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Mapping

System Mapping

One of the systems practices we regularly engage in as a lab is mapping. Our mapping work is a collaborative process that is fundamental to our co-research approach. The maps below all form part of our practice of systems seeing. Our mapping is underpinned by multiple theories in transitions, complexity, social practices, culture, consumption, power and economics.

Please note:
Due to the complex detail captured in this map it is best viewed on devices with larger screens. The map does work on mobile in landscape mode, but depending on your screen size and/or eyesight it can be tricky to read without zooming in. Complexity and small screens don't always play nice!

Mapping the MLP (v7.02)

This is version 7.02 of a continually evolving map of the wicked problem of consumption and waste. The hotspots on the map are still in the process of being coded and it is published here as work in progress. Maps like this are never perfect, but you can click on any section of the map to learn more about the thinking underlying this analysis.

Systems maps such as this one often become redundant very quickly. Between Dec 2019 and March 2020 version 7.01 of this map became redundant. Version 7.02 was mapped in May-June 2020. It will likely loose relevance again within less than 6 months.

The map has been published to demonstrate three theories in action: the Multi-Level Perspective in Socio-Technical Transitions Theory, Social Practice Theory and Design Culture Theory. It is a visual accompaniment to an academic paper (publication pending) exploring the intersection of these theories in order to operationalise them. If you would like to read a pre-published version of this paper you can request a copy to be emailed via our contact page.

Mapping the MLP (v7.02)
Ecology Landscape Mentalité Regime Niche Mass Land Clearing The commons Designed obsolescence Meritocracy The hole in the ozone layer Capitalism Planetary boundaries are ignored Pollinator decline Increasing weather events Centralised production Technological systems of provision Urban Living Linear Models for Economics Becoming Intertwined with Politics Post-Fordism and just-in-time logisitics Worldwide Double Down on Fossil Fuels Global Free Trade Rising Sea Levels Emissions Increasing Efficiency and Automation Reductionism Consumer Culture Consolidation of Corporate Power Players (Big Ag, Big Pharma etc) Streamlined Manufacturing Centralisation of Supermarkets and Department Stores Catalogue Shopping Bulk Shopping Takeaway and Drive-Thru Shopping 24-Hour Shops Post-Consumer Waste Local and General Stores Co-ops and Collectives Boutiques and Artisans (Quality Makers) Transitions Movements (Towns, Energy, Orgs, Design) The P2P Commons Online Shopping Ozone Hole is Decreasing Fires Fires Impact Co2 Tipping Points Planetary Boundaries are being Exceeded Flood and Landslides Mass Marine Deaths Micro Plastic COVID-19 Pandemic Pacific Garbage Patch Petro-Chemical Companies Driving Plastic Consumption Corporate Domination Neoliberal Capitalism Disposable Culture Convenience Culture Fascism Online Shopping Shopping as a Hobby Unboxing for Pleasure Bulk Shopping Over-packaging Goods for Freshness and Transport Economic Stimulus Citizen Consumer Economy Post-Consumer Waste COVID-19 Response Circular Economy Sharing Economy Rent to access Reuse and Repair Co-ops and Collectives Transitions Movements (Towns, Energy, Orgs, Design) The P2P Commons Zero Waste Lifestyle Viral Threats and Outbreaks Continue Rapid Increase of Ecological Collapse and Global Warming Altered Relationship with Ecology Climate Action Sustainability Transitions Decentralised Service and Infrastructure Post-Capitalism Care Community and Belonging Circular Performance Economy Conscious Consumption Low Waste Transitions in Energy and Resource Use Horizontal Org Structures with Self Management Zero Waste Life Interconnected Small Scale Initiatives and Experiments in New Ways of Being

Ecology

This level maps the historical impacts the socio-technical system has had on ecological/living systems. Ecological impact has been made explicit and is separated from the socio-technical landscape to acknowledge that socio-technical systems nest within living systems.

Landscape

In MLP theory, the socio-technical landscape maps factor such as economic growth, war, cultural and normative values and environmental problems. The landscape is described by Frank Geels as a slow moving 'deep set of structural trends' (Geels, 2002).

This operationalisation of Geels' MLP theory alters what sits in the landscape by acknowledging environmental factors as part of an explicit ecological layer. It also recognises that the paradigm in a system is a well established/entrenched long term pattern of thinking, but that values, beliefs, norms, ideologies, mindsets and attitudes are held more socially than structurally. As such, these are also recognised in their own explicit layer, the mentalitè.

Mentalité

Discussions of thinking in the MLP often centre around paradigms (a pattern or model of thought) or worldviews (a philosophy of life or conception of the world) which as Geels (2002) outlines, are held in the landscape. In the context of socio-technical systems, thinking significantly impacts activity in the regime. This is noted particularly in relation to economics, politics and policies that influence the rules of the regime and in the web of practices that make up social norms. This suggests that thinking is socially enacted through ideologies (systems of ideas and ideals) and mindsets (attitudes held by people), which are also key considerations that could influence how the regime is analysed. In some respects this might be better described using French, as this sub-level attempts to capture the ‘mentalité’ of people within the system (Wallace & Crocker, 2019).

The translation to English is awkwardly expressed in ‘ideologies and mindsets’ but ‘mentalité’ more accurately captures the softness and warmth of this data. This is about how people think and feel about something, and how these thoughts and feelings influence their mental image of its meaning. Mentalité is defined as ‘a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways’ (Vocabulary.com, 2020). How we feel can also be impacted by norms, aesthetics, and contexts, all of which is described by Bateson (2017) as ‘warm data’. We must acknowledge and vividly express the complex roles that people (as cultural thinkers and actors) play in systems and inter-systems to better understand how messy these roles can be. This is more than social practices enacted recursively—many different people’s thoughts and feelings are mixed up in this. A CAS approach acknowledges the value in this ‘warm data’, accepts its messiness and makes sense of it through an iterative and adaptive approach to action.

Regime

Niche

Geels (2002) describes the niche as a home to fast paced innovation and experimental activity. Radical innovations are often incubated inside the niche where they are protected from the norms in order to learn more about their potential. For activities to successfully shift from the niche into the regime they often require some destabilisation within the system. Niche experiments can fail to transition into the regime if the norms already in place prevent the niche activity from gaining traction.

Mass Land Clearing

Land use changes are one of the largest contributors to emissions, not only from the removal of carbon sinks resulting from felling mature trees, but from the subsequent emissions resulting from the change. Land clearing for agriculture results in cropping and livestock that continue to contribute to emissions, degrade soil health, create injustices for people and animals, and compromise the continued health of the planet and its inhabitants. People included.

The commons

The commons are resources and spaces that are shared and accessible to all. An example of this inside your home or office might be the refrigerator which is shared by building occupants, and outside, this might be the ocean which is shared by marine life and harvested by humans. These resources are often exploited because they are viewed as 'free'.

Designed obsolescence

Post WW2, centralised shopping activity was aligned with streamlined manufacturing and supported by post-war ‘designed obsolescence’ policies that served as an economic strategy to boost the economy out of recession. This strategy called for products to be made poorly or to create an inbuilt 'expiry' of sorts that would prompt faster consumer cycles. The strategy employed advertising and design to stimulate desire, creating a shift in design's role to become mediators of consumer culture. The impact of designed obsolescence as a strategy is still felt today, and evident in hostile product designs that inhibit repair or drain performance to encourage early-upgrades.

For more on this see:

Packard, V. The Waste Makers

Dickinson, G. Selling democracy Consumer culture and citizenship in the wake of September 11

Meritocracy

An attitude that rewards people with particular skills and abilities with positions of power. Whilst some people may rise based on true merit, others may also rise based on the tendency for meritocracy to favour those of a particular race, class, status and ability. Meritocracy promises equality based on merit but often fails to deliver on truly equitable social mobility.

The hole in the ozone layer

In the 1970s a hole was discovered in the ozone's stratospheric layer responsible for keeping us safe from harmful UV rays from the sun. In the late 1980s a ban on CFCs came into effect. By the mid 1990s there had been a marked improvement to the ozone and in 2019 it was reportedly the smallest it had ever been since its first documentation. This demonstrates how policy enactment and behaviour change can combine with the earth's natural repair mechanism to mitigate an ecological crisis.

Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic strategy and political ideology that seeks to privatise services and the means of production. It is an inherently exploitative system that creates ever-widening class divides between workers and owners. A capitalist mindset values competition and economic growth at any expense, even to the detriment of its own context, earth.

Planetary boundaries are ignored

Despite multiple signals from nature (and warning from scientists) stating the limits to growth, the continued exploitation of natural resources continues to bring devastating repercussions. Many of these reinforce one another through feedback loops, seen for example in the increase of weather events in turn increase emissions in multiple ways.

A lightening strike from a storm can start a fire where poor land management has created vulnerabilities. The fire typically destroys all in its path, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and destroying ecosystems (carbon sinks) in its wake. Similarly, a hurricane or tornado destroys everything in its path, displacing people and animals from their homes and destroying living systems and infrastructure alike.

Post-event cleanup can uncover problematic waste materials (for example toxic chemicals released in burned treated timber, asbestos from destroyed dwellings and structures). The rebuilding of populated areas creates further emissions through construction (and its subsequent waste) and often post-event land use changes come into effect which further increase emissions.

Pollinator decline

As land use changes and biodiversity is lost from natural environments, so too are the ecosystems that support pollinators. The decline of pollinators has dire impacts on the global food system which is reliant on pollination for food growth.

Increasing weather events

The impacts of climate change are becoming more visible through increasing weather events. The impacts of these events have been felt in the Global South for extended periods of time, but a distance from them has reduced their visibility to the Global North. Severe storm weather is noted in the increase in intensity of hurricanes, tornadoes, typohoons, and blizzards. Severe drought in other areas creates the conditions for catastrophic fire seasons. The ecological tipping points these weather events induce create a feedback loop that further amplifies their impact.

Centralised production

Centralised production is an outcome of efficiency drivers and the desire for growth within the linear economy. It is a 'feature' of capitalism that promotes monopolies and extreme division of wealth and assets. Centralised production leads to efficiencies in supply chains that create a reliance on a constant pushing on demand for goods in order to maximise profits.

Technological systems of provision

Since the industrial revolution technology has played a key role in changing systems. Technological systems are often complemented by centralisation to maximise the scales of provision. For example, the shift from smaller scale farm work by hand to large industrial farming equipment has changed the scale and impact of agriculture, leading to monoculture farming which has in turn lead to a high reliance on chemical inputs to manage and maximise crops. An over reliance on technology often sees complex problems attempt to be solved with overly simplified technical solutions.

Urban Living

Increasingly dense urban living and continued urban sprawl has changed land use and centralised activity into regionalised hubs. This has in turn, created a demand for sprawling centralised services, particularly supermarkets, shopping malls, hardware and department stores.

Linear Models for Economics Becoming Intertwined with Politics

The foundations for neoliberalism were being laid as economics and politics became more closely intertwined as the organising structures for societies in the Global North. Linear economics which relies on a take-make-dispose model for unfettered growth and continued resource extraction gained traction as the GDP became the primary measurement for success. Political traction was gained by governments able to 'provide' wealth to nations through this economic model.

Post-Fordism and just-in-time logisitics

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Worldwide Double Down on Fossil Fuels

Global Free Trade

Rising Sea Levels

Emissions Increasing

Efficiency and Automation

Reductionism

Consumer Culture

Consolidation of Corporate Power Players (Big Ag, Big Pharma etc)

Streamlined Manufacturing

Centralisation of Supermarkets and Department Stores

Catalogue Shopping

Bulk Shopping

Takeaway and Drive-Thru Shopping

24-Hour Shops

Post-Consumer Waste

Local and General Stores

Co-ops and Collectives

Boutiques and Artisans (Quality Makers)

Transitions Movements (Towns, Energy, Orgs, Design)

The P2P Commons

Online Shopping

Ozone Hole is Decreasing

Fires

Fires Impact Co2 Tipping Points

Planetary Boundaries are being Exceeded

Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics Framework has revealed how multiple planetary boundaries are being exceeded.

Flood and Landslides

Mass Marine Deaths

Micro Plastic

COVID-19 Pandemic

Pacific Garbage Patch

Petro-Chemical Companies Driving Plastic Consumption

Corporate Domination

Neoliberal Capitalism

Disposable Culture

Convenience Culture

Fascism

Online Shopping

Shopping as a Hobby

Unboxing for Pleasure

Bulk Shopping

Over-packaging Goods for Freshness and Transport

Economic Stimulus

Citizen Consumer Economy

Post-Consumer Waste

COVID-19 Response

Circular Economy

Sharing Economy

Rent to access

Reuse and Repair

Co-ops and Collectives

Transitions Movements (Towns, Energy, Orgs, Design)

The P2P Commons

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Viral Threats and Outbreaks Continue

Rapid Increase of Ecological Collapse and Global Warming

Altered Relationship with Ecology

Climate Action

Sustainability Transitions

Decentralised Service and Infrastructure

Post-Capitalism

Care

Community and Belonging

Circular Performance Economy

Conscious Consumption

Low Waste

Transitions in Energy and Resource Use

Horizontal Org Structures with Self Management

Zero Waste Life

Interconnected Small Scale Initiatives and Experiments in New Ways of Being

 

Food System Transitions

Food System Transition from Centralised to Regenerative

Food System Transition from Centralised to Regenerative: Stakeholders and Food Practice Points of Intervention