Sunday, March 7, 2010

Week 442

Since it's been almost six weeks since my last weeknote, I feel as though I'm giving confession!

The most significant thing that's happened in this time is the start of classes. I ended up choosing to focus on a set of cultural domains that shape and are shaped by design, and I think that my Design Anthropology course is off to a good start. I also decided to assign one major project in three parts, so the students will be designing and creating (but not deploying) their own cultural probes. The goal here is to gain broad theoretical exposure, and deep practical exposure, to culturally-based design research. This trimester I'm also a tutor for our third year design research paper, and I'm really looking forward to getting into studio-based learning and teaching.

In other university-related news, I've taken up my position as Convenor of the School of Design's Research Committee, which promises to be very interesting. The question of what constitutes the process and product of design research is complex, and given that our first-year curriculum and Design Innovation programme combine industrial design, media design and culture+context, it's easy to see how our faculty's research activities are quite varied. Finding ways to value a range of material, empirical, theoretical, creative and performative processes and products should provide no small challenge - especially with New Zealand's next Performance-Based Research Fund round quickly approaching.

I'm also enjoying the overlap between teaching and research that occurs with post-graduate supervision and examination. I'm impressed by the quality of student work here, and can't wait to see how this develops in the next few years. Given my own research interests, I'm also fascinated by my colleague Ross Stevens' explorations and teaching in Design Led Futures and we're trying to figure out ways of collaborating - including, I hope, a paper for the speculative design track at EASST 2010.

In other news, I'm starting work on a small research project on the ontological and social status of "outdoor" cats in urban areas. Domesticated but definitely not livestock, "outdoor" cats exist somewhere between pets like "indoor" cats and "urban wildlife" like possums. I'm most interested in the relations here between humans and non-humans, and how material culture - everything from katkabins to tweeting rfid cat doors - is designed and used to mediate these relations.

Otherwise, I've got several papers in various stages of review and publication that I need to get off my plate as quickly as possible. I'll be heading to Europe for two weeks in early June for Media in Action: International Conference of the Media Upheavals Research Centre at the University of Siegen - and I've got a bunch of UK and Norway university visits that need to be finalised sooner rather than later. If anyone wants to get together during that trip, please let me know.

Now, as Kang would have it, "We must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom..."

CFP - What Objects Do: Design, Consumption and Social Practices

EASST Conference 2010
2-4 September, 2010
University of Trento, Italy

What Objects Do: Design, Consumption and Social Practices
"After 30 years of STS, it became impossible to understand how the social life works without appreciating how design objects, devices, settings, and environments mediate everyday practices, without accounting reality as a result of multiple interactions among humans and nonhumans. Indeed, STS contributed in recognizing not only meanings and social values attached to objects and technologies, but also the ways in which these artefacts materially contribute in shaping everyday social practices and patterns of life. Drawing on the STS’s assumption that objects with their scripts and incorporated programmes of action and “things” with their heterogeneous ontology and contested nature constantly articulate and rearticulate social ties, the track will explore design’s and consumption’s performativity and their capacity to trigger specific ways of enacting the social.

Papers are welcome on a variety of issues, including (but not limited to):

  • The performativity of technical objects, of spaces and design environments. What can objects do? How do they equip human communication? How do they mediate social interactions? How do they generate meaning in design experience? How are humans and nonhumans shaped and enacted by design? Do objects have social lives? How are their biographies entangled with the trajectories of their makers and users?
  • The processes of consumption and domestication of objects and technologies. How do people appropriate and use objects and technologies? In which ways these processes of consumption of technologies contribute in shaping the patterns and routines of everyday life? How can we recognize the relevance of the technical and material dimension of things in the creation, stabilization and transformation of everyday practices, routines and habits?
  • Design and the Social. How does design facilitate everyday sociality? How is design used to “outsource” morality, ethics, and politics? How does it play to solidify, reinforce, and prolong the social, the political, and the cultural? How does design shape individual or collective behaviours or become pattern giver of social practices? How does design turn the “public” into a problem? How do designers make their activities accountable to citizens or their representatives?

Scholars of different disciplines and research fields engaged in the study of the role of material artefacts and objects are invited to participate. While contributions may cover methodological and theoretical issues related to design, consumption and STS, we especially welcome papers that will base their findings on empirical examples and fieldwork. We also invite participants to organise their talks, if suitable, around the objects or “things” they might wish to bring with them in the session."

Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent by email (following website instructions) by March 15th 2010.

Convenors: Paolo Magaudda (Università di Padova), Mika Pantzar (National Consumer Research Centre of Helsinki), Paolo Volonté (Politecnico di Milano), Albena Yaneva (University of Manchester)

Previously posted EASST 2010 CFPs
Speculation, Design, Public and Participatory Technoscience: Possibilities and Critical Perspectives
Design, Performativity, STS

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