Carl DiSalvo: Speculative Design for Speculative Agricultures


Carl DiSalvo speaking at the Design and Social Science Seminar

Carl DiSalvo was our guest speaker at this weeks Design and Social Science Seminar Series. I was most struck by his articulation of the notion of ‘Public Design’ as opposed to Critical and Speculative Design. In part, this included working with people’s alternative farming practices and instantiating their ‘politics’ through robotic devices co-designed during workshop events.

Here’s the abstract for his talk:

Speculative Design for Speculative Agricultures

Speculative design is a way of using design to explore and express possible futures and alternative presents. Oftentimes it is a practice of experts that is conducted in studios and circulated through exhibitions. Recently however, there has been a turn towards speculative design as a mode of public engagement, as a means of increasing participation in critical discourses of techno-science. In this talk I will present the growBot Garden project: a project developed to investigate co-design approaches to speculation in the context of small-scale agriculture.

The growBot Garden project is structured around a series of public design workshops that draw from practices of participatory design and tactical media. In these workshops, people come together to collaboratively make speculative representations and prototypes of alternative agricultural futures. These representations and prototypes are documented and shared through public forums to provoke consideration of new assemblages that might emerge at the intersection of technology and agriculture.

The growBot Garden project, then, functions as both a platform for engagement and for reflection on the nature of that engagement. Far from producing stylized objects or concise critiques, the events and artifacts of the project are rough hewn and incomplete. In this talk I will share the structure of the project and discuss the ways in which the project raises, but does not resolve, questions of the role of design in the articulation of issues,  the construction of publics, and co-design approaches to speculation, and challenges designers and design scholars to reconsider patterns of circulation and effect.

And here’s Carl’s bio:

Carl DiSalvo’s research explores the design of events, objects, and spaces that prompt creative and critical engagements with emerging technologies and the ways in which design functions as political expression. Since 2007 he has been an assistant professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where established The Public Design Workshop to investigate the role of design in shaping and enabling public discourse and action. His current work is focused on participatory and speculative design for small-agriculture.  In 2006 he received a Ph.D. in Design from Carnegie Mellon University. From 2006 – 2007 he was a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie Mellon University with joint appointments in the Studio for Creative Inquiry and the Center for the Arts in Society. His research has been funded by Intel and the National Science Foundation, and he has published in Design Issues and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) conferences on Human-Computer Interaction and Participatory Design.

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