Made in Criticalland: Designing Matters of Concern

Wilkie, Alex and Ward, Matt. 2009. 'Made in Criticalland: Designing Matters of Concern'. In: Networks of Design. Falmouth, United Kingdom. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Critical and theoretical concepts and theories are now firmly embedded within design education, but to what goal? How will the practice of design develop and change under the ethos of critical inquiry? Indeed, what version of ‘critique’? Taking inspiration from Latour’s essay 'Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern (2004), this paper will outline how we are introducing concepts and methods derived from science and technology studies (STS), principally developments in actor-network theory (ANT), as part of the BA and MA design programmes at Goldsmiths. To begin, we provide a brief reading of Latour’s essay, discussing its relevance for design education. In doing so we aim to propose an alternative version of critical practice: a criticality that is oriented towards a non-reductive empirical realism tracing the complex messy entanglements of societies with all their strange, weird and wonderful hybrid objects. At the core of the paper, then, is the question of how designers might adopt a realist empirical approach towards the research of societies, actors and networks, whilst allowing for creative speculation. To address this question we present two case studies to highlight the benefits and shortfalls of an STS and ANT inspired approach to design. The first describes a series of workshops with which we encourage our students to adopt the concepts and methods of STS and ANT as part of their design practice. In the second case study we present a design brief in which we ask students to seriously address fictional futures through the associative mingling of statistical entities. In doing so we are exploring how design can address the mediation of expectations and temporality: how, for example, designers might act with ‘matters of concern’ to prospect futures. Each of the case studies highlights a problematic found within both ANT and Design: the first issue is one of truncation. How, in accepting an empirical logic of connectivity, designers delimited and edit their networks of observation and influence. The second case study focuses on the issue of temporality, or more specifically 'future orientation', 'potential' or 'prospect'. Here, design can be seen as a means of ‘departure’ in the material-semiotic lives of objects.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Design > Interaction Research Studio



Event Location:

Falmouth, United Kingdom

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Nov 2010 10:02

Last Modified:

24 Sep 2021 13:39


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