Here is an archive of blog entries.

Hybrid identities of design practitioner-researchers

Posted on 22 March 2015

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Over the last few months I’ve been pursuing the two main threads of the fellowship work in parallel: conducting interviews about perceptions and practices of interaction design; and engaging in case study activities with my project partners.  

The partner dialogues have been fascinating. One case has explored the career trajectory of a design researcher who took up a workplace ethnography on socio-technical systems in a complex and highly specialised industrial environment. The fellowship work has involved dyadic reflection (between the partner and myself) over a two-year period about this professional role.

Another three cases have involved longitudinal discussions with members of interdisciplinary project teams about their day-to-day communication and translation work. Two are based in an academic context with industry and public sector stakeholders, the other is based in an industrial lab context with stakeholders across academia and industry.

The final case study is partly auto-ethnographic, and explores the process of organising, running and documenting the Research through Design (RTD) 2015 conference this month in Cambridge, UK, with friend and colleague John Vines. RTD 2015 offers a new experimental platform for disseminating practice-based design research, providing a rich context to explore many of the core fellowship concerns about (a) design as a knowledge generating activity, and (b) the contribution of design-as-inquiry in interdisciplinary research.  The novel format comprises a curated design exhibition and a three-track programme of research presentations in a discursive, round-table context. As such, the artefacts and processes of design research are placed at the centre of proceedings.

One overarching theme of RTD 2015 is to foreground emerging materials and practices of contemporary design research, to give visibility to the complex, multiple, and diverse identities of design practitioners and their research in the 21st Century.  In keeping with this theme, the programme is a bold, eclectic mix of of peer-reviewed work from a wide range of design specialisms.  We also have invited talks from practitioner-researchers who embrace hybrid identities across multiple fields of design, and who are sensitive to pedagogical concerns surrounding the future of design-led inquiry.

A key point of debate at the conference - of relevance to the fellowship work - will be how design inquiry may demonstrate the potential to drive the agendas of interdisciplinary research projects, and make a significant contribution to the research understanding such projects deliver. Another key discussion point related to the fellowship will be the pros and cons of designers embracing different identities to participate and communicate within interdisciplinary research projects.

I interviewed Sir Christopher Frayling about the conference vision and theme for 2015. This was filmed by James Price and is available to view on Vimeo (in chapters).

The above image shows a stage in the process of assembling materials for RTD 2015 attendees, including origami name badges (attached in the picture to conference beer mats).