Social Practices

Social Practices are critical practices and modes of inquiry (experiments) around collective care, equity, social justice as well as raising consciousness. It frames cultural production— art and design and how it is re(produced), circulated and consumed—as a political act that challenges notions of power in order to redistribute it.

In Social Practices, students commit to engaging with systemic change, collective action, and different relations to urgency by critically imagining other ways of being and doing. It is important that we foster the capacity to learn with uncertainty and for a world that doesn’t exist yet. How do we define the ‘beyond’ in relation to positionality, accountability, respectability and collectivity?


“The Social Practices is an interdisciplinary graduation profile at WdKA that offers three Vraagstukken (subjects): Cultural Diversity, New Earth, and Powerplay.

+ CULTURAL DIVERSITY explores notions of identity and how it can be embodied, influenced, sedimented, or experienced across cultural, economic, political, and social lines. In this subject area, we invite students to focus on embodied knowledge, knowledge gained from your experiences so far. Embodied knowledge is built up in your family, your education, your peer group, your activities, events, social delights, film, gaming, music etc and further on or off line choices and opportunities. Some scholars call this public pedagogy the stuff we learn outside of school and institutions.

+ NEW EARTH centres climate justice, system-change and collective action in engaging with the urgencies of eco-social crises. In this subject area, we offer students inspiration and practical strategies for how artists, designers and cultural workers can contribute to repairing and regenerating an unjust, damaged, but not yet broken planet. Students are invited to engage with and enact concepts such as reciprocity, multi-species community and intergenerational care as they co-create and reclaim the future.

+ POWERPLAY departs from the ambition to articulate where and how power relations function within all facets of society, ranging from the micro (e.g., biopolitics, friendship, family) to the macro (institutions, bodies of knowledge, geopolitics). Countering dominant cartographies, visualities, and narratives, Powerplay aims to reveal and re-imagine the power structures that govern our human, non-human, digital, and territorial bodies. In doing so, we attempt to articulate in subtle and strategic forms our own entanglement with power in order to decentralise, redistribute, and destabilise the power(s) at play.

The issues currently addressed by Social Practices are Cultural Diversity, Performative action, Powerplay en New Earth; four domains in which systemic change is particularly relevant.

Cultural Diversity questions systems of living together; it focuses on the globalising and urbanising world. It unravels cultural, economic, political and social structures in order to create images or interventions that influence the sensations or behaviours of ‘local’ citizens of the world.

Performative Action experiments with forms of embodied collective action and community building. This minor explores notions of the performative—or that which effects change—by looking at alternative forms of pedagogy, protest and conviviality (forms of co-existence) at the intersection of art and social engagement. It is committed to critical practices of care and the political value of the everyday.

Powerplay focuses on understanding the rules that govern institutions, human behaviour, and power, offering insight on how to subvert and critique the status quo through the notion of critical play.

New Earth questions sustainability paradigms like the circular economy and researches equitable development in the wake of climate change, looking towards design as a political act that might reformulate related global power structures.

Besides their own discipline, social practitioners also work in contexts of systemic and cultural change and are able to tweak methods of production as well as human behaviour. They are able to call attention to upcoming social issues and to face today’s and tomorrow’s challenges with a specific attitude and specific methods that are suitable for operating within fields of complex issues. They also know how to define, attract and connect with multiple stakeholders in order to initiate new projects.

Some of these social practitioners may be described as initiators or project developers, setting up projects which traditional businesses or organisations haven’t yet considered: the artist raising public consciousness about gentrification, the fashion designer finding ways out of the fast-fashion industry, the spatial designer developing apps for creating communities to tackle real-estate vacancy, the advertiser creating a hoax that changes our perspective on loneliness. In order to realise their projects, all of these practitioners will have found unconventional partners with similar interests. Making connections is a key component of their professional practice.
Others may be called troublemakers, or troubleshooters. Any sector, company, organisation, office or person dealing with complex issues, systemic change or apathy – from a city government facing an identity crisis, to a design firm with social ambitions or a bank wondering how to respond to upcoming digital currencies – should seriously consider commissioning a social designer or artist.
Often these practitioners will not define themselves solely by their discipline, but also by their topics of expertise. They will be able to open up new perspectives, embark upon new unforeseen partnerships or design new products, all of which may question the status quo and invent possible futures.