ds4si Festival of Counteratmospheres

Disclaimer: I haven’t met with my community partner yet — I’m going to update this once I meet with them and have more context!

I am partnering with the Design Studio for Social Intervention (ds4si) to co-design the Festival of Counteratmospheres, taking place in June. ds4si has a wealth of experience co-designing interventions, installations, events, workshops, and more with communities in Boston. From delving into their past projects, I can see that they are actively engaging with the principles of design justice. I am really looking forward to learn from them and to share any useful skills and resources I might have.

Here are some initial thoughts on this project, through the four lenses of participatory design put forth by Fitzpatrick et al. in “In pursuit of rigor and accountability in participatory design.”


In their past projects, knowledge is constructed with the communities at stake, rather than constructed for communities. In fact, many projects start with an open question that invites responses from the community, like visioning workshops. Sometimes, these responses are turned into “productive fictions”, like Public Kitchen. The knowledge that is produced with the community can then be disseminated in the forms of physical zines or digital resource guides, like the Social Emergency Response Center Manual. This then provides a framework for organizations and individuals outside ds4si to create their own projects and events.


ds4si prioritizes marginalized communities — the groups that make up the horizontal public. Their design process reflects this prioritization, by both inviting and meeting community members where they’re at in all stages of the process (from ideation to execution). Accessibility is a key concern emphasized in ds4si’s projects, reflected in choices of meeting spaces, event spaces, and materials.


So far, I understand the stakeholders of this project to be the community members participating in the organization of the event and the event itself, the ds4si organizing team, and myself. I see myself benefiting from this project by having the opportunity to observe and practice co-design principles in action.


This festival will create multiple counteratmospheres that can serve as spaces for the Boston community to convene and to generate more ideas for the future.