Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Design research as critical practice

Updated 16.01.07 Here is an annotated copy of my presentation slides: Design research as critical practice (pdf)


This Friday I'll be participating in Carleton's School of Industrial Design 29th Annual Seminar, Balancing the Equation: Technology + People + Design.

Invited to discuss social and cultural aspects of design, I thought I'd use as my starting point design anthropologist Dori Tunstall's provocative statement "Design education focuses too much on 'practice' and not enough on 'research'."

I don't entirely follow the distinction that she and H. Russell Bernards make, but I do think that there is a tendency in design to draw hard (and unrealistic) boundaries between theory and practice. Fortunately, I think that one way we can all get past this opposition is to look directly and critically at how research - as theory and practice - is done.

I'm still putting the final touches on my presentation, but I'll post the annotated slides here after my talk.


Anonymous Kevin said...

This sounds great, I hope you'll post the notes (in your ongoing efforts to figure that part out).

From a quick look, I take the distinction between practice and research to be a distinction between, say, conceiving a new interface and an investigation of a particular user experience that results in an interface design. I absolutely agree that design education has forsaken research for practice, leaving studio art education all the worse. It used to be that the designers knew methodology and research processes, while the artists focused on generation of products. Now everyone's just generating products, bodies without skeletons, objects that contain little history of their own making. Here in Illinois we have to go to the social sciences or even engineering to borrow tools and processes for our art and design students. Wish I could hear your presentation.

Anonymous anne said...

Hi Kevin - I was actually thinkign of our conversations, and the audience's reactions at UIUC, when I focussed this presentation. I also wish you could be there, but I'll be sure to post my notes and let you knwo how it goes.

Anonymous Patrick D said...

Is this open to the public? I'd love to stop by for some of the talks.

Anonymous anne said...

Sorry Patrick, but the event took place last week (Fri 12th & Sat 13th).

Anonymous Patrick D said...

Oops, thought it was this coming weekend.

Anonymous Ville said...


Linking to my past question posed as an anonymous coward, about "technosocial activity", I would like to ask a new question regarding your presentation.

In the presentation notes you mention that design researchers should follow the actors to make better informed decisions in the process.

This is a totally different conversation, but as a user and designer of computer-run things I see this need from the "user's" side too.

What I am in some sense thinking about here (and why I also asked you the previous question) is that if actor-network theory can provide meaningful analysis of technosocial situations or something like that (sorry, lacking the vocabulary), isn't this (even if partial) comprehension of the actor-network's structure and activities also useful in use-time, for the "user"?

I don't know if I make any sense, or if my base observations here are totally wrong.. :(

(Haven't gotten to Latour's RtS yet)


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