The desert it opposes 

research, training, website, tools, installation

photo by Femke Reijerman 

The Desert it Opposes is a training that employs silence as a transformative tool to excercise mutual listening. Its intention is to shape non-hierarchical forms of discussion as a first step to create inclusive spaces withinin educational and business structures. Through a set of protocols, the project investigates how changing the rules of conversation can shift behaviors: it is not a technique to end disagreement but a way to encourage openness to different perspectives.

As Calvino wrote that “each city receives its form from the desert it opposes,” so is every dialogue woven by the silences it contrasts, the latter being a necessary vessel that allows to receive what’s being heard and to slow down the rhytm of interaction.

The training is facilitated by the moderator through the use of a collection of tools that create the setting for the training to happen and support the practice.
The soft clock—a visual metronome ringing at fast, medium, long or extended intervals—sets the duration of the exercises. The talking stick—a quiet remembrance of a microphone—creates the opportunity for all to be listened to. It signals who is to listen in a specific moment and can be used to establish the order of interaction.
The mats—that allow for different body positions—set the stage and can be split in different configuartion to allow specific roles to the participants.

Adopting the role of the moderator, the designer constructs the flow of interaction and distributes silence and speech, using rules as generators of new collaborative approaches.

This research has been part of the 2021 MAPPs of the School of Commons, a community-based initiative dedicated to the study and development of self-organized knowledge, located at the Zurich University of the Arts.

↳ the project is currently exhibited as part of ITALY: A New Collective Landscape at the Hong Kong Design Institute, until May 19th 2024

still from the tutorial video for the DDW installation

The website acts as an archive of the practical research as a way to make the exercises accessible. In addition, the soft clock, a randomized visual timer, is available for use.