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Hi all,

I am beginning the process of encouraging a critical design connective called Imp-act (an Imp being a small and mischievous creature). It is a association of students/practitioners/thinkers etc in the local Brisbane area creating and then building on open-source ideas. Looking for anyone who is interested in helping develop the idea: especially QCA students and ex-students.


Imp-act is a reaction to the sense of powerlessness that I and many of my students feel when confronted with “global issues” and our responsibilities as practitioners. Strangely, this feeling often comes from those who are born into a position of relative power: we are culturally savvy and have many opportunities available to us. We are, in fact, encouraged to “express ourselves”, but only in approved—and largely irrelevant— ways: ways that mostly serve to normalise, anaesthetise and turn us inward.

I am constantly asked about Socially Responsive Design:

How can this help us make a living?
[Is our practice only a commercial activity? Do we need to wait for a government, NGO, university, or company to tell us where we should focus our time and energy?]

How can we make a decision with so many facets to the issue?
[Must a single practitioner fix everything, and fix it NOW once and for all? This mentality has created the “silver bullet” solutions of the past that have become the problems of today. There is strength in being part of a project that you will never see completed.]

Why bother? Isn't this just making ourselves feel better? Can we actually achieve anything?
[Smallness is not a matter of a lack of ambition, but a strategic direction. “The weakest things in the world can overmatch the stongest things in the world. Nothing in the world can be compared to water for its weak and yielding nature; yet in attacking the hard and the strong nothing proves better than it. For there is no alternative to it. The weak can overcome the strong and the yielding can overcome the hard. This all the world knows but does not practice.–Laozi” Action also doesn't have to be a burden. Reflecting on our world and seeking to make our presence felt is a human drive: a source of passion, fulfilment (and dare we say joy).]

Who has the time and resources to realise these projects?
[Must all projects be multi-million dollar ones? Must all ideas be realised to make a difference? Must everything be completed "on time and under budget"?]

Imp-act provides a supplement to the polished TEDsters, philanthropists, venture capitalists, born-again multi-billionaires, conference darlings, best-selling authors and revolutionary leaders. It celebrates the opportunities for the rest of us to take action in the communities we actually live in: experimenting with ideas for living, working and being. Ideas that require no money and no deadline and embrace idiosyncracy, fuzziness, interconnectedness, iteration, and incompletion.


So, in short, the question is asked:
How do we fight paralysis and take action in a world where every issue is so vast and complex? Where merely "making a living" saps all of our time, passion, and energy?

And a direction is suggested:
By experimenting with humble ways of being and acting in the world.
Acting without a commission and without permission.


For more details about what the connective is trying to achieve, see the PDF below. The document is a look into my OWN idiosyncratic thought processes (and grammatical anomolies). It is raw, because I would prefer this concept to grow out of its community rather than being an imposed vision.


Imp-act itself is for a Brisbane community, but it and anything it generates is, of course, open source.

Stormy Discussion

Brisbane has provided a temporary (if tempestuous) home for our community of students, professionals, artists, researchers, educators, and activists to assemble and discuss how we can combat alienation and reclaim the public sphere for dialogue on issues of debt.

A great but exhausting few days so far starting with presentations of work by the Memefest "Imaginative Critical Intervention" award winners. Rather than a parade of contextless and heroic images, these practitioners opened up their philosophies and tactics, sparking extended discussion about socially responsive practice and its relationship to debt (heroically pushing into lunch time). Their wide range of approaches rhilight the importance of creative tactics when working for 'from-below' change. Selected students curated by Memefest also provided examples of critical thinking and social engagement that are encouraging to see within contemporary design education. All of this was informed by presentations and discussion by thinkers and theorists about design/art and its relationship to debt.

After discussing debt and Brisbane in depth we have identified some general themes to frame research for intervention. These include:
- debt and alienation
- hidden debt
- the naturalisation of debt, including its system of 'morality'
- the exploitation of debt in the rhetoric of policy-makers
- debt as it relates to indigenous exploitation
- debt as it relates to lifestyle, entertainment, and status
- and more... (please feel free to use the comments to add or correct).

After framing all of these issues as they relate to us, and to the communities from which we come, we are today travelling around Brisbane to observe the psychogeography for ourselves. By visiting as many communities as possible we are hoping to explore sites of hidden debt that are whitewashed by Brisbane's clean and regulated facade.

What (who) is hidden? By whom? For what purpose? What are the possibilities for awareness, agency, and emancipation?

A Studio Model

The seed of an idea for an interdisciplinary design practice that goes out of its way to recognise and affirm "goodness" in the world while agitating for needed change. It is a model that values diversity of approach and personality, and attempts to avoid the well trodden patterns of "conservative" and "radical" behaviour.

"Sch/ism": A divided design studio


Division 1.

- Celebrate the simple pleasures of human life
- Contribute to relationships and fullness of life
- Use humour, fun, whimsy, culture, history (shared experience)

Division 2.

- Criticise complacency
- Make invisible problems visible
- Destabilise assumptions
- Use anger, intellect, sarcasm, urgency and vitriol

All members of the studio spend time working in either division.
Sometimes division-specific projects, sometimes shared projects.
Sometimes client projects, sometimes speculative projects.





Robert Henderson

Birth year