The track Aesthetics, Cosmopolitics and Design included nine papers at DRS 2016 and generated a lot of interesting discussion brought about through the interdisciplinary engagement between STS and design research. The papers included in the track explored the notions of aesthetics and cosmopolitics in different (implicit and explicit) ways. In almost all, however, there is a distinct preoccupation with aesthetic processes and the nature and composition of participation in the empirical settings of the research and during the enactment of research practices. Substantively, and in no particular order, the contributions variously explore how common worlds and collectives are fashioned (or not) in Scandinavian furniture design (Gasparin and Green), the Chilean National Zoo (Hermansen, Tironi and Neira), the Internet of Things (Reddy and Linde), computational (Forlano) and wearable fashion (Widle), the web (Mauri and Ciuccarelli) and social media (Alshawaf), Eselek village, Gokceada Island, Turkey (Cheung-Nainby), cultural institutions in Copenhagen (Olander), the Berlin Laboratory for innovative X-ray Technologies (Marlen Dobler), the Mellunkyla neighborhood in Helsinki (Koskinen).
Here’s the abstract to the introduction:
The scope of this theme is to explore the burgeoning interest in interdisciplinary engagements between the domains of design research and science and technology studies (STS). On the one hand, design has, for some time, been a topic for scholars in interested in the role of science and technology in ‘society’ where the discipline’s practices and technoscientific ‘objects’ have been studied as a newly recognized source of knowledge production, expertise and politics. On the other hand, design scholars and practitioners have exhibited a sustained interest in STS in order to inform and theorize their own practices and analysis, notably the conceptualisation of technology-user relations by way of actor-network theory, the historical analysis of design, the symmetrical acknowledgement and inclusion of human and non-human actors in participatory research and the engagement of publics in democratic processes. Against this complex and variegated backdrop, design and STS scholars have also been engaging in interdisciplinary collaborations that productively combine aspects of practice-led research and process thought. Here, for example, designed devices (e.g. web-based visualization tools, cultural probes, computational appliances, software roBots) are designed, deployed and studied in-situ as part of inventive and so called speculative methods that acknowledge the active role of such techniques in shaping and manifesting the researched. As such, this theme explores engagements between design research and STS as topic, critical resource as well as interdisciplinary efforts where the crafting and experience of aesthetics is foregrounded as both a practical and theoretical concern and part of the reformulation of politics as cosmopolitics i.e. the modification of the social through designs and design research interventions.