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Medium Design

Knowing How to Work on the World

Keller Easterling


List Price: 19.95*
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How to Design the World: Working Without Solutions

In Medium Design everyone is a designer. But design, in this case, inverts the typical focus on object over its settings to concentrate on the medium—the matrix space between objects, events, and ideological declarations. It disrupts habitual modern approaches to the world’s intractable dilemmas—from climate cataclysm to inequality to concentrations of authoritarian power. In a series of case studies dealing with everything from automation and migration to explosive urban growth and atmospheric changes, Medium Design offers spatial tools for innovation and global decision-making to challenge the authority of more familiar legal or economic approaches.

From this perspective, solutions are mistakes and ideologies are unreliable guides. Rather than the modern desire for the new, designers find more sophistication in relationships between emergent and incumbent technologies. Encouraging entanglement, medium design does not try to eliminate problems but rather to put them together in productive combinations. And in the process of reconceptualizing design, Easterling puzzles over bulletproof powers, Stanley Kubrick, ISIS recruits, literary characters, and iconic activists in the hope of outwitting political deadlocks and offering forms of activism for modulating power and temperament in organizations of all kinds.

Praise For Medium Design: Knowing How to Work on the World

“Easterling is one of our most provocative theorists of infrastructures and the critical actions that might make them better. Here she gives us ways to remix, radically, their ingredients. Who else could parse the ‘canine mind’ of the canny designer and city-dweller to show that we already know how to break the deadlock formed by binaries and manipulative media loops? Read this immensely engaging book to find a new toolkit for infiltrating, occupying, and recasting the mediated and material world.”
—Caroline A. Jones, Professor in the Department of Architecture, MIT

“Easterling wants designers and architects and urbanists to think less about designing discrete things and more about ‘parameters for how things interact with each other.’”
—Hari Kunzru, Harper’s

Medium Design actively works against popular culture’s hunger for simple solutions. While embracing a diversity of tactics for a diversity of crises, Easterling puts forward an expansive definition of ‘design’ that includes examples of systemic hacks like community land trusts and tactical refusals of market norms like social capital credits.”
—Ingrid Burrington, OneZero

“An insurgent energy and imagination crackle beneath the surface … this a hopeful and thrilling text.”
David Terrien, ArtReview

“Keller Easterling is a thinker intent on peering behind the veil to inquire into the forces and conditions that give rise to forms and spatial formations: the infrastructural, political, and financial milieux that softly but surely govern the production of architectural objects.”
Kearon Roy Taylor, Archinect

“Easterling’s work turns reason’s cunning—and therefore the indirect acts of history—into a vibrant political theater for our age.”
Michael Osman, Los Angeles Review of Books

“At its best, Medium Design reads a bit like Sun Tzu. It is calm and distant from the fray of disasters and conflicts that define our collective action or inaction in the midst of climate crises and failed globalization. Easterling’s voice tends toward the wise and poetic.”
—V. Mitch Mcewen, Avery Review

Verso, 9781788739320, 176pp.

Publication Date: January 19, 2021

About the Author

Keller Easterling is an award-winning writer, architect and Professor at Yale. She is the author of Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space; Enduring Innocence, which was named Archinect’s Best Book of 2005; and Organization Space. She is also the author of two essay length books: The Action is the Form and Subtraction. Her writing and design work was included in the 2014 and 2018 Venice Biennales. Easterling is a 2019 United States Artist Fellow in Architecture and Design and the recipient of the 2019 Blueprint Award for Critical Thinking.