The Role of Ontological Design in an Object-Led 21st Century Skills Curriculum

Bain, Jennifer. 2016. 'The Role of Ontological Design in an Object-Led 21st Century Skills Curriculum'. In: PATT 32 - TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION FOR 21st CENTURY SKILLS. Utrecht, Netherlands. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This paper offers an alternative approach to the development of 21st Century skills by exploring the role that objects might occupy in the learning process. Through drawing on the fields of ontological design, material culture and critical pedagogy, the paper offers a conceptual learning space for 21st Century skills, which claims the ‘user’ as learner and the ‘object’ as teacher. The paper goes on to illuminate how designers might be central to a 21st Century ‘object-led’ skills curriculum and concludes by suggesting how design educators might help shape this curriculum by considering ontological design as an integral component of design practice.

The paper draws on a small-scale research study organised in two phases. The first phase of the research examines the literature to reflect on the object-subject relationship, building on the concept that ‘artefacts bear meaning, communicate and signify beyond themselves‘ (Tilly, 2007, p258) and, as such, have direct impact on the human condition (Latour, 1996; Sage, 2004; Tilly, 2007). This theoretical exploration posits that our behaviours, and associated skills, are increasingly influenced by design; we design our world, whilst that world ‘acts back on and designs us’ (Willis, 2006, p80). Alongside this, rapid technological advancements mean that designers increasingly speculate a future where objects are less static, reacting to and interacting with humans (Antonelli, 2011; Dunne and Raby, 2013).

The second phase of the research study is an evidence-building case study with a dual focus. Firstly, users are interviewed and observed to develop understanding of how object-subject interactions can form the basis of a conceptual learning space where situation is ‘inseparable from interaction’ (Dewey, 1938, p41), adding materiality – the world of artifacts and things- into the cognitive equation (Malafouris, 2013). Secondly, design students and design educators are interviewed to consider how ontological design might become a more conscious act, with ‘design as the practice of social construction’ (Tonkinwise, 2011, p4) at its core.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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August 2016Accepted

Event Location:

Utrecht, Netherlands

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Date Deposited:

28 Apr 2017 10:50

Last Modified:

19 Nov 2019 12:15


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