Before the idiot, the poet? Aesthetic figures and design 

The abstract for a forthcoming chapter, co-authored with Mike Michael, in the edited collection Design for more-than-human futures.


This chapter introduces the aesthetic figure of the poet and considers how it can complement and combine with the conceptual persona of the idiot as a means to enhance the speculative in epistemic design practices. Employing a case study involving engagement with energy-demand reduction communities by way of a designed research device, the chapter considers how aesthetics invites questions around affect, feeling and the perceptible and how knowing and concomitant epistemic questions are prefaced by aesthetics. That is to say, what we know is always preceded by what we feel – that something must be felt before it can be known. Crucially, the chapter invokes a particular non-bifurcated, more-than-human understanding of aesthetics, drawing on A.N. Whitehead, where affect, experience and feeling are fundamental to the immanent becoming of all entities and phenomena and not simply the extraneous preserve of human actors. The chapter proposes that the role of the poet is to protest against the exclusion of such aesthetics from knowledge practices and elicit a speculative sensibility and attunement toward the possibilities of the production of existence and new aesthetic values, in this case involving design and experiments in living with energy, technology and the environment.