The Cyberflâneur #30: Justin McGuirk

Justin McGuirk is the chief curator at the Design Museum in London. In a diverse career as a writer, curator and educator, he has been the design critic of the Guardian, the director of Strelka Press, the editor of Icon and head of the Design Curating & Writing Masters programme at Design Academy Eindhoven. He is also the author or editor of several books, including Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture (2015).

Justin’s wide range of interests is reflected in a wide range of excellent pieces including on ‘wise’ vs ‘unwise’ technological futures, smart forests, DIY urbanism and the role of museums in ‘a global age’.

My next book…is a cultural critique of the tool, so I used the Syllabus’s stacks to dig up papers on one aspect of that – resistance to technology – and I include a few here, mainly about the 1970s. But I also took the opportunity to look up other things I’m interested in, throwing in search terms like “forest as a network”, “urban commons” and “progressive museums”…

Justin McGuirk

For Justin’s Twitter.

~ Evgeny Morozov

Justin’s Selections


Epistemological Luddism: Reinvigorating a Concept for Action in 21st Century Sociotechnical Struggles

Every generation it seems revisits the Luddites in the light of a new technophobia – in this case an interesting theory from 1970s applied to today’s digital devices.


The Alternative Technology Movement: An Early Green Radical Challenge

A broad overview of the pioneering thinking but also the limitations of the alternative technology movement in the 1970s.


From Appropriate Technology to the Clean Energy Economy: Renewable Energy and Environmental Politics Since the 1970s

This looks at the role of the appropriate technology movement (another term for the above) in the emergence of the environmental movement.


Unlocking Wise Digital Techno-Futures: Contributions from the Degrowth Community

A report of a conversation between members of the Degrowth movement about what ‘wise’ versus ‘unwise’ technological futures might look like.


Uncommoning Nature

On the resistance by indigenous groups against turning natural commons into resources – or the battle for what the author calls the Anthropo-not-seen.


Experimenting with Political Materials: Environmental Infrastructures and Ontological Transformations

A study of how natural forms, plants and rivers etc, are political actors, and don’t forfeit their rights just because they cannot articulate them (just as young children don’t).


Smart Forests and Data Practices: from the Internet of Trees to Planetary Governance

As the term “smart forests” suggests, forests are becoming sites of digital monitoring and data collection. Even if this is often in the name of addressing climate change, it raises questions about governance and democratic accountability.


Silicon Forest and Server Farms: the (Urban) Nature of Digital Capitalism in the Pacific Northwest

Focusing at data centres in the pacific northwest, this paper looks at how the tech giants need water and forests to sustain our Netflix binges and data streaming lifestyles.


DIY Urbanism and the Lens of the Commons: Observations from Spain

In the years after the last financial crisis Spanish cities developed a particular culture of urban commoning, creating new forms of public space such as Madrid’s Campo de Cebada – what’s the legacy of that phenomenon?


Museums, History, and the Public in a Global Age

A detailed conversation about decolonising museum collections that predates the recent Black Lives Matter protests.


The Art of Dialogic Silence in the Way of Tea: Rethinking Space and Time for Contemplation

A curiosity, this, that connects the silence of the tea ceremony with a quality of reflective silence the author looks for in museums and memorials.


The Slowdown Papers

And finally, a series of lengthy blog posts in which my friend Dan Hill thinks through all of the potential for change latent in the Covid-19 lockdown.

More by Justin McGuirk – from our Stacks

Our archive of high-quality content across text, video and audio – our “Living Syllabus” – has already reached over 25,000 items and grows larger every week.

Here are some recent pieces by or featuring Justin from those archives:

Other Cyberflâneurs

We’ve featured many fantastic individuals in this series: artists, musicians, academics, writers, journalists, politicians, and more. For the full list and to browse their selections.

A handful of our contributors so far:


  • Kaiser Kuo – Writer, Musician, Podcaster
  • Li Andersson – Finland’s Minister of Education and the Chairperson of the Left Alliance party
  • Ivan Krastev – Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna
  • Fabrizio Barca – Italian Politician, founder of Forum on Inequality and Diversity

More About our Cyberflâneur Series

To learn more about how this particularly eclectic edition of our syllabi works. Note that if you subscribe to any of our weekly syllabi, we’ll keep you posted on our latest cyberflâneurs too. Our subscribers also get a monthly Highlights From the Cyberflâneur edition.

If you’d like to propose a candidate for this series, please use this simple form.

Scroll to Top