Betti Marenko is a transdisciplinary theorist, academic and educator working across process philosophies, design studies and critical technologies. She is the founder and director of the Hybrid Futures Lab, a transversal research initiative developing speculative-pragmatic interventions at the intersection of philosophy, design, technology and future-crafting practices.
Her work is located at the intersection of philosophy and design. Influenced by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, her research examines the tension between design taken as way of speculating on, and instigating, the future, and thought that addresses materiality, affect, the virtual and the nonhuman.
Betti’s interest is in fostering lines of minor design: multiple ways of repositioning design in the 21st century as a problematising tool for thinking, making and creating change. With an interdisciplinary approach that brings together design studies, philosophy and the analysis of digital cultures, her work features frequently in conferences, collections and journals, for instance Design and Culture, Design Studies, and Digital Creativity. She is currently involved in a range of research projects:
As WRHI Specially Appointed Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology she conducts research on transdisciplinarity and the articulation of hybrid methodologies that can furnish educators, learners, and practitioners with agile tools of exchange, discussion and debate across arts, design, science, technologies and the humanities. She is a core member of STADHI (Science & Technology + Art & Design Hybrid Innovation) a transdisciplinary research collaboration based at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in collaboration with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, UK. Insights from this work can be found in her article Stacking Complexities: Reframing Uncertainty through Hybrid Literacies (2021) and in the report Becoming Hybrid. Transdisciplinarity at the Crossover of Science and Technology and Art and Design (2019) jointly produced by Central Saint Martins and Tokyo Institute of Technology with Betti as the academic lead.
She is the co-editor, with Marco Rozendaal (TU Delft) and Will Odom (SFU), of the volume Designing Smart Objects in Everyday Life. Intelligences. Agencies. Ecologies (Bloomsbury 2021), a collection of essays developing a new transdisciplinary research framework for interaction design. This book proposes an understanding and design of smart objects that embrace their hybrid nature as shifting and blending tools, agents, machines, or even ‘creatures’. It argues that smart objects have the potential to enter into multiple kinds of relationships with us humans, and form complex human-nonhuman ecologies that are both meaningful and empowering in the context of everyday life.
She is Principal Investigator at UAL of FUEL4Design – Future Education and Literacy for Designers – a 3-year Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership jointly delivered by a consortium of leading design-educator-researchers: University of the Arts London, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Politecnico di Milano and ELISAVA. FUEL4Design is a curriculum innovation project whose objective is the development of toolkits to think about futures and teach futures to the designers of tomorrow. Betti and her team @UAL are developing the Futures Philosophical Pills: critical lenses that interrogate, catalyze and expand design practices through a range of philosophical standpoints. This work in progress will culminate with a final event and publication in London (2022).
She is currently writing a monograph titled The Power of Maybes. Algorithms, uncertainty and design futures (Bloomsbury), which investigates the new contingent logic of planetary computation and its impact on society, publics and subjectivities. It examines how algorithmic governmentality shapes modes of knowledge-production and modes of existence, and suggests ways of reclaiming, re-imagining and re-crafting human-machine ecologies through unpredictability, intuition, and minor practices.
She is the co-editor of the volume Deleuze and Design (Deleuze Connections Series, Edinburgh University Press 2015, with Jamie Brassett), the first book to use Deleuze and Guattari to provide a new theoretical framework to address the theory and practice of design. She is Associate Editor of the journal Design and Culture.
Betti’s previous work focused on the practices and politics of body modification – specifically tattooing – analysed through Deleuze, Guattari and Spinoza’s thought. You can read here the abstract of her PhD thesis Body marking/body mapping. Technologies of shifting subjectivity through skin shedding machines. In the late 1990s she wrote two seminal Italian books on this subject: Ibridazioni. Corpi in Transito e Alchimie della Nuova Carne. Roma, Castelvecchi. 1997, and Segni Indelebili. Materia e Desiderio del Corpo Tatuato. Milano, Feltrinelli. 2002. Both are works of ‘practical philosophy’ based on Betti’s own extensive experience of, experimentation with, and reflection on permanent body marking.
She is currently Reader in Design and Techno-Digital Futures at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London where she is also the Contextual Studies Leader for the BA (Hons.) Product and Industrial Design since 2007, having previously held teaching posts at the University of Essex, and the University of Urbino, Italy. She was Research Leader in Product, Ceramic and Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins from 2013 until the Summer of 2017.
For a full CV see here.
To contact Betti: firstname.lastname@example.org