SYSTEMIC DESIGN | CONCEPTS | VOCABULARY

Ten of the most mesmerizing words buzzing in systemic design today

Francis Laleman
11 min readOct 26, 2022

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#RSD11 — Possibilities and Practices of Systemic Design

#RSD11 keynote speakers, clockwise from top left: Sylvia Barbero, Sofia Deria, Fran Edgerley, Mathilda Tham, Lesley-Ann Noel, Tony Fry, Dana Abdulla

The eleventh edition of the RSD (Relating Systems Thinking and Design) conference, conceptualized by the Systemic Design Association, happened in Brighton, an unexpectedly progressive little seaside resort town on the South Coast of England. The event was hosted by the University of Brighton, with the able help of Ironworks Studios.

Here are ten of the one-thousand-and-one crazily interesting words that buzzed at the conference.

ablebodyism

Admittedly, not an altogether new word, but the premise in the present piece is not that the listed words must be new or recently coined — merely that they evoke a whatsthatty kind of feeling.
Ableism has been around for a while — referring to the kind of design practice that pays no heed to “disabled” humans. Today, I am particularly charmed by the alternate version of ablebodyism. I understand the word as having a somewhat broader scope — expressing a pervasive cultural strand in modern society that disregards less-than-perfectism in any physical sense. In this way, I think that ablebodyism incorporates ableism, ageism, and healthism, all in one. The Perfect Body (capitalized on purpose) is sanctified and deified — making anything less “perfect” into a symptom of abnormality.
Of course, nothing is less true — which makes ablebodyism a perfect example of living with an unreachable goal. I am thinking of how when we go to a doctor, we say that “something is wrong with me.” In reality, nothing is wrong with us because being less-than-perfectly-healthy is, in fact, the normal state. Seen from this perspective, being somewhat off-perfect and going to the doctor should prompt an altogether different opening line. “Doctor, look! Hurray! My health is deteriorating! I am normal!”
It is ablebodyism that prevents us from living in a world where we can say such a thing.

aletheia

Having enjoyed a classical education, I am no stranger to aletheia too. I am taking the word down here, because when Tony Fry used it in his keynote address at…

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Francis Laleman

a husband, father, painter, writer, educationist, designer, facilitator. author of “Resourceful Exformation” (a book on facilitation) available from Amazon.