Reading Response 3 | Andrew Chambers

Dan Hill presents a very informative outlook on the way strategic designers should approach complex problems –by harnessing the power of “Dark Matter” and moving away from static problem solving, in favor of much more malleable systems thinking. A designer should approach these issues from a standpoint of exploration, research, and investigation, melding together its “Meta” and the “Matter” in order to gain an invaluable inside perspective. This so-called Meta component encompasses the context of the problem and the matter represents the outcome or solution to the design problem. All too often, designers are wrapped up in the final product, the elegant, well presented “solution” per say, as opposed to immersing themselves in the true “architecture of the problem”. (Hill 90)


Dark matter can only be observed via its effects on “more easily detectable matter” (Hill 82) and thus is often overlooked. Dark matter sums up every aspect that surrounds the true “finished product” this outcome is what is known as the matter. While the matter is the recognizable outcome, this does not mean that the Meta has no value. In fact, the Meta is where all of the value is held, and it is here that the matter gains its true worth. If it were not for the deep understanding of a problem’s Meta components, the matter or outcome would be largely useless because it was not designed in the correct context.


It is so important to understand the entire “Architecture of the problem” (Hill 90) as opposed to just the perceived issues and most obvious solutions are imperative to both strategic and speculative design. If you learn how something really works, you will only then be able to truly understand it. This expert ability to perceive the unseen and formulate these findings into a concrete understanding of the system allows for much more meaningful and transformative design. When designers choose to focus on these problems contextually they can effectively implement their design thinking into changing the underlying roots of the problems they are trying to solve.


These small changes made within a system can and will encourage shifts on the macro-level. Though a problem may seem insurmountable or too embedded in unchangeable social, political, or economic issues –when attached from this micro level much like modifying the “servo-mechanism guiding a much larger machine”. (Hill 109) The overarching issue may not be able to be changed directly, or even able to be truly understood, yet its trajectory can surely be altered by utilizing these types of thinking.


This idea of looking beyond the obvious causation and the matter of a situation and focusing on the dark matter reminds me of my research for my Design Methodology class. My group is exploring child poverty in Cincinnati through the lens of education. While researching this topic it became abundantly clear that there was an entire ecosystem of factors that combine to create the overall problem –far too many issues, dynamics, and opinions are embedded into the topic to simply “solve” the problem at face value. Instead, action needs to be taken to dissect the “Dark Matter” engulfing the issue and suggest changes on a microscopic level that will, in turn, implement large-scale change in the long run. In many ways, this is a problem that cannot be addressed until its structure has been analyzed at the micro-level. Only then will our group, as the designers, be able to become fully immersed in the issue. This idea of approaching a design issue as not a simple problem to be solved but rather as a living investigation allows design to create systematic cultural change.

Reading Response 2 | Andrew Chambers

Capitalism is an economical and political system in which goods and services are created and sold in order to generate a profit within a market. The main tenants of Capitalism are private ownership of production and paid employment, each supporting the ultimate goal: the creation of goods exchanged for a profit. It is a system that glorifies money and creates a society of wage laborers. The very wealthy and those who can come up with capital are able to easily double their profits, leaving those without the initial means with no other choice but to work and support those above them. The result is a bleeding out of our nations people ­–diminishing them to expendable workers who slave away to produce anything and everything that could produce even the slightest profit. This system has grown exponentially since its inception and has engulfed and exploited many in its wake.


It was fascinating to dive deep into the roots of Capitalism through James Fulcher’s “Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction,” and truly gain a solid grasp on how this system came into place, how it seemed to leech from such a simple and obvious chain of actions. The simple idea of taking a calculated risk such as sending ships across the world to purchase pepper just to ship it back, mark up the prices, and sell it to make lots of money seems like a no-brainer. However once further analyzed within the scope of today’s Capitalist society and through the readings, it seems like a much more sinister endeavor.

It seems as if Capitalism has and always will be so firmly rooted in our lives. I often fall victim to limiting my thinking to within its boundaries and have a hard time visualizing any possible alternatives. Though this system has been in place for so long and seems as if it will last forever, its end is near and it is approaching rapidly. Capitalism promises an upward trajectory of infinite growth, and this is something that can no longer be maintained. Wolfgang Steeck states that Capitalism is in a terminal state and it is due to 5 serious disorders that have become basic attributes of Capitalism. These 5 disorders are Stagnation, Oligarchic distribution, Plunder, Corruption, and finally global anarchy. Each of these is imminent and greatly threatens the hollow promise of limitless progress. Capitalism is on a course to overdose on its own success and die in a “long and painful period of cumulative decay.” (Streeck 64)

Streeck states that many people in today’s world hold “a pervasive sense that politics can no longer make a difference in their lives, as reflected in common per­ceptions of deadlock, incompetence, and corruption among what seems an increasingly self-contained and self-serving political class, united in their claim that ‘there is no alternative’ to them and their policies.” (Steeck 40). This statement truly resonated with me as I feel that I hold these same views toward the efficacy of both our political class and our capitalist structure. I often feel the hopeless weight of not knowing a viable alternative, and being a white male born in the United States to an upper-middle-class family, I can only imagine the unbearable weight and subjugation upon those of more marginalized groups.

I found it just as interesting as it was helpful to picture a world without Industrial Capitalism. Before the modern notion of the ‘work day’ that is so ingrained into our heads and often set as the one and only path to survival. This idea of not being tethered to the common workday and the ability to freely practice a craft or an art is something I have often daydreamt about. What could our world be if there was a way to reunite work and leisure, living not in an oppressive scheme but in a world centered on learning, innovation, and creation rather than capital and profit? Though I have not necessarily regarded these notions as anti-capitalist, after reading the 3 pieces I can now see that there is hope for a different system. This makes me think, it is in fact nearly impossible to survive without consistent and relatively high paying work, then have we effectively become, as Marx stated, wage slaves? Have our ‘freedoms’ as these wage laborers merely been illusory? I think this is unbelievably important to analyze and makes me consider what a society would be like where one did not have to do paid work in order to live and to thrive.

These texts reminded me a lot of the ideologies displayed in lyricist/artist Milos’s recent work. Milo has a very elevated view of the relationships between wages, labor, and art. His work is very apparently anti-capitalist and highly philosophical. Very few artists have ever resonated with me so well, especially in the realm of deep socio-political thinking.

In Carl Hauck’s piece ‘How to Rap with a Sword: milo, Rapitalism, and Feeding Hunger with Thingness’ he states that

‘Few of us devote much time to thinking about what a lifetime of labor is, especially creative labor. Milo is the kind of artist who invites us to think about it.’ This is certainly true and I believe that the ideals displayed in his work display a type of thinking is truly revolutionary and is combatting Capitalism in very unique yet subtle ways. In Milo’s ‘song about a raygunn’ off of 2015 album, so the flies don’t come, he states:


It’s about if you can work a simple hustle

Turning rap insights into economic muscle…

It’s never art for art’s sake

Despite whatever the corpse of a Marxist thinks


This line is what comes to my mind when I ponder duality of work and leisure, and how in a post Capitalist society one can, in fact, work a simple hustle, or be an artist. This is not for arts sake but for one’s own sake, and not for the benefit of a greedy profit-seeking missile but for oneself. An economy where something such as rap insights, which further innovate a field, are valued and respected over money.