Practice-based ontological design for multiplying realities


  • Christian Nold UCL


This text argues that a practice-based notion of ontological design is useful for designers to transform the politics of the already designed world. The text analyzes three approaches to the philosophical concept of ontology and suggests that a Science and Technology Studies approach focused on observing ontologies in practice provides pragmatic potential for designers to intervene in public controversies. The author’s case study of a contested airport expansion demonstrates that this approach can sensitize the designer to multiple realities, identify ‘where’ the ontological infrastructure of a problem is located, and define ‘what’ design is needed to transform a controversy. The text uses these findings to propose principles of practice-based ontological design that can support designers who are seeking to transform the world into a series of situated controversies.

Keywords: ontological design, ontological politics, design interventions

Author Biography

Christian Nold, UCL

Christian Nold is an artist, designer and researcher who builds participatory technologies for collective representation. He is a research associate in the Department of Geography at UCL. In the last decade he created large-scale public art projects such as the widely acclaimed ‘Bio Mapping’, ‘Emotion Mapping’ and Bijlmer Euro’ projects, which were staged with thousands of participants across the world. He wrote and edited ‘Emotional Cartography: Technologies of the Self’, ‘The Internet of People for a Post-Oil World’ and ‘Autopsy of an Island Currency’. His PhD was on the ontological politics of participatory sensing and the potential of design interventions.






Special Issue: Autonomía - Design strategies for enabling design process