PhD Research Week 23 Y2


This week I was invited by Forum for the Future  to test out some of my research insights on a workshop with the Future Shapers - a community of young entrepreneurial people exploring people-driven innovation towards sustainable development.   In this workshop, four future scenarios of 2050 were presented and the participants were invited to creatively think about how their own enterprises, practices and personal selves, might evolve given the future context. I was challenged by Forum’s Futures team to think about how through my understanding of communication design as an expanded practice we could engage participants in a more ‘experiential’ understanding of the abstract and complex 2050 scenarios.

How can communication design prompt an understanding of complex future scenarios?

My understanding of communication design and its expanded practice can be summarised as ‘the design of communication’. It includes looking into interaction and experience, as well as visual and the other sensorial components, and how the designed artefacts may trigger conversations within the audience itself.  I will highlite here one important aspect I explored:

Making sustainability personal Each participant was informed to bring a meaningful object with them. These were minimalistic things of the everyday. An object which represented something they care about and would like to preserve into the future. Regardless of the what the object was (we would expect some commonalities such as references to the environment and family) its role was to help personalise the experience and tap into details that the participants themselves recognised and could identify with. This allowed for stream of thought, however in a simple way, about how citizen-driven innovation strategies might help preserve this meaningful object and what it implied.

The everydayness I looked to take advantage of the mundane details which are part of the everyday and can sometimes be disregarded as opportunities to communicate a message. The lunchtime period, which is usually a great space for participants to interact with each other and converse, was seen as an opportunity to bring to life some of the aspects of the 2050 scenarios concerning food. Small tags with messages were inserted into the food plates. These messages were tailored to specific food related issues that may arise within each of the four future scenarios. The participants were then invited to pick out food according to the future scenario they had stepped into. We must here acknowledge the intended contradiction between the messages on the tags and the food displayed. However fictitious and playful, this small detail came across as somewhat unexpected, fulfilling the objective of enhancing the experience - it seemed to be a conversation starter.


Tate Live Thought 3 'A Reality Check'

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This third workshop of Tate Live Thought had the participation of;  Andreas Lang, Katie Harris, Gemma-Tortella Proctor (School of Life),  Catherine McDonald, David Hoyle, David Cushman,  . Laurie Penny,  Prof. Scott Lash The most interesting part of this workshop was our contact with the Tate public.  It was the first time that we had the opportunity to publicly share what we have been doing and to get feedback from a more general audience.  A gallery was setup on Level 2 Poetry and Dream, a relaxed café-like atmosphere with tables and two chairs each, and the touch of an interesting lamp on each.  The ambience was made for an intimate 10min chat with individuals who happen to be visiting the Tate at that time.  It was my first experience of the sort and extremely interesting.  I had great feedback from the 8 people I chatted to about my ideas and their potential development.

The project I have been creating for Tate Live Thought Workshop focuses on a new take to defining sustainability - focusing on networked knowledge, "combinational creativity" and the concepts that "everything is a remix".  It has developed from the initial proposition and along 7 months, has turned to focusing on the mash-up ex(change) to preserve traditional ways of making from disappearing - joining up those who wish to keep a tradition alive with those who want to carry them on.


Talk of Florian Malzacher on "art and activism" Artistic director of Impulse Theater Biennale in Germany and a freelance curator, dramaturge and writer. He was co-programmer of the interdisciplinary arts festival steirischer herbst in Graz where he also co-curated the 170 hour marathon camp “Truth is concrete” that explored artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. What role does art play? The paradigm shift - art and politics Creating situations = creating new realities Art as Intervention, Participation, Education Art Activism or Design Activism? Definitions get less important weather its art or design activism.  Ethics and responsibility in contemporary art/design are very important.


David Cushman was my expert #1 I had the opportunity to talk to regarding my project. He explained about distributed knowledge - connecting dots.  Connecting different bits of the same story.  We need to be ad-hoc communities (David Weinberger).  The importance of share-ability - design for it to be in small segments, organic in ad-hoc way, capture the little pieces and re-mixable ways.  (ex: IBM connections)  Make it small and discoverable.  If there is no purpose, you're just dead in the world.  Messaging of all forms is emotional, not information.

Scott Lash was my expert #3  Focus on the wonderful ways of making / learning.  These are wonderful things.  For example Patricia Ribault on glass blowing design, Solo Barretto on basket weaving. Look into Schumpeter and Nelson+ Winter


Group discussion:  how does change really happen? is it bottom up to make sense?

Some of the thoughts that came out of this brainstorm were; People need confidence that they can make a difference through a sense of worth. The technical way of looking at change - when you take your hand off, does it still continue? Logic vs. emotion The ladder of participation If you're not curious will you not engage? Frame language to peoples understanding Manipulation vs. engagement Courage vs. stupidity Constructive disruption Grass-roots is fragile but top-down is authoritarian The ecology of changes in different scales Does an idea have to exist in reality to be potent?