Socio-Technical Spatial Design

The methodological framing of the blended sociological and technical techniques, skills and methods used by the spatial practitioner in response to the needs of individuals/a user group.

Socio-Technical Spatial Design combines the disciplinary framing of Spatial Design with the methodological framing of Socio-Technical Support.
This methodological framing is important, because it does not distinguish between the ‘professional’ and ‘non-professionalised’ actors in re-development projects, and focuses more on the experiences, skills and techniques of those involved in projects.
This combination is offered here as a means of articulating the missing skill set and role in contemporary South African re-development projects.
A 1to1 Socio-Technical Spatial Practitioner leading a workshop – Image:1to1

South Africa (like many other contexts) has well developed policies, frameworks and building systems – but lacks crucial skill sets between the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ aspects of built environment projects. These roles in projects are often given to groups or individuals trained in either technical or social disciplinary training environments and result in timely project delays, missed understandings of vulnerable group dynamics or over-simplified visions by private sector or governmental project actors for spatially marginalised residents.

The framing of an ‘additional mode of spatial practice’ is offered here as a means of broadening the offering currently available from individuals to projects and making an important space for the countless individuals who are not ‘professionally’ accredited or trained who have invaluable experiences, skill sets and techniques who cannot find a place in contemporary built environment projects.

A blended set of skills and experiences – Image: Bennett

This framing additionally allows those who are ‘professionally’ trained a means of side-skilling themselves and forming trans-disciplinary working patterns with residents, grass-roots groups and others who may already possess socio-technical spatial design abilities.

Principles of a Socio-Technical Spatial Design mode of Practice

  • Critical (questioning, challenging, self-reflective)
  • Socially Aware (demographic Positionally awareness ie gender, race, culture, etc.)
  • Empathetic (equity, inclusive, open)
  • Proactive (responsible, careful, and forthcoming)
  • Process driven (project managerial, goal oriented, motivated)
  • Structured (organised, clear, and driven)
  • Visual and/or Social Communicative (open, dynamic, engaging)
  • Facilitative (inclusive, listener, sharer)
  • Design-Led (iterative, solution driven, innovative)