Parrēsia: Between Principles and Practices in Design

By Kathleen Connellan.

Published by Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review

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Parrēsia is the practice of truth telling. Adopting a Foucauldian approach, this paper questions two things: (1) the meaning of “principles” in design at a time when democracy has lost its resonant truth; and (2) the correlative meaning of “practices” in design at a time when the world is facing unprecedented social and environmental change. The paper will develop Tony Fry’s thesis of design as politics and apply Michel Foucault’s interrogation of truth telling as a “joust” between the “formal condition” of democracy and the “de facto” condition of “ascendancy.” To exemplify these discussions, the paper will draw upon designs of purpose built mental health units in Australia and New Zealand. The aim of the paper is to discover what prevents the telling of whole truths in design. The terms “telling” and “speaking” will be transferred to “practicing” and “using” in design language. In addition this paper will add the notion of “truth listening” to that of “truth telling” in the unraveling of parrēsia in design.

Keywords: Parrēsia, Truth, Foucault, Fry, Democracy, Mental Health, Socially Responsible Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review, Volume 6, 2012, pp.11-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 712.298KB).

Dr. Kathleen Connellan

Portfolio Leader of Research, School of Art, Architecture and Design, Education, Arts and Social Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Dr. Kathleen Connellan: My work focuses upon teaching and researching about issues of marginality. Most of my publications centre upon a critical race and philosophical reading of space, however 1 am particularly concerned with power relations. Therefore most recently 1 use a Foucauldian approach to interpreting the design and conduct of people in the built envir­ onment and design. Mental health is a natural development from my previous work on how people of ‘difference’ might be designed in or out of particular environments. Publications which might be of interest to participants include: ‘White and fitted: perpetuating modernisms’. Journal of Design Issues 26 no. 3 (2010). ‘Light Lies: how does glass communicate in a mental health unit’? Communication on the edge: Shifting boundaries and identities. Australia and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) Annual Conference, 6–8 July 2011, Hamilton, New Zealand.. ‘White the colour of whispers: concealing and revealing cloth’. Textile: the journal of doth and culture 10 no. 1 (2012). ‘The social politics of white in design’. Chapter in Color and Design. Edited by Marilyn De Long and Barbara Martinson. (Berg, 2012). ‘Women, Water and Whiteness’. Lilith: a feminist history journal16, (2007): 110–120. and Connellan, K. ‘White Spaces’. Acrawsa e-journal2 no. 1 (2006).