Insights from DRS2016 Conference, Brighton

Between debates, discussions, encounters and informal exchanges, my experience of DRS2016 was applied serendipity. I was particularly receptive to spaces where paradox and controversy expressed, drawing an ethics for design. This was in line with the conference aim to replace keynotes by debates where speakers claimed a position (Cameron Tonkinwise, day 1). Also,the 50 years of failure project questioned us on the defeats/limits met by design research so far.

During the whole conference, the notions of speculation, emergence, agonism were key to many discourses (among others Ramia Mazé, Veronica Ranner, Jeffery Chan, Heather Wiltse…). This vision of design as a critical and constructive force culminates in response-ability as claimed by Donna Haraway (quoted in several interventions and at the centre of the Feminist Speculative Fabulations workshop). Meaning, instead of being “responsible” (for/to what/whom ?), cultivate our aptitude to propose alternatives.

That is the theory. But where there any space for practices to express ? There was, at the stimulating session Design-ing and creative philosophies chaired by Jamie Brassett, whose book Deleuze and Design I am impatient to read! In particular, I was impressed by Annelies De Smet (with her sensitive drawing work) invoking “flirtation with kairos”, and the experimentations by Jane Norris on “polychronic objects”. Connecting design knowledge and practices seemed necessary to me, because only designers’ visceral engagement allows to go beyond the abstract anticipation of “user needs” and take account of the density and diversity of experience.


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