25 January 2021 from 17h00 to 18h30 (Lisbon time)

For about a year now, humanity has been facing a major global threat: the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic, usually referred to as covid-19. Governments across the planet have made all sorts of attempts to deal with this threat. However, the task is highly complex and demanding. Confusion and uncertainties abound while the death toll is becoming increasingly dramatic. High hopes are being placed on vaccination while individuals try to maintain a sense of normality through the increasing use of digital technologies. This situation raises a number of critical questions!

This situation raises a number of critical questions, for example:

  • Can humanity only deal with threats of this magnitude via high-tech developments delivered by major corporate powers such as the pharmacological and the digital industries?
  • Can threats of this nature be addressed instead (or also) via alternative approaches that use human creativity in ways, and by agents, not yet imagined?
  • Why has this corporate techno-utopia become so dominant?
  • What role plays information technologies, particularly social media, on the perceived risks and impact of this threat on human agency and creativity? Which benefits and which constraints result from these technologies?

This event will contribute to critically address these questions. Promoted by the University of Porto with the support of UMAC / International Council of Museums, it aims to trigger debate and disseminate the international competition The Power of Design: Re-establishing embodied conviviality beyond covid-19. This competition seeks creative solutions for restrictions to face-to-face human interaction imposed by the covid-19 pandemic. The Power of Design competition is open to all and the winner will be awarded a €3000 prize. The two runner-ups will be offered a prize of €1000 each. Details about the competition will be given upon conclusion of the event.


Introduction and welcome

  1. Reflection by Fátima Vieira (Vice-President, University of Porto) on utopian thinking and the international competition The Power of Design

2. Key note by Olivia Bina (Principal Researcher, University of Lisbon) on alternative imaginaries and their implications for addressing the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic

3. Debate with the participation of audience

4. The Power of Design competition: brief presentation by António Ferreira (Senior Researcher, University of Porto)

5. Conclusions


Introductory reflection: Fátima Vieira

Associate Professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto, where she teaches since 1986, Fátima Vieira was a member of the General Council of the University of Porto from 2012 to 2014. She was Director of the Anglo-American Studies from 2008 to 2010 and President of the Utopian Studies Society / Europe from 2006 to 2016. She is currently the Coordinator of the Porto branch of CETAPS – Center for English, Translation and Anglo-Portuguese Studies, funded by FCT; and the Vice-President for Culture and Museums of the University of Porto.

Key note speaker: Olivia Bina

Olivia Bina is Researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (Portugal), a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS), and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Resource Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Olivia is interested in interdisciplinary research, exploring the drivers of (un)sustainability of our socio-economic and socio-technical models and their effect on life – human and other-than human. She works through the lens of environmental governance, sustainable futures and transition/transformation theories, searching for worldviews and pathways that can balance our dependence on ‘ever smarter’ growth and technology with a recovery of the unlimited potential of prosperous human-nature connectedness.


This event is organized by (in alphabetical order):

António Ferreira Senior Researcher at the Centre for Research on Territory, Transports and Environment of the University of Porto, Portugal

Kim Carlotta von Schönfeld Doctoral Researcher at Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands

Maria João Fonseca Head of Communication of the Natural History and Science Museum of the University of Porto, Portugal

Marta Lourenço Director of the National Museum of Natural History and Science, University of Lisbon (Portugal), coordinator of PRISC (Portuguese Research Infrastructure of Scientific Collections) and Chair of UMAC/International Council of Museums


To register for this event, please send us an e-mail to