Lizzie Homersham


Lisa Ma began her talk with a question:

"How can design move people from passivity towards activism?”

Propaganda is not doing the job it used to, Ma infers. Or perhaps it's just that the messages that might move us are insufficiently well-designed. The information we receive is, increasingly, packaged in standardized forms. Subjected to the design of a given platform (Twitter, mainly, if we're talking about news), what is more important is who, and how many people reproduce a message, rather than (visually speaking) how.

Referring to the bird flu outbreak, first detected in China in March 2013, Ma recalled how there was a national fear of the spread of the news rather than a spread of the virus itself. An epidemic amongst birds threatened the livelihoods of many Chinese farmers, as well as that of the national Badminton industry -- Ma told how mass incinerations of chickens led to a shortage of feathers needed for shuttlecocks used in the game.

Ma moved on to call for more sensitive and more innovative forms of spreading messages. With neither old forms of well-designed propaganda, nor clicktivist "armchair activism" considered appropriate, she proposed small and localised forms of community action.

Bioludditism is a movement that Ma is hoping to build on precisely this principle of site specific activity. Eventually tying together research from design, technology and biology, her contribution to the theme of extinction consisted of proposing a new diet. Many of the Marathon speakers had focused on the endangered pangolin, and the various ways in which it's being eaten to death.

But Ma moved beyond decrying the consumption of endangered species, or simply recalling Moby by advocating veganism. Instead, Ma has been travelling to Ghent to convince the mayor to eat the legs of invasive geese.