Art and Systemic Change

Roxi Shohadaee
Co-Founder, The Design Science Studio
Roxi Shohadaee
Co-Founder, The Design Science Studio

How can art contribute to systemic change?  Design Science Studio co-founder Roxi Shohadaee shares her insights from working with hundreds of artists across myriad disciplines.

Show Notes

RS: Art and design becomes this cross-cultural technology and language for systemic change. Illuminate a new story, shift society, shift the system. Regenerate story, regenerate the planet. Art and the role of the artist, I love this quote by Tony Cade Bambara. The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.”


[00:00:24] JS: That's Roxi Shohadaee, artist, designer, and Co-Founder of the Design Science Studio, an educational incubator for art inspiring a regenerative future that works for all life. This is the Denizen Podcast. I'm your host and curator, Jenny Stefanotti. In this episode, we're talking about art and systemic change. One of the pillars of the Denizen conversation is culture, so we're really interested in how cultural change happens, how that influences economics and politics and particularly the role that art plays in cultural change. 

Roxi has been at the helm of the Design Science Studio for several years. She's supported hundreds of artists of all disciplines in building a foundation around systemic change through a curriculum designed in partnership with the Buckminster Fuller Institute. So we're really interested in her perspective on art and systemic change, given that she has seen so many different artists approach the opportunity from their own unique perspectives. 

Also, it's very interesting because the Design Science Studio is a community of artists. In the program, they're really building off of each other's multi-disciplinary ideas. Also, very excitingly, enrollment is underway for the third cohort. So I hope there are some creatives listening to this conversation who are inspired to join them. 

As always, you can find show notes on our website, There, you can also sign up for our newsletter where I send our content to your inbox when we release it, alongside announcements from our partners. All right, I hope you enjoy this conversation, and I hope some of you are inspired to join the next cohort of the Design Science Studio. 


[00:01:58] JS: Maybe we'll start with a quote from Tom Chi, who is the chair of the board of the Buckminster Fuller Institute and former Googler, who was a really brilliant incredible polymath. He says, “The autistic imagination allows us to have a visceral experience of possibility in times where we understand that the future must be significantly different than the present for the health and flourishing of 100% of life. And there are a few better pathways to realizing this than art that illuminates this future. Art that gives us freedom for a moment to live within, be challenged by, discuss, and bask in possibility.” 

So we're going to talk about art and systemic change. Roxi, you just have such incredible perspective because you've worked with how many artists now? The cohorts have been quite big in the hundreds. 

[00:02:44] RS: Right, 288 have gone through the program so far. 

[00:02:47] JS: Amazing. So I'm really excited to hear your perspective because you've seen it in so many forms, and you've seen it happen collaboratively in the work that you're doing at the Design Science Studio. But I wanted to start first by zooming out and just having a conversation about your perspective around the role of art in systems change. 

Culture is one of the pillars of the Denizen inquiry. Really interested in how systemic change happens. Art is such a critical component of it. I'm also excited because you have perspective on many different mediums from your vantage points. But I just want to step back and just get your thoughts on broadly how you think about art and its role in systems change. 

[00:03:28] RS: Yes. This is such a good opening question. I'm so glad that we're starting here because it is very much a big part of the root of the work and why we do this work. I'm also really grateful that you opened with this Tom Chi quote because it’s just really a great consolidation of the cornerstones, right? He says art gives us freedom for a moment to live within, be challenged by, discuss, and bask in possibility. 

Art, contextually, for me, is bigger than just the fine art world. It also is more broadly kind of the art of the way that we orient to the world. Culture is very much driven by art and artists. So design kind of lives within the creative space. But in systemic change, a lot of systemic change starts with story. It starts with the way that we are able to orient to story, to orient to time, to orient to space, to orient to what's happening. That orientation is largely a product of our context. That's like ontological design of what we design designs us back. A lot of the systemic oppression in the world, for example, has been illuminated by different creative revolutions. 

We talk a lot about the Regenaissance. So the Renaissance was this huge period of change that happened. In this Regenaissance, because the Renaissance promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature, and art as a pivotal tool for social and systemic change, and it marks this huge transitional period. So the Regenaissance then is looking at how maybe through an interdisciplinary art, we can transform our path forward, regenerate our culture and our planet and our relationship with the living world. 

So then art and design becomes this cross-cultural technology and language for systemic change. Illuminate a new story, shift society, shift the system. Regenerate the story, regenerate the planet. Art and the role of the artist, I love this quote by Tony Cade Bambara. The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible. I think it really is when we think about systems change and systems, or we think about any system, is that many interconnected parts that are all part of a comprehensive whole. But understanding what those underlying parts are is often something that only comes through being able to see them and contextualize and orient to them. Art can help illuminate that and help us envision what is and envision another way. 

The biggest war that I think we're fighting is a war on imagination. By and large, we look at the way that the society trends are shifting. So often, there have been really important pivotal moments in history that I touched on a moment ago. But that if we are not able to dare to dream outside the possible, outside of “the way things are” that we will never be able to move beyond them. But in the system illuminating the different parts of a system, it's often many multi-dimensional in a human system, like multi-sector stakeholders and a natural system. There's many different components all working together. The more we can illuminate and see them, the more we can contextualize what that system is and how it can be nourished. 

A lot of our work is about regenerative design. So it's about building capacity, and part of the building capacity for our system is to help the system see itself. Seeing itself, then change becomes more possible. By seeing that there's also another way, an endearing to dream outside of that, I think the art really helps us dare to dream. That's been really present for me a lot lately. I did a really fun Solarpunk Futures workshop with Benjamin Life recently at DWeb Camp. We talked a lot about how the solarpunk has that root of punk in it, and I have a background. 

So definitely, when I was growing up, I definitely had a punk and Goth era. I can't say I've necessarily grown out of it. The rebel in me is still here. But it is. It's punk to say maybe there's another way, like how – we don't – it doesn't have to be this way. So, yes, we'll start there. 

[00:07:35] JS: Well, those comments make me think of Donella Meadows, who I know is part of your curriculum, and we've had episodes talking about her work. She gave this incredible talk in a sustainability conference in the early nineties about vision. She talked about how so much emphasis is on strategy and execution. A lot of times, vision is absent. She actually went on this inquiry to understand why is vision absent. What she found was sometimes it was just too painful to see that vision relative to reality. 

But then when people really started to unlock the ability to talk about it, it was incredibly energizing. Also, she talked about, which I thought was really fascinating, that vision doesn't come from the intellect. It comes from deeper sources of our being. So much of what I love about her work is she talks about just getting out of just our heads. Our heads are not enough for the task at hand. We also need to tap these other sources of wisdom in our body. So I love the way that art is really tapping a deeper part of us. 

[00:08:37] RS: Yes. It’s experiential. A few things came up for me while I was hearing that. Also, [inaudible 00:08:41], who was one of the students of Donella Meadows who came to teach in the first cohort, she actually taught an entire session on vision and to test Donella’s framework about vision. So –

[00:08:53] JS: Any interesting takeaways from that?

[00:08:55] RS: There was something about the permission in the space to just take the time and go another layer deeper and then another layer deeper and then another deeper. Give that permission to go into that vision in the continuing space, not just to ask a question and then move on to another one. It was unfolding of the onion and seeing the different parts of it than later that were connected or influencing each other. They were creating a container of almost like psychological safety I feel like was one of the main things that came up. 

The other thing that is somehow connected to that and I was reminded of when you were sharing this was about the permission part. Recently, we did a mastermind for building regenerative eco villages with rebuild. So we did a series of design sprints to support a group of people who are interested in doing that work, thinking through the entire system of what that would take. 

At the very end, we had a woman share who had done a ton of visioning work inside of this many week-long design sprint. She shared that she was in Ukraine and that at first, when she signed up to take space to do this visioning work, that she felt guilty because there was literally a war happening outside of her home. She was like in one of the active war zones. 

Her share was essentially that the permission to take space, to lean into that vision with others who were also given that permission to take space and dream into this possibility, she just gave so much gratitude for that permission in space and that even though she thought at first that perhaps it was somehow selfish, but that it gave her that permission to dare to dream, another way outside of what was right outside her door. That it was not from a place of privilege that she had previously felt but rather that everyone has this accessible to them at any moment. It’s really about having these containers that give us the safety to do that work. It was so incredible. That was one of the most powerful reflections I've ever gotten from facilitating something. 

[00:11:11] JS: Super cool. The other part I think that’s really potent about Tom's quote is the artistic imagination allows us to have a visceral experience of possibility, this distinction between being in our heads and conceptualizing and actually having experience. I know you're also an experienced designer, so you can speak to this and the importance of art for this piece of it. 

[00:11:32] RS: Yes. So I'm glad you brought this piece up as well, definitely this visceral experience of possibility. Art invites us to look at and feel from our entire bodies and recognize that our sensing happens on many levels. It's not just our minds. I think most people have had that experience when they experience live music or when they see a performance or when they go to see art or when they make art. It's an embodied revelation of understanding. 

The visceral experience of possibility is because it engages all of that potential, there's this cone of possibilities that I'm sure you've seen this with the speculative futures or speculative design. It uses this kind of cone of possibilities that says there's the probable or the plausible. But there's actually the possible, which is wider than that. By giving space through art to break the rules, step outside the box, and play, there's this invitation to something that's a little bit less structured. It invites poetry. It invites movement. By moving outside of these traditional structures of thinking and practice, which I think are largely products of coloniality and traditional educational systems. 

But art gives us that space to say perhaps there is another way of sensing. By sensing something that is wider in our possibility field, we become attuned to that living another way. Largely immersive experiences, they do the same thing, right? You step into an immersive experience, either it's a singular sculpture or if you're inside of something like Meow Wolf. You're transported. That visceral experience of possibility really comes to us because we're fully immersed in another way. 

So you can design that arc for designing for states of being. You can design the arc to create the conditions for us to have that space, that psychological safety, whatever it is that gives us the experience of like another way through metaphor, through poetry, through visual. It's really something that traditional communication just does not provide. 

[00:13:46] JS: Yes. I really appreciate it. It's a continual thread in our conversations. We have a great episode with Robert Gilman from the Context Institute on moving beyond the enlightenment. So much of our institutions, as you alluded to, are products of the age of reason and the scientific revolution, where it was all a rationality. That was how we came to understand reality. I think such a big part of our work moving forward is to reintegrate our whole selves in the work of systemic change. So really appreciate your points around how art plays around that. 

Of course, stories is so important. What are the new narratives? So you have this sort of lens around the regenerative future. But I'm wondering in your work, are you seeing a particular narratives and paradigm shifts that are coming up underneath that umbrella term?

[00:14:35] RS: Yes, definitely. The first thing that comes to mind is around this protopian narrative. So protopia, instead of dystopia or utopia, it's about more of a continuous dialogue. That’s in Monika Bielskyte’s definition, right? It's more of a verb than a noun, a process rather than a destination. It’s more focused on how to move binaries, principles of plurality, community, beyond borders, celebration of presence, and uplifting collaborative visions towards liberation, but by also centering previously marginalized voices, especially indigenous [inaudible 00:15:14], disability, justice, et cetera. So it's about visions of embodied hope in futures where we've come together as imperfect as our condition is. I think that's one of the new narratives. 

One of the things that I'm noticing that's emerging is how do we actually embody a lot more of that today. It's not just about doing all of this work for the future but not actually living it. 

[00:15:33] JS: That's the theory of change, right?

[00:15:36] RS: Yes. 

[00:15:36] JS: Yes. 

[00:15:37] RS: How do we live that now to help facilitate getting there? It might be our theory of the imagination even, our theory of the embodied imagination that helps us get there. So I would say definitely in that protopian space that the pluriversality, where I think it’s just seeing this culturally across the board. People are sick of all of the binaries, all of the things that are continuing to perpetuate separation, right? That we are somehow separate from nature. No, we are nature. This divisive is dividing so that we may push against each other and not actually find a path that honors the differences that are important for – what is that? There's another, that framing. Oh, diversity breeds resilience, right? 

Some of the other things that I think are in that space are around cultivating community and building solidarity across difference because if we really want life-sustaining world based in liberation rather than domination, we have to be able to collaborate with people who are different than us. So we are unique complex beings with a lot of shared interests and common grounds. It comes to some [inaudible 00:16:46] or some connected community. The Design Science Studio doing some work around this. 

But, yes, I think there's new narratives for cultural change, and there's also renewed narratives. We’re re-contextualizing previous ways of looking at things. By re-contextualizing it, we're able to understand it in new ways. So I know we did that great session when we were at [inaudible 00:17:09]. Oh, my gosh. I met because of you so many of my new best buds in the world. 

[00:17:14] JS: Oh, really? I didn't know this. 

[00:17:16] RS: Oh, yes. I would say allies like Catherine Connors and Aaron Huey, just like really like Jeff Orlowski-Yang. Just like we like are still in connection, still in collaboration. Catherine came to speak. Aaron came and was a huge part of our Regenaissance event. We're exploring or working towards our first kind of activation as partners with Jeff. 

But that conversation was really rooted in this question, like how do we look at the narratives that have been perpetuating society and change and choose to make new ones and choose to [inaudible 00:17:48] the other ones that are missing, that are underrepresented. A lot of the commonplace narratives are from the global minority or the Global North. 

[00:17:58] JS: So for the audience, Roxi's alluding to a conversation that we had a couple years ago at [inaudible 00:18:03] around cultural change is a great dovetail into the next part of the conversation too. I was very interested in what's the cultural change that's needed? What are the new narratives that are needed? How do various mediums and vectors help to propagate that cultural change? 

So we had Aaron Huey. We have an episode with him on art and activism and particularly street art. Jeff-Orlowski-Yang is the director of The Social Dilemma. We're actually going to have him on soon, talking about the role of documentary film and systemic change. We had Mehcad Brooks also coming on soon, talking about the role of Hollywood and popular culture. We had the founder of [inaudible 00:18:42]. 

So we were looking at it from all of these different angles related to like how they interact with each other. Obviously, these are top-level narratives that Roxi is starting to surface. So I am excited for the string of conversations that will follow this one. That will start to get into particular mediums. I want to look at them individually, but I also love that you have this perspective working with almost 300 creatives to date and, obviously, all the work that you did before founding the Design Science Studio. 

I'm just really interested to hear your thoughts on various mediums. I'm also just really interested to see what you're seeing as you bring in these communities of creatives who can cross-pollinate ideas and cross-pollinate across mediums. So maybe you can speak to some mediums that come up when I ask you that question. Maybe you can give us some particular specific examples from some of the artists in the cohort. 

[00:19:32] RS: Yes. Thank you for – I'm glad that you brought some of our friends into the fold here because they're all just pioneers and just brilliant, brilliant humans. I can't wait to hear these other sessions. We are very clear that we are cultivating the creative capacity for art that changes history, but it's about creators. 

So the types of creators that come through and the mediums they're working with are very different. Some of them are game designers. Some of them are traditional fine artists, painters, illustrators, creative writers, sculptors. We have a lot of creative code artists, people who are working on augmented reality, community organizers, or social sculptors, lots of designers of different types, producers, philosophers, performers, musicians, poets, scientists. It's really incredible. 

Then there's this cross-pollination, this transdisciplinary across mediums. People are also starting to play with the medium itself as the message, which is really interesting. Some people that come to mind across these different mediums, and I think the question that you posed around some of these collisions that happen and what occurs because of those different people coming together, which would be fascinating to map. I would love to do that in general. It really inspires. It’s an inspiring and provocative invitation. So let's see some people that come to mind. We’ll just kind of let them come through. 

[00:20:55] JS: Yes. Let's maybe talk about the projects. Then we can up level to the mediums. 

[00:21:00] RS: Yes. Jenny Godtein, so previously from Ideos PlayLab, whose project the climate action game show, came through and says her incubator project. She's reached out with a lot of gratitude about how the Design Science Studio gave her the space to incubate this work. Now, this is her full-time work. So she's created this game show to help people understand and take action when it comes to climate. It’s rooted in a lot of her design for play and. So she did a lot of play testing and taught about play testing as well. That's a kind of game show and then now experience, an immersive experience out in the world. She comes to mind immediately. 

Monika, who I mentioned before, she's remarkable. I mean, her work with Protopian Futures. She's done some animation and artwork around it, so much writing, so, so much writing. Another person who comes to mind is Gray Garmon, so thinking about the impact on many people. Gray Garmon is a professor of design in Austin, Texas. He created a project called Co-Designing for Peace, which he actually just gave a TED talk about. That was his project that happened in Design Science Studio. It was a zine. He ended up publishing a zine. 

Now, that zine is something he works on with all of his students, and they've continued to publish multiple versions of the zine. So it has many different kind of publications that have come out about it. That work is primarily – it’s design, a graphic design. Also, the medium of it being able to be in this easy-to-distribute form means that it can kind of wiggle its way into the minds and hands of many people, which I think is pretty powerful. 

Amanda Sage was in the first cohort, and she was birthing the Vision Train and that – it's a 24-hour train station for artists to come on and paint all day every day. Her work is so visionary. She's one of, I think, the most well-known visionary painters and definitely attributes a lot of the space and time and practice and community. So Alicia’s Sacred Heart. Now, that is a online school for artists, and they teach a lot of similar types of themes as an invitation, both for developing their artistic practice and then also exploring a lot of the similar themes that we're working with. 

Turquoise, I think, is a good one to mention because of –

[00:23:30] JS: I love her. 

[00:23:30] RS: Denizen. Turquoise came out with all of these incredible solarpunk pop songs. I don't know if you've gotten to hear any of them. 

[00:23:38] JS: I have. They're amazing. 

[00:23:39] RS: They're so amazing. They’re so amazing. Turquoise classical musicians studied the form, studied the structure of pop, studied the structure of trap, their trap pop. The songs, I mean, they're weaving together so much of our culture and subcultures. They're just packed with information to digest. 

[00:24:01] JS: I think, actually, that's a great dovetail into some of the work that you're doing at Design Science Studio. I mean, for what it's worth, when Denizen started to take off, I got so excited about all of the creatives that were coming into the community and, again, all the different mediums that they work in because I see the inquiry is just helping to provide a common intellectual foundation and helping us all not get stale in our own understanding and have a wider lens of how we think about the different parts of the system. That's sort of the objective of that. 

The Design Science Studio, it's an educational art incubator. So I'd love to just hear more about that opponent of the work that you're doing, how the curriculum serves the overarching objectives of the Design Science Studio. 

[00:24:48] RS: I mean, it makes me want to tell a little bit of an origin story or maybe retell it. I have over 15 years of time on this path of looking at how I can harness this intersectional approach of art and science and experience and technology to catalyze social and systemic change through these collaborations to regenerate our culture and our planet. Over that time of art and experience being that cornerstone for me, I have been able to support and build bridges, both as an artist and a designer and a producer and all the things that I do. Create these opportunities for this work to happen that is helping sense make through art. 

A lot of times, artists are expected to be the expert, have very little money, very little time to come up with ideas. It's really difficult to often then kind of get them into the world and find their place and all this sort of stuff. The thing that I noticed most often was also there's a ton of people who were like, “I would like to merge the things that I care about, the world that I want to help to contribute to in devotion to my life to shepherd another way.” Through my creative expression, how do I blend these? I just noticed a gap. 

So Amanda Joy and I, we've been co-creating together since I moved to the Bay Area. 

[00:26:11] JS: Amanda Joy is a former executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, also one of the founders of Project Drawdown. We have a conversation with her about lessons from Buckminster Fuller on the podcast also. Okay, back to you. 

[00:26:23] RS: Yes. So Amanda's one of the founders of the Design Science Studio. When I was telling her that I was witnessing this problem that was not being addressed anywhere and that I felt that perhaps if we gave people some more space, some more time, some more mentorship, and people of all points of their career, places as artists, not just for emerging artists. There are so many people who are established, who are wanting to give more space to this part of their passion and their work about supporting this regenerative transition. 

She said at that point, as the executive director still at the Buckminster Fuller Institute, she said, “Well, I've been working on retooling the Design Science Decade for the 2020s, and it's all about how we've made all the right tools for all the wrong reasons. We have everything we need to turn the ship around. We can do it over the course of a decade, and this is that regenerative transition.” Bucky was such an advocate for art and design and systems change and systems thinking. So we were like, “Great. Let's merge this idea and explore.” 

There's three cornerstones; the curriculum, the community, and getting the work into the world. But you asked about the curriculum, so focusing on the curriculum. It's evolved and the way that it's currently architected, art-chitected, if I may, is that we're moving from the way that we are conceptualizing the foundations of regenerative thinking as individuals. Then thinking about how that paradigm shift is also present in the world, in our living systems. Then how we can look at new ways to evolve collaboratively and understand that context and then put that out into the world. 

Currently, this year, we're working on an arc that's going from the foundations of regenerative thinking to biomimicry and ecological design justice, the ecology of social and systemic change, and then world-building for planetary and cultural regeneration. That structurally looks like seven months of time together with five-week segments with a week off after a salon and then coming back in together. First, we have two sessions a week, Tuesday and Thursday. The Tuesdays are these visionary sessions. The Thursdays is about developing your work, integrating the learnings, cross-pollinating. 

So it's – the second session a week is really about how what we're looking at is grounded in the way that we're relating to what we're creating in the world and what is actually the developmental process; the regenerative developmental process that we're going through internally with each other, with the community, and with the world, and that all of those levels of relationships are being addressed at the same time as looking towards the past, looking at the present, and looking towards the future. 

We start with context and where we are and thinking about some of the core pillars that some of the things we've talked about, everything from this pluriversality and decolonization to interpersonal things like consent and context planetarily. So what are our planetary opportunities, challenges, and potential solutions and systems of solutions or pathways? Then once we've gotten through the context grounding together and the baseline of how we're going to orient to some of the foundational things as well, I would say, without going too much deeper into this part, is around things like progressive stacking, like really looking at how do we embed equity into the space and the container. 

Then this rhythm continues. So we'll be going through things like systems theory, regenerative design, art for cultural change, understanding what the Design Science Decade and comprehensive anticipatory design science is and then the art-chitecture of story, which we were talking a bit about new narratives, right? Then world-building. Then we move into things like biomimicry and the rights of nature and equity and biodiversity, traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous wisdom, deep ecology, ancient futures. 

Then the next part which is the ecology of social and systemic change, this is like pluriversality in the ecology of the mind, imagination activism, decolonization and systems of power, restorative justice, ethics in an emergent world. Then completing the cycle with this kind of world-building for planetary and cultural regeneration that's all about protopian speculative futures, ontological experience design, world-building the world game, participatory design, and the circularity of systems change. All alongside that, the Thursdays, we're going through rapid prototyping and learning more about participatory design and different creative applications and strategies, et cetera. 

So that curriculum portion and that rhythm is really interrogating. Well, if we want to aim to help create a world that works for all, what does that mean? How might we get there?

[00:31:11] JS: Yes. I mean, those are the top-line Denizen questions. What does it actually look like, and how do we get there from here? Because I think that often, we can be so lofty and insufficiently grounded to actually provoke action. Maybe say a little bit more about design science because this is so central. What I'm hearing from you is just there's a really critical part about design process. That is what DSS is bringing to the creatives that you work with. 

[00:31:41] RS: Yes. I'm glad you asked that. 

[00:31:42] JS: Because, particularly, we're talking about design process for something like systemic change.

[00:31:46] RS: Yes. So design science is from comprehensive anticipatory design science, which was a Buckminster Fuller whole system strategy. So comprehensive is about starting with the whole. So we take a whole system's perspective to explore connections with an integrated and complex world. Anticipatory is about thinking ahead. So we're identifying and researching and interpreting significant trends to gain a deeper understanding of possible futures. We are, by grounding ourselves in the present, looking towards the past and choosing to look towards the future. We're practicing. 

There's this imaginable book by Jane McGonigal. I always get her last name wrong. She's from Institute for the Future. But that choice to turn towards the future and practice what are these potential scenarios. Even not only practice this utopian potential scenarios like this. The protopian part of it is choosing to actually analyze the different possibilities and illuminate another way. But by being connected by current trends and actually like what is potentially coming and, again, continuing to do that, like making the invisible visible parts, we have comprehensive anticipatory and design, which is about creating intentionally, seeking and applying patterns and principles guiding the evolutionary strategies of nature. 

I think one of the things that we are really excited to be talking more about this year is actually design justice. When we think about regenerative design or regenerative place-making, it's a returning to place. There's a big separation from place, even if just moving from villages to housing structures, where often by this separating from place, there's many different ripples in this sort of ontological design space. 

But when we think about design, often it's about designing with and not for. When rooted in our context, then design can actually be used to sustain or heal and empower, censoring voices who are directly impacted, prioritizing design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer. Some of this is from design justice principles, right? Like an emergent collaborative process rather than a point at the end of a process, facilitator rather than an expert. If we're not conscious of how design is structured, we will continue to perpetuate the same patterns that got us in the first place. 

[00:34:10] JS: Yes, yes. 

[00:34:11] RS: The same is true with science and like also re-contextualizing science from a decolonial perspective. I will say a student of decolonization, I want to continue to voice that I do not want to co-opt or state that I am an expert in decolonization. But I am definitely deeply studying it, and it's really impacting the way that I look at the world. The reason I mention that is because science, when a traditional modern context is often heavily about quantification and not necessarily also about qualitative information. 

So I think about a more broad kind of perspective of science. It's about discovering through experience and still iterating experiments and verifying through different observations. But I think a more comprehensive version of those observations and one that's a bit more systemic and a bit more integrated is really important, I think, when we think about it like that. So long answer for design science. 

[00:35:05] JS: Well, it's really important. It's really important because there are so many well-intentioned solutions that don't have a wide enough lens, don't look into the potential externalities, or don't understand design process until that piece is so critical. I love how much you're integrating in the curriculum of what you're doing at the Design Science Studio. I would be remiss without asking your thoughts on artificial intelligence and its role in changing the role of the artist, changing the work of the artist. How is it a supportive tool to the task at hand that we're talking about today? What's your take?

[00:35:39] RS: Yes. I mean, I’m a little bias here. My partner who happens to have been in the Design Science Studio but is also the founder of cognizism, and that was his project. He's a machine learning engineer. A lot of the problems that we're seeing and the implications for art and artificial intelligence is largely around lots of things. But one of them is proper accreditation. That's like a pretty straightforward one, right? That's a problem with the way the model was built. That is a problem with the way the model was built, not the potential of the tools themselves. 

I think that the tools themselves can actually be a huge support for collective sense making for more unbiased cultural data or like the way that we're orienting to our collective creative imagination. There's a lot of rhetoric right now that I think is really interesting around how just the traditional models that are largely being used are perpetuating more of the colonized world because they don't actually include as many the different kinds of voices. But that's, again, a problem with the way the model was built, not a problem with the way the potential tools. 

So I think that looking at art and systems change and artificial intelligence, there's an ability to help illuminate patterns to make those patterns visible, to help with collective coherence. Again, like it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to have a singular vote. Maybe it can be more language-based. Maybe AI can help with taking in many different types of data and actually understanding or helping make visible patterns. Then by revealing those patterns and utilizing art to help illuminate those patterns, continuing to question and interrogate the status quo. 

So this like language of power was questioned because we're able to see new things. So we have been fine-tuning a model for the last few months on – we have 500, 600 lines of data right now on all Design Science Studio kind of core work. It named itself GAIA, which is funny. It happens to have a capital AI in the middle, which is also funny. 

[00:37:46] JS: That's amazing. 

[00:37:47] RS: But it's helpful, right, because it's also – it's specifically fine-tuning the information, what we're doing, and being able to iterate and work with it but within a certain contextual frame. Then that, part of the larger term that we were hoping to utilize it for in terms of the Design Science Studio, in terms of art, in terms of supporting a community is also about this kind of collecting sense making, more quickly illuminating patterns. 

Like what is actually working for people? What is not? What do they need? What is the co-creative collaborative part of this? How do we decentralize and utilize the tools to help support new forms of governance, new forms of interoperability and cut out the bias that's often baked in to a lot of our other systems? So I think art can help illuminate some of those issues, help with respect to their design. Imagine another way forward. 

[00:38:36] JS: Yes. I appreciate that. I appreciate what a close and intimate relationship you have with people working in the forefront of that space as well, literally. 

[00:38:44] RS: Yes. That is helpful. We’re engaged. 

[00:38:49] JS: Okay. You're about to open up applications for the next cohort. Do you want to say anything else about the program? I know we touched on it when we were talking about curriculum. 

[00:38:57] RS: Yes. I think the other pillars are the community. There is this really beautiful sense of belonging that is experienced. Through that, it's like the continued permission to say I'm not alone. 

[00:39:11] JS: I know. I had that marked in just the notes for the conversation. It just, I think, a really key piece of what DSS does is it punctuates the importance of community in doing this work. 

[00:39:23] RS: Yes, yes. That cross-pollination both like we're a community of practice that's nested within a larger movement. So there's the community of artists and designers. There's a community of the visionaries and educators. Then there's our partners and the ecosystem. There's a lot of cross resourcing and uplifting and reflecting and just this general sense of incredible belonging and collective inspiration and encouragement. 

Amanda, the other day we were on a – we had an alumni call. She reminded me that the word encourage, separating them to like give courage to. But that like really happens in community. This year, we're going to be piloting our alumni program, and the alumni are going to be part of the facilitation for the Design Science Studio cohort members. Really working towards different types of structures for more decentralization to make it more resilient by the people, for the people, ecosystem. 

So the community is alive. It's evolving. It's an evolutionary community of practice. Then another thing we're piloting is our expeditionaries, which I'm really excited to hopefully pilot some of with Denizen, which is inviting these thought leaders and people who are working across sectors to help bridge art and science together, bridge these different modalities that people are maybe not in the arts or not in cultural space. But they have a lot to offer in terms of their deep study and perspective. So that's another layer of community, right, and then this. 

A lot of our work is just centered around collaboration over competition. It’s a win-win for all. There's more than enough for everyone to thrive live. There's many moments where we say here's what we can do as the core team, and here's what we could do with your help. The people who've come and bring their unique gifts, it's just unbelievable. I am a student of the community so much. It's just I feel honored to be a steward and also humbled all the time. 

[00:41:24] JS: I can relate to that sentiment, for sure. All right. Well, I will send out information in the newsletter, and I will put information in the show notes about how to find you and how to sign up. Or you wanted to – what's the website? We'll just direct that in the audio as well. 

[00:41:40] RS: Sure, 

[00:41:42] JS: Great. Oh, Roxi, it's really an honor to also be partnered with you and support your work and be an extension of the incredible community that you are fostering with DSS. 

[00:41:53] RS: Oh, thank you, Jenny. I am so honored and grateful. I know we have many community members that are in both spaces. I feel from one female body steward to another, I know that it could be a lot to hold. A lot of times, the thing gets way bigger than you would have imagined. So it's also this sort of like allyship and solidarity, and we're not alone. Yes. I'm just so grateful. We're recording this two days before the applications go live. They'll be live for about five and a half weeks. There couldn't have been a more perfect moment. So thank you for the support in this moment to highlight the work that we're doing and what it is that we're all in service of together with you. 

[00:42:34] JS: Yes. Well, thank you so much for the insights around such a critical piece of the Denizen inquiry and excited to see where DSS goes from here. 

[00:42:41] RS: Thank you. Me too. 


[00:42:44] JS: Thank you so much for listening. Thanks to Scott Hanson, also known as Tyco, for our musical signature. In addition to this podcast, you can find resources for each episode on our website,, including transcripts and background materials for our most essential topics like universal basic income, decentralized social media, and long-term capitalism. We also have posts summarizing our research, which make it easy for listeners to very quickly get an overview of these particularly important and foundational topics.

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