Design competition for students: Give a Voice to the North Sea

In the context of the awarding of the Spinozalens to French philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour on November 24, the DesignLab/ PhilosophyLab at the University of Twente in collaboration with the Embassy of the North Sea and the International Spinozaprijs Foundation invited students at all Dutch and Flemish universities and academies to take part in a Latour design challenge. The objective of the challenge: to think and to design – while taking account of the interests of plants, animals, microbes and other non-humans.


Bruno Latour has been a pioneering thinker who has helped place the relationship between technology, human behaviour and sustainability on the agenda. In the early nineteen nineties, Latour formulated the innovative idea that we must view non-humans – animals, plants, microbes and ecosystems – as political actors. They too should be given a voice in our democratic systems. His call for a ‘parliament of things’ today appears more urgent than ever, as the Earth seems to be ‘hitting back’ with forest fires, melting icecaps, biodiversity decline and pandemics.

Over 100 students signed up to take part in the competition from various universities and departments, among which design, bio-inspired innovation, artificial intelligence, philosophy, industrial design, maths, sociology, law, human technology interaction, architecture, earth life and climate and many more!



Students are called to develop and elaborate an instrument or method ‘in the spirit of Latour’. The intention of their design must be to help visibly demonstrate the active role or representation of non-humans in our society.

— The design may be a technological solution, a ‘social design’ or a work of art. Possible examples are a form of democratic debate, a game, a logistic plan, a video, an item of equipment, an installation, a model, a prosthetic, etc.

— Each design must relate to one of the three projects of the Embassy of the North Sea (Future of the DeltaUnderwater noise in the North Sea and Give a Voice to the Eel)

— The design links technology, human/non-humans and society.

— The design must be practically viable.

— Argumentation is just as important as creativity: demonstrate in your explanatory notes how the philosophy of Bruno Latour has been integrated in the design.



From the participants, nine finalists are selected, three per case (Future of the DeltaUnderwater noise in the North Sea and Give a Voice to the Eel)

The selected participants are invited to further elaborate their ideas under expert supervision. Participants may, if requested, produce a prototype of their design in the Makerspace of the DesignLab/ PhilosophyLab at the University of Twente. In the Makerspace a range of techniques can be used, including laser cutting, 3D printing, video equipment as well as materials like wood, metal and cardboard. The deadline for final submissions is 23 October 2020.

— Presentation final proposals to the jury – October 23

The finals designs will be presented to the jury October 23 in NEMO/ De Studio at the Marineterrein Amsterdam. Chair of the jury is ‘Denker des Vaderlands’ Daan Roovers. The other members of the jury will be announced later on. At the end of the day, three winners will be selected, one from each North Sea case.

—  Announcement of the final winner – November 6

The three winners of the challenge will present their project November 6 during the conference Philosophy of Human-Technology Relations at the DesignLab/ PhilosophyLab at the University of Twente. During this three-day event, the relations between humans and technology will be investigated at the interface between art, design, ethics and engineering. After the presentations, the final winner of the design competition will be announced

—  Meet and greet with Bruno Latour November 24 & exhibition at NEMO/De Studio

The three winners will discuss their ideas with Bruno Latour during a meet and greet November 24 at NEMO/ De Studio. At NEMO/ De Studio their work will also be exhibited to the general public at the exhibition of the Embassy of the North Sea, from 19 to 27 November as part of the manifestation Welcome to the Parliament of the Things. 


Ambassadors of the design challenge are: prof. dr. MNC Aarts (Radboud University Nijmegen); prof. dr. HO Dijstelbloem (UvA); prof. dr. M Hajer (Utrecht University); prof. dr. ir. C Hummels (Eindhoven University of Technology); dr. E Keymolen (Tilburg University); prof. dr. M Kleinhans (Utrecht University); dr. JFH Kupper (VU); dr. ZH Robaey (Wageningen University & Research); prof. dr. W Schinkel (Erasmus University Rotterdam); L. Schouwenberg (Design Academy); prof. dr. J Slatman (Tilburg University); prof. D Sijmons; prof. dr. HAE Zwart (Erasmus University Rotterdam); dr. ir. Tromp (Delft University of Technology); prof. dr. ir. PPCC Verbeek (Universiteit Twente) en prof. dr. ing. R Zwijnenberg (Leiden University)


Click here for a bibliography about Bruno Latour, the Parliament of Things and related subjects


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