Research Event Radical Uncertainty: Design beyond solutionism | Friday 23rd July 2021, between 10:00 – 13:00 (BST).

The Radical Methodologies Research and Enterprise Group (RaMREG) and the Centre for Arts and Wellbeing (CAW) are delighted to invite you to Radical Uncertainty: Design beyond solutionism. This event will explore situations characterised by changeability, conflicting values and uncertain boundaries. Please see the outline below.
We are excited that we will be joined by guest speakers Mihir BhatShilpi SrivastavaZoe Sadokierski, Chris Rose, and Claudia Westermann. These speakers have been invited as their work and ideas have influenced our framing of the event. Each guest will present personal reflections informed by their work in response to the ideas and questions outlined below. We invite you to participate in the conversations and questions that emerge.
Please register for the event here which takes place on Friday 23rd July 2021, between 10:00 – 13:00 AM (BST).
Radical Uncertainty: Design beyond solutionism
The term ‘radical uncertainty’ can be characterised by extreme complexity, instability or disagreement about what is considered known or knowable. As such, the event will discuss diverse conceptions of uncertainty and seek to identify modes of working that embrace rather than eliminate complexity.
The event seeks to identify and discuss situations characterised by changeability, conflicting values and uncertain boundaries. These include embodied, emotional, and tacit ways of knowing and representing the world (Mehta, Lyla, and Shilpi Srivastava, 2020) and ideas of responsibility, accountability and ethics.
Design is situated within the rich, shifting, complex and relational systemic situations as both discipline and practice. We, therefore, seek strategies that enable us to ‘stay with’ the unknown and the unknowable without becoming bound by cyclical exercises in rhetoric. 
How can we embrace practices and deliver strategies that better engage with global challenges characterised by their radical uncertainty?
If you have any questions about the event please contact Sally Sutherland via email at

Methodological Entanglements: Creative and Radical Method(ologies) in Brighton’s Post-graduate Community

We are delighted to share with you the presentation from H Howitt, Intimacy as Method, at the panel presentation and discussion, Methodological Entanglements: Creative and Radical Methods in Brighton’s Post-graduate Community. This panel was a part of the Creative and Radical Futures symposium: Collaborative research in arts & science, University of Brighton which took place online, on 5th July 2021. The discussion was co-organised and facilitated by the Radical Methodologies Research and Enterprise Group (RaMREG). Thankyou H for this fantastic presentation, and to Jordan and Rebecca for the insightful discussions and conversations. Further details of the panel are below. 

Methodological Entanglements: Creative and Radical Methods in Brighton’s Post-graduate Community 

 “Both Art and Science can be understood as human needs to express the world around us. Both require suspension of disbelief, offering speculations about our physical and immaterial reality prior to proof. And both—as has been the case since the painting of the Chauvet Cave some 40,000 years ago—have no rules and no boundaries. The artists who produced these paintings did so in order to first face, then make sense of, their reality. We do Science with precisely the same motivation.”

Neri Oxman. “Age of Entanglement.” Journal of Design and Science  (2016). 

While methodological commitments sometimes separate disciplines, questioning method in radical and creative ways can connect and entangle otherwise disparate enquiries. This panel explores how creative and radical methods are being applied, developed, and disrupted within the University of Brighton’s vibrant postgraduate community. Through this lens we explore a variety of methodological debates and issues, problematising method/ology within different disciplinary perspectives, and considering how methodological issues and frameworks translate into research practices on the ground.  

The panel consisted of: Rebecca Winter (Brighton and Sussex Medical School); Jordan Whitewood-Neal (School of Architecture and Design); and H Howitt (School of Humanities and Social Science), and was organised by Helen Johnson (Principal Lecturer in Psychology and incoming Co-Director of the Centre for Arts and Wellbeing), Sally Sutherland (Design Star Doctoral researcher, Radical Methodologies Research and Enterprise (RaMREG co-founder)), and Ben Sweeting (Principal Lecturer in Architecture and Design, Radical Methodologies Research and Enterprise (RaMREG co-founder)). 



What is the Radical Methodologies Research and Enterprise Group RaMREG ?

The Radical Methodologies (RaM) Research and Enterprise Group provides a site to explore, critique and discuss the roots of methodology and methodological assumptions (hence radical – from the Latin radix, or root).

Methodology can be interpreted, understood and attended to in many ways, for various purposes. We are committed to the understanding that the world needs radical change; and that to create genuine change, we must explore new ways of working and question established practices.

RaM facilitates dialogue about methodology, examining counter-conventional approaches to research, practice and education across diverse contexts and disciplines. The group is purposefully trans- and post-disciplinary in its intentions and actions. Drawing on discourses from design, feminisms, cybernetics, and elsewhere, RaM works to support practices and members that are concerned with making change.

If you would like more information about Radical Methodologies, please contact Sally Sutherland on

Spoken word in the film. The world needs radical change > and every field has a part to play > but how can our disciplines help when they have been part of how we got here in the first place? If we are going to challenge the conventional ways of going about things, we must begin with ourselves > How we go about our work as researchers and practitioners needs to be radically re-examined > counter conventional approaches of all kinds need to be nurtured > different standpoints need to be looked from > methods need to be questioned rather than treated as guarantors > we need to be questioning the value and impact of our actions > > The Radical Methdologies Research and Enterprise Group looks to question the roots of methodological assumptions > and to promote exchange between discourses that tend to get separated out by institutional, disciplinary, and departmental structures. > We facilitate the exchange of methodological questions and insights amongst researchers, practitioners, and postgraduate students. > Project focuses include meta-design > feminisms > embodiments > and designing in and with systemic complexity.

The Wicked possibilities webinar short film is now available to view


This short film presents an edited selection of clips, conversations and ideas taken from a University of Brighton webinar that took place on 15th July 2020. This was organised by the Radical Methodologies Research and Enterprise Group, with support from Connected Futures. The webinar was hosted by Ben Sweeting, Tom Ainsworth and Sally Sutherland from the School of Architecture and Design. The guest contributors were Dulmini Perera, Mathilda Tham, Paul Pangaro and Thomas Fischer.

This short film also includes visual material produced as a response to the webinar by Solange Leon, Sarah Macbeth, Ben Peppiatt, and an audio response from Jack Dodd.

The outline of the film is below.

Design is increasingly concerned with systemic complexity.

Ever more comprehensive approaches attempt to negotiate conflicting values, unpredictable interdependencies, and uncertain boundaries.

At the same time, the contemporary entanglement of technologies with bodies, the social, political, and ecological mean that even design’s traditional domains now exhibit and participate in the complexity of social systems.

Designers must therefore engage with wicked situations that push back against attempts to address them.

In this short film, you will see excerpts from presentations and dialogues that respond to ideas of wickedness and complexity in design. What possibilities might we be presented with when working in and with wicked situations?

Wicked Possibilities – Sarah Macbeth

Sarah Macbeth

Wicked Possibilities: Designing in and with systemic complexity webinar

Creative response

For information on the creative collaborators please see UoB_Student_Profiles

My responses to the Wicked Possibilities webinar take inspiration from Sister Corita Kent, an artist whose work, although previously not acknowledged, is now considered an important contribution to the Pop Art movement. There is a dichotomy present in Kent’s work which was often highly political and, at the same time, referenced the everyday or ephemera, such as packaging, shop front and street signs and commercial branding. These sources hint at a post war era when design was more widely used to influence consumption. Kent was a nun, a teacher and pedagogical innovator. Despite being politically challenging, or perhaps because of this, her work was not part of the critical conversation of the art world at the time[1].

My responses Dream and Power speak to the themes I consider important to the debates around wicked possibilities, a sense of urgency, the apparent uncertainties and the work needed that takes us outside our comfort zone. The need for conversations, conversations that are messy and complex. Also, the need for care, being mindful of the tensions that exist, for example between power and difference. Like Kent’s work, there is tension in the way words are reversed, jumbled up and displaced but also unlikely pairings find some coherence.[2]

I have actively cited the work of women. In the works I quote women writers who have contributed to or commented on the environmental movement in some way – Lavinia Greenlaw and Rebecca Solnit.

Dream – This piece references John Woods description of meta design as ‘a licence to dream’[3]. In A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit writes about the loss of control when you are lost and adds that “looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery.”[4]

Power – The tensions between power and difference that we have to work with. Lavinia Greenlaw looks to a future where nations and borders are changed or are no more. Today the lines from her poem The Recital of Lost Cities [5] speaks to the migrant crisis as much as it does the climate crisis, both being completely interconnected.

[1] Dackerman, S., & Corita. (2015). Corita Kent and the language of pop. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums. 17.

[2] Ibid ., 198.

[3] Tham, M. “Wicked possibilities.” Presentation at Wicked Possibilities: Designing in and with systemic complexity [webinar], University of Brighton, UK, July 15, 2020. Available at

[4] Solnit, R. (2006). A field guide to getting lost. Edinburgh: Canongate. 22.

[5] Greenlaw, L. (1993). Night photograph. London: Faber and Faber.


Wicked Possibilities – Solange Leon Iriarte – 2 of 2

Solange Leon Iriarte

Wicked Possibilities: Designing in and with systemic complexity webinar

Creative response – part 2 of 2

For information on the creative collaborators please see UoB_Student_Profiles

  •  Solve – ReSolve’

  •  ‘In the Blink of an Eye’

  • ‘Blink Blind in Between’

I devised this piece as a two-part 2D Poster, but then thought I wanted it to ‘move’. ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ is a visual play on the idea of the shifting nature of ‘Wicked Problems & Wicked Possibilities’, perspectives and second-order cybernetics as well as responding to a poster suggestion by Sally Sutherland.


(And yes, I do realise I included my name into the wording of the title, but I promise I didn’t set out to do that! It accidentally also conveys the idea of the observer being inseparable from the observed).



Wicked Possibilities – Solange Leon Iriarte- 1 of 2

Solange Leon Iriarte

Wicked Possibilities: Designing in and with systemic complexity webinar

Creative response – part 1 of 2

For information on the creative collaborators please see UoB_Student_Profiles

  • 1          ‘Positive Feedback’ – The Circle as a consequence of gravity, the Return to Stable Horizontal, Home, Grave.

  • 2          ‘Negative Feedback’ – Vertical Aspirations, Spirituality, Dreams.I ‘had’ to do this last one in negative space in response to its title (I sometimes don’t give myself the choice).

  • 3          ‘Gravity’ – Friction – are the steps from making ‘Negative Feedback’. I planned to edit this as one piece and therefore photographed the stages. What I didn’t realize at the time seemed evident on retrospect. I recorded it in reverse (negative), so instead of constructing a vertical up as I had initially set out to do with the photographs, the steps interestingly revealed the effects of gravity instead, which made me connect it to the ideas of ‘friction’ during the webinar.


  • 4           ‘A Conversation’ – The way by which we project ideas to one another, how they make you pivot your thinking, change angles sometimes before you direct a wider thinner, lighter, heavier set of ideas in return or into another altogether recipient, who in turn will do the same…

This piece made me think of how dialogue can widen the distance between us, exacerbate the differences, or do precisely the opposite. Hence I thought about fragmentation and current fracture, and how to allow for movement without going as far as causing rupture. Yet wouldn’t that also impact on our freedoms?

  • 5          ‘A Space for A Conversation’  -The Void, Ink on Board – As Found.

  • 6          ‘Morphing Thinking’ – Sketch.

Remains in storyboard form – for now. It’s development addresses that undetermined and often-overlooked space beyond and in between the frames (included after a suggestion by Ben Peppiatt) – the blank, ‘unknown’ distance, area or compass also represents the eye ‘giff’ piece (Image 8, Blink Blind in Between below) when it is ‘closed’ or blinking, unseeing.

It has a question in the end frame. It is unreSOLved and could stay that way, albeit I would love to see what other participants would draw on that empty last frame? (I welcome any answers!)


The empty frame is an iteration of the one in the As Found piece ‘Space for a Conversation’, and one necessary for any dialogue to take place, internal or otherwise.


This is how my thinking evolves but also how I record it. It tells my journey through the webinar contents and how I found myself debating the following:


How do we allow for distance, mobility, plasticity and pluralism whilst avoiding loss of the cohesive fabric amongst us (all), avoiding disjointed fracture? (For example, ‘fragmented fracture’ or ‘non-disjointed fracture’ in osseous structures on our feet allows for healing without surgical intervention, or the bark of a tree remains part of the tree even though it is fractured).

Tom Ainsworth and Sally Sutherland – Wicked possibilities

Post-rational approaches to design.

Tom Ainsworth and Sally Sutherland presented a conversation about moving towards post-rational approaches to design at the Wicked possibilities webinar. This is work in progress, and in many ways a provocation for discourse.

Ainsworth and Sutherland argue that shifting towards and recognising post-rational modes of design could open up possibilities when working with wicked challenges. They believe that this will help push new insights and new practices that benefit economic, ecological, political and social systems. Post-rational design embraces plurality, multiple relationalities, multi-sensoriality as fundamental components of relational practice.

Uncertainty is not novel to our current time, and neither is the desire to forecast into the future. However, Ainsworth and Sutherland argue that practices of design, both in education and in professional practice, are becoming increasingly conservative and risk-averse. They are perpetuating ‘normative’ and ‘affirmative’ practices that prioritise functionality and economic viability over higher values of ‘responsibility’, ‘ethical practice’, and the broader concepts of ‘prosperity’.

The proposal of ‘post-rational design’ is a purposeful realignment of design research practices towards more contestational expressions of possibility as a counterpoint to normative practices of a given design situation. Below is a one-minute film which was presented at the webinar and is a visual expression of the proposed concept. The film acts as a way of developing, illustrating and articulating this argument through design.

Design is never neutral (Papanek, 1974). Instead, it is a social, cultural, and material force (Adams, Keshavarz, & Traganou 2019) that embodies entangled assemblages of ideas, customs and social behaviour. Design is fundamental to culture(s), politics and the socio-material practices of everyday life.

Ainsworth and Sutherland’s argument situate the value of design within its ability to mediate multi-sensory materiality and the everyday. It is presented as a distinct form of knowing and understanding the world. While this definition may be familiar to many design practitioners, the full scope of design practices remain restrained and restricted; sidelined by unhelpful outdated models of problem-solving and constrained research protocols.

The film demonstrates both thinking in action; and the addition of something new in the world. The arguments are a purposeful shift away from the banal predictability of reductive, problem limited, concepts of design. Instead, they seek to prioritise agonism as a purposeful process of productive negotiation and expression.

Reference list

Adams, B., Keshavarz, M. & Traganou, J. (2019). Introduction from the New Editorial Team. Design and Culture, 11 (2), 153-155. doi: 10.1080/17547075.2019.1620013

Papanek, V. (1974). Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. St Albans: Paladin.

To cite this presentation:

Ainsworth, T., and Sutherland, S. “Post-rational approaches to design.” Presentation at Wicked Possibilities: Designing in and with systemic complexity [webinar], University of Brighton, UK, July 15, 2020.