design studies; 
  • apply this knowledge into future analysis and criticisms of the political power of design and problem Identification, problem solving in society.
  • apprehend the relationship of design practices as an active agent in enabling systems that put different forms of oppression in motion
  • critically articulate corncerns associated with design practices and current practices around  sustainability and the environment             ︎
  • apply this knowledge into future analysis and criticisms of the political power of design in society.


This course is designed to take 13 (thirteen) meetings, from (dates to be defined). We meet weekly  from  (to be defined). The following is a rough plan of subjects I would like to tackle together  with you over the semester; these are subject to (minor) changes, according to your own pace and interests. 

Every week starting right after our first meeting, I will post on the  course platform a short list of recommended readings and listening for the upcoming week. You are  required to engage with that material over the week, and send in two questions pertaining them and their  relationship with the theme of the upcoming class. Please send them in by no later than Wednesday 15:00 to my e-mail* (see above). I will read them through and select a few; they will be the basis of our weekly  meetings, in which we will be discussing the readings through the material.

*Please use the subject line “course code” and your last name on the e-mail, so that I can easily sort it on my inbox. 

Week 1

Class Introductions 

Brief discussion on pedagogical and analytical methods for this class, and an example of the possible  articulations of design and/as violence we will tackle throughout the semester. Discussion on conditions for study, access to resources, and how to maintain a safe classroom during a pandemic. Technical questions: distribution of papers/books, access to libraries and online learning platforms.

In-class discussion : a series of chained actions that provide the fuel to keep the engine of the systems that rule our live

• Junka-Aikio, L. and Cortes-Severino, C., 2017. Cultural studies of extraction. Cultural studies, 31(2-3), pp.175-184.

• Ahmed, S., 2019. What's the Use?: On the Uses of Use. Duke University Press.

Week 2 

Design and articulations of coloniality

The coloniality of power is constituted through the co-presence of three fundamental elements: domination, exploitation, and conflict. These three elements are subsequently implicated in what he postulates as the four main areas of social existence: labor, sexuality, authority, and subjectivity — as well as their resources and products.

• Acosta, A., 2013. Extractivism and neoextractivism: two sides of the same curse. Beyond development: alternative visions from Latin America, 1, pp.61-86.

In-class discussion 

• Volcler, J., 2013. "Ears Don’t Have Lids" – Technical Aspects of Hearing. In: Extremely Loud: Sound as a  Weapon, New. ed. The New Press, pp.7–20.

Week 3 

Design and power, part 1 

What defines “design,” and what defines “craft”? How design articulates power through its practices.

• Thompson, M., 2017. What Noise Has Been. in:Beyond Unwanted Sound: Noise, Affect and Aesthetic  Moralism, Paperback. ed. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, New York. pp.17–40

• Sounding Out! Podcast Episode #9: Listening to São Paulo, Brazil


• Ballard, J.G. The Sound Sweep (1960)

• Pan Daijing – Practice of Hygiene (from the album "Lack", 2017)


Week 4 

Design and power, part 2 

The power of design in creating community, as well as in triggering exclusion. 

• Birdsall, C., 2012. Mobilising Sound for the Nation at War. in: Nazi Soundscapes: Sound, Technology and  Urban Space in Germany, 1933-1945, 01 ed. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam. pp.103–139  • Fanon, F., 2012. This is the Voice of Algeria, in: Sterne, J. (Ed.), The Sound Studies Reader. Routledge,  New York, pp. 329–335. 

• The Amplification of Muted Voices: Notes on a Recitation of the Adhan

https://soundstudiesblog.com/2016/03/07/the-amplification-of-muted-voices-notes-on-a-recitation-of the-adhan/

• Chino Amobi – Airport Music for Black Folk (2016)


In-class discussion: 

• Brian Eno – Ambient 1:Music for Airports (1978)


• Swedish Siren Sounds: Hesa Fredrik


• An Interview with Chino Amobi


Assignment: produce a maximum 2-minute long audio piece critically reflecting on your own “musical  autobiography,” and connecting it with themes we have discussed in class (affect, subjectivity, power, community,  etc.).

Week 5 

Climate Futures, from fact to fiction to speculation 

Smarter cities, greener housing, cleaner cities pose the questions for whom have targeted these initiatives and for what.

• Rodríguez Aguilera, M.Y., 2022. Grieving geographies, mourning waters: Life, death, and environmental gendered racialized struggles in Mexico. Feminist Anthropology, 3(1), pp.28-43.


In-class discussion:

• Everyday Resistances To Environmental Racism, Mestizo Geographies, And Toxicity In Oaxaca


•  Why the ocean is getting louder


Week 6  

Design and labour: data as a resource, data ownership and tech sovereignty

The instrumentalization of design in algorithmic innovations or disruptions might reveal further questions in data control and ownership and the impacts in the search of sustainable and liveable urban futures.

Choose one of these two: 

• Perrigo, B., 2023. Exclusive: OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour to Make ChatGPT Less Toxic. Last accessed, 19. https://time.com/6247678/openai-chatgpt-kenya-workers/

In-class discussion:

• Why do Cartoon Villains Speak in Foreign Accents? (2018)

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/01/why-do-cartoon-villains-speak-in-foreign accents/549527/

• Common – Black America Again (2016)


• Moor Mother feat. Black Quantum Futurism – Time Distortion (2015)


Book recommendation (fiction): 

• Rihanna – B* Better Have My Money (2015)


Week 7 

Design and gender violence 

The instrumentalization of sound and listening in sustaining patriarchal structures of power, the construction of racism, and its direct and indirect use  in sustaining the fictions of racial difference.

• Allhutter, D., Cech, F., Fischer, F., Grill, G. and Mager, A., 2020. Algorithmic profiling of job seekers in Austria: how austerity politics are made effective. Front. Big Data 3: 5. doi: 10.3389/fdata. 

• Mala Muñoz and Diosa Femme. Sounding Out! Podcast #63: The Sonic Landscapes of Unwelcome:  Women of Color, Sonic Harassment, and Public Space

https://soundstudiesblog.com/2017/10/05/sounding-out-podcast-63-the-sonic-landscapes-of unwelcome-women-of-color-sonic-harassment-and-public-space/

In-class discussion:

• James, R., 2015. Gendered Voices and Social Harmony. Sounding Out Blog.


• Rachel Jeantel – "Yes, sir"


• Rachel Jeantel speaking on George Zimmerman's trial


• Learn the Alphabet with Cardi B.


Week 8 

Design and power, part 3 

The conservative politics of silence, positionality of the designer,and their research, and the limits and accountability of design practice beg for a direct engagement with the researcher’s position and its impact on the research inquiry.

• Keshavarz, M., 2018. The Design Politics of the Passport: Materiality, Immobility, and Dissent. Bloomsbury Publishing

In-class discussion:

• Kusiak, J., 2014. Acoustic Gentrification: the silence of Warsaw’s sonic warfare, in: Gandy, M., Nilsen, B.  (Eds.), The Acoustic City. JOVIS Verlag, pp. 206–211.

• Urban Auscultation; or, Perceiving the Action of the HeartMattern, S., 2020. Urban auscultation; or, perceiving the action of the heart. Places Journal. https://placesjournal.org/article/urban-auscultation-or-perceiving-the-action-of-the-heart

Week 9 

More than-human collaborative survival

Emotion in research; playfulness and context; history, knowledge, and narrative.

• Helms, K., Søndergaard, M.L.J. and Campo Woytuk, N., 2021. Scaling Bodily Fluids for Utopian Fabulations. In Nordic Design Research Conference.

• Lugones, María. “Playfulness, ‘World’-Travelling, and Loving Perception.” Hypatia 2, no. 2 (1987): 3–19.

• Chedid, Andrée. “For Survival.” In The Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry, edited by Stella P. Chipasula. Pearson Education, 1995.

• Glissant, Édouard. “Errantry, Exile.” In Poetics of Relation, translated by Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Week 10 

The affective physicality of design 

The use of sound as a State-sanctioned torture mechanism; historical and contemporary accounts, the  power of loudness, repetition, and sensory deprivation.

• Sterne, J., 2021. Diminished Faculties: A political phenomenology of impairment. Duke University Press.

• Cusick, S.G., 2008. “You are in a place that is out of the world”: Music in the Detention Camps of the  “Global War on Terror.” Journal of the Society for American Music 2, 1–26. 

• Tristan Chytroschek – Musik als Waffe (2010)


In-class discussion: 

• Explore Saydnaya


Week 11

Matters of care and critical health design work

Re-sounding the body othered and building radical communities with sound and music.

• Helms, K., Søndergaard, M.L.J. and Campo Woytuk, N., 2021. Scaling Bodily Fluids for Utopian Fabulations. In Nordic Design Research Conference.

• de La Bellacasa, M.P., 2017. Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds (Vol. 41). U of Minnesota Press.

In-class discussion: 

• The Carters – Apes**t (2018)


Week 12

Seminar Review 

Open class in which we will go a bit deeper in a theme or themes you wish to know more from (meaning it is  to be decided with you in advance). 

Week 13, July 19 2018 

Prototypes, methodologies, paths forward 

Short presentations from assignment themes for discussion on formats, methodologies, etc.