What planet do we design for?

A sorority attempts to reinvigorate and redefine their principles, and how they live. They bring their words and energy to the platform of modern-day social media, but face “real-world interests” in their way. A play that investigates the perspectives of shaping lives with institutions, the voices that speak for it, and the systems at play on which we sit upon.

Fig 1. Google Maps Screenshot of the existing house in Will Roger State Historic Park, CA

ACT 1

1 week pre-renovation start

Sorority sisters are conversing about the plan for this new vision of the sorority house and the planet

Fig 1. "Sorority Sisters"

Barbie Movie, 2023

SORORITY G1: Hello everybody! Welcome to our very first meeting as the All-World-Sorority ‘Ωθϕ’. I want to take this time to address the concerns regarding the colonial history of sororities, from discrimination in the member selection process, to intolerance amongst sisters living under one roof, to squandering valuable resources. At last, we are the generation that will be the change!

applause

Our newly reformed All-World-Sorority “stands in total rupture with all forms of closure onto a self, whether that form is territorial, national, ethno-racial, or religious in nature.” (1) Instead, we choose to “learn how to be born-with-others” (2) “not simply humans, but also the Earth, fire, air, water, and winds, in short all the living.” (3)

more applause

This neo-classical building as it stands now is a figure of the “authoritarian universalism that underpinned the colonial enterprise” (4) we oppose, which “sought to actualize itself in a single body that is arbitrarily held to be the one and only truly significant body.” (5) This is why we are initiating a renovation to better align our space with our values. We will take advantage of our prime location, with access to both the urban and natural landscape, to introduce passive design techniques and transform this building into a self-sustaining home for our community.

room erupts in applause and cheers

SORORITY G2: I’m so excited for this!

SORORITY G3: I can’t wait to get started on this!

SORORITY G4: Here’s to being change-makers together!

1 Week into construction….

with her phone in hand, she opens up the @OmegaThetaPhi Instagram account and starts live-streaming

SORORITY G1: Hey guys! As you know from our TikTok and Instagram, OmegaThetaPhi ‘Ωθϕ’ has been working on a very transformative project for a while and I’m SO excited to finally share more with you all!

@user197262343 commented: omggg this sounds like its gonna be huge 🤭

@user835622351 commented: waste of land and money

At Omega Theta Phi, we believe that “it is crucial to invent different ways of living on the Earth in the hope of making this Earth a true refuge for human and non-humans alike – for all and not just for some.” A space which “Shares and repairs the Earth, that strives to listen, look and finally SEE the real from several worlds, and their centers, at once.” (6)

@user927498167 commented: WAIT I LOOOOVE

@user997367 commented: All-World Sorority House?? What does that even look like?

SORORITY G2: Absolutely, but I must clarify that the way I see it, “Earth is an impersonal, geophysical process in which humans play the role of temporary mediators.” (7) It is a series of temporal force fields, such as climate patterns, drought zones, the ocean conveyor system, species evolution, glacier flows, and hurricanes that exhibit self-organizing capacities to varying degrees and that impinge upon each other and human life in numerous ways.” (8)

SORORITY G1: Wait, are you saying our design shouldn’t be centered around humans and their relation to the Earth?

SORORITY G2: It could be worth considering a different perspective in which “the human ceases to be not only the main actor, but also the main medium of planetary history.” (9) In this view, “we are inhabited by the forces of the world, rather than being its primary subjects and masters.” (10)

SORORITY G1: That’s definitely something to ponder. Oh, Look who’s here!

Sorority G1 turns the camera towards the contractor

SORORITY G1: We’re so excited to have an all-female team working on this and to be collaborating with a local contractor who’s been making moves, shaping our neighborhoods with a passion! *turns phone towards contractor*

CONTRACTOR: Hey everyone, I’m so excited to be a part of this project!

SORORITY G2: I know that we’re not your typical clientele, so how did we finally convince you to work with us?

CONTRACTOR: I might have been hard to convince, but this renovation aligns with the kind of life systems that I build! I have always believed that “modernity, and its architecture, appears to be a project of capture and interiorisation. (11)

SORORITY G2: Get ready for a little postmodern anthropology guys! *chuckles*

CONTRACTOR: The homes we build, often try to encapsulate and control their surroundings — “think of it like the succulent on your desk being its living symbol” (11.1) of tamed nature. Today’s common viewpoint often leans towards creating these controlled, inward-looking spaces. But with this renovation, we’re embracing a different approach, one that’s more in tune with the Earth and its systems. Instead of merely enclosing, we’re integrating. We’re building for a world where we coexist with nature, not just capture it, we are here to design the alternatives of a Terrestrial possibility.

comments pop up throughout :

@hanah8 commented: why do i suddenly wanna join a sorority ??

@Fai21 commented: “you can’t eat your cake and have it too.” (12)

@user109398 commented: isn’t this just green washing…??

@supermann_2 commented: wow peak colonial guilt!

BANG BANG BANG!!!

Door swings to reveal the investor with the entourage and assistant behind him. Visible in the background with his Tesla parked over their vegetable garden.

INVESTOR: GOD this is not what I wanted to do today. Me and Elon were meant to get compressed nutrition bars, do some DMT and go on Twitter, X whatever it is called today, and bash on libbies. I HATE it when I miss out on self-care time. They better have some answers.

SORORITY G2: *nervously glances at the annihilated garden behind the investor* Oh…this isn’t a formal meeting-

INVESTOR: And on top of that to hear that you want to create some sort of *waves hands around randomly* NEW vision of EQUAL sororities and the planet?? Suddenly everyone wants a piece of the pie.

SORORITY G1: What piece of pie, is this house just a passive depository of resources to be extracted? (13)

INVESTOR: Woah calm down sweetheart, let me tell you a story about how you “stay on the top.” (14) You were born into this, our “Traditions and legacies are what give us our identity. And while the idea of an ‘All-World’ is charming, ‘Ownership is power, and I’ve always believed in harnessing that power.” (15)

CONTRACTOR: I think we all need to take a deep breath and calm down, we must remember we’re living within “a thin perishable envelope of life-sustaining processes”. “There is no planet, no earth, no soil, no territory to continue housing these traditions.” (16) We need to be more flexible in order to work within both the university community guidelines and city council approvals.

INVESTOR: Spoken like a true wokie. What’s next? Are we trading in our Teslas for shared scooters? Look, I’ve been in the tech game since dial-up was a thing. This idea of yours? It’s Cute, but not an ROI. You see, in the real world – and not the one where everyone gets a trophy – holding onto ownership is like having the VIP pass at Coachella. Everyone wants it. I’m just giving you a heads up, a little 101 with a mentor. Trust me, you’ll thank me later, you don’t even know what you’re compromising.

@user197262343 commented: YES!! Show them who’s boss!

@user835351 commented: Yoo can you hook me up with a VIP pass to Coachella??

SORORITY G1: We’re not compromising; we’re evolving. Look, it’s not just about fleeting trends or the latest app on the block. This isn’t a ‘Gen Z’ whim. It’s about creating a space and a mindset that’s inclusive, sustainable, and forward-thinking. Ownership might give you VIP access, but usership? It gives everyone a seat at the table. It’s about understanding that we’re all connected, that our actions ripple out into the world.

CONTRACTOR: I don’t agree with everything he’s saying, but I must say that we do need to remember that “big companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon,” while they have their own internal company goals like you may *waves hand in the direction of the sorority girls*, they still contribute globally and “propagate geopolitical ambitions”. (17)

SORORITY G2: It’s not just about expansion. We’re in a moment where “the world did not appear as a new enemy, but as free space, as an area open to European occupation and expansion.” (18) We should be mindful of that. “We want to move towards a new framework of usership, where the use of a resource is not conditioned by owning it, but by belonging to a collective of users that communally manages and maintains the distribution or access to the resource.” (19)

@user197262343 commented: Slay queen! Le’ts END THE PATRIARCHY!!!

@user835351 commented: Why are they fightin on live lol??

INVESTOR: Ladies, those are some poetic analogies. I’ll give you that. But here’s a reality check from someone who’s swam with the big fish in the tech ocean: Idealism doesn’t fund projects, money does. While you’re busy playing mommy nature with barbie dolls I’ve been in the trenches, turning ideas into empires. It’s easy to dream about the ‘All-World’ when you’re not the one fronting the bill. So, before you try to lecture me on how music is made, remember who’s holding the conductor’s baton – and who’s funding the orchestra. and for that reason ladies Jonnie OUT . Call me when you have a few more zeros in your account and may-

SORORITY G3: GUYS WAIT, I just checked the livestream and the community has been sending in donations this entire time!

SORORITY G4: WE MANAGED TO RAISE 800 THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! Will this be able to happen…?!!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Connolly, William. Facing the Planetary. Duke University Press Books, 2017.

Kaczynski , Theodore J. “Industrial Society and Its Future.” The Washington Post, W Company 19 Sept. 1995.

Likavčan, Lukáš. Introduction to Comparative Planetology. Strelka Press, 2019.

Mbembe, Achille, and Steve Corcoran. “Chapter Four – The Last Utopia .” The Earthly Community: Reflections on the Last Utopia, V2_Publishing, Rotterdam, 2022.

(1) The Earthly Community, Achille Mbembe, p.109

(2) The Earthly Community, Achille Mbembe, p.109

(3) The Earthly Community, Achille Mbembe, p.110

(4) The Earthly Community, Achille Mbembe, p.109

(5) The Earthly Community, Achille Mbembe, p.109 (edited)

(6) The Earthly Community, Achille Mbembe – p.105 (paraphrased)

(7) Introduction to Comparative Planetology, Lukas Likavcan, p.17

(8) Facing the Planetary, William Connolly, p.132

(9) Introduction to Comparative Planetology, Lukas Likavcan , p.26

(10) Facing the Planetary, William Connolly, p.43

(11) verbatim: Introduction to Comparative Planetology, Lukas Likavcan, p.47

(11.1) Introduction to Comparative Planetology, Lukas Likavcan, p.47

(12) Industrial Society and Its Future – Ted Kaczynski, p. 185 (paraphrased)

(13) Lukas Likavcan- Introduction to Comparative Planetology- p.30

(14) Lukas Likavcan- Introduction to Comparative Planetology- p.42

(15) Lukas Likavcan- Introduction to Comparative Planetology- p.76

(16) Lukas Likavcan- Introduction to Comparative Planetology- p.42 (edited)

(17) Lukas likavcan- Introduction to Comparative Planetology- p.43 (paraphrased)

(18) Lukas Likavcan- Introduction to Comparative Planetology- p.29

(19) Lukas Likavcan- Introduction to Comparative Planetology- p.76