Seeing and Being Agents of Hope: Human-Centered Designers, Transportation Planning and Drip Irrigation Kits

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How is hope a driver of change? This paper explores hope in two cases: rural Cambodia, through the adoption of drip irrigation by subsistence farmers, and an urban center in Minnesota, through the planning of infrastructure improvements for a freeway corridor. It also explores the argument that, with the rise of neoliberalism and global capitalism, the capacity of societies to distribute hope is shrinking (Hage 2003) and thus, in both cases, as people envision possible futures, they seek other agents of hope. Associations of hope with tangible things (e.g. drip irrigation kits, bridges, roads) drive change in the lived experiences of farming and transportation planning. For practitioners, this type of ethnographic work challenges their role regarding the value of skills in non-western and non-welcome marketplaces, the ethics of design, and their own participation in designing agents of hope.

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