Academic Roles

At Goldsmiths I am the Director of Research at the Design Department and I am the Director of the MPhil/PhD programme in Design (with Bill Gaver). I also teach on the MA Design: Interaction Research (with Programme Leader Tobie Kerridge) and I teach on the BA Design.

Ph.D. Supervision

I am currently interested in the following areas of supervision: the sociology of science and technology; sociology and design; post-structuralist and process sociology; cosmopolitics; user-centered design & participatory design; interaction design; qualitative research methods especially related to micro-sociology; inventive research methods; design-led research methods; media & communications technology; healthcare technology; energy; sustainability & the environment; communities & publics in design and public understanding of science and technology.

PhD Students

  • Gionata Gatto (Loughborough University)
    Thesis title: Plant-Bots, the co-crafting of scenarios and the shaped publics: A research on plant-driven technologies probing public engagement with ‘Plant Intelligence’. Co-supervised with John McCardle, Loughborough University.
  • Tom Keene
    Thesis title: The housing database made visible: Regenerative politics, participation and design. Co-supervised with Graham Harwood.
  • Alison Thomson
    Thesis title: Re-doing patient experience through design-led research: considering the multiplicity and ontological politics of MS. Co-supervised with Bill Gaver.
  • Sarah Pennington
    Thesis title: Curating issues of concern: mediating critically engaged design. Co-Supervised with Janis Jeffries.
  • Matthew Plummer-Fernandez
    Thesis title: Making algorithms public: rendering visible the operations and politics of algorithmic Systems through critical design. Co-supervised with Bill Gaver.
  • Claude Saint-Arroman
    Space for boundary – space as place: An investigation into the design of architectural boundaries in residential mass housing, in the context of urban sustainability. Co-supervised with Juliet Sprake.

MPhil/PhD Design

Design Matters is the Department of Design’s postgraduate research seminars series which aims to support MPhil/PhD students in both practice and thesis-led doctoral research. The series consists of a combination of sessions focussed on the conceptual and methodological aspects of conducting postgraduate research in design as well as sessions devoted to supporting students in gaining practical expertise in various key academic practices. On top of this, the series will include presentations by guest speakers who will give some biographical insights into their experience of doing an advanced research degree and their career post-viva. The sessions are organised by myself and Bill Gaver, co-conveners of the MPhil/PhD programme in Design at Goldsmiths.

Design Matters Doctoral Seminar Series 2014-2015

Design Matters: Department of Design Postgraduate Research Seminars 2014-2015

Design Matters: Department of Design Postgraduate Research Seminars

Design Matters: Department of Design Postgraduate Research Seminars 2013-2014

MA: Interaction Design

From October 2013 I will be convening, alongside Tobie Kerridge, a brand new masters programme entitled MA Design: Interaction Research. Arguably, this is the first masters level course to explicitly combine design and STS. Grounded in Interaction Design, the programme will offer a unique synthesis of practice-based research and cutting edge sociological concepts and methods, and will equip students to play a leading role in the development and understanding of emerging technology in society. Building on Goldsmiths’ unique position in design-led and sociological research, students will learn how to shape designs through the collection and analysis of social data, employing cutting-edge research methods. This masters offers students a distinctive opportunity to challenge and develop their existing practice. Students will develop the skills and confidence to work in various settings where an understanding of design in society is key. Career paths include design in industry, independent design consultancy and academic research.

A catalogue of the Public Bodies brief, delivered with support from Microsoft Research. The Catalogue was designed by Liberty Dent.

A catalogue of the Public Bodies brief, delivered with support from Microsoft Research. The Catalogue was designed by Liberty Dent.

Over the past decade the discipline of Interaction Design has both matured and evolved. On the one hand, the discipline has become institutionalised as a design-led approach to technological development, where practitioners contribute to the formal definition of computational technology in industrial and academic settings. On the other hand, the principles and practice of Interaction Design have been mobilised as part of novel engagements between design and contemporary social, technological and political conditions. Here, interaction designers have recently engaged with the biotech industry and laboratory science, citizen science and the public understanding of science, alternative community groups and non-standard ways of living, activism and issue-based politics, the politics of web data, government policy, the delivery of health and social care services, as well as the radical reframing of participatory design as a democratic project. These developments correspond to a richly expanded view of the end-user, from that of user-consumers to one of prospective users as subjects and collectives situated in complex sociocultural and political-economic settings. Alongside such developments, interactive technology itself increasingly pervades everyday life, as witnessed by the rise of web 3.0 and online social platforms, and the ubiquity of products and devices that link to such platforms.

A catalogue of the Public Bodies brief, delivered with support from Microsoft Research. The Catalogue was designed by Liberty Dent.

A catalogue of the Public Bodies brief, delivered with support from Microsoft Research. The Catalogue was designed by Liberty Dent.

There is now a pressing need to renew the delivery of Interaction Design at postgraduate level to provide students with the practical, methodological and theoretical tools to enable their practice and understanding to reflect the range of technical and social issues relevant for contemporary interactive systems. Equally, there is an opportunity to present Interaction Design in a way that builds on traditions of design and social science interdisciplinary collaborations and that capitalizes on emerging trends, in academic research and industry, where design research and design practice increasingly draws on the concepts and methods of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and where STS looks to design for methodological innovation and experimental modes of engagement.

MA: Interaction Design Degree Show Poster.

MA: Interaction Design Degree Show Poster.

The Interaction Research Studio (IRS), part of the Department of Design, is a world-leading group of academic researchers specialising in exploring the design of computational systems for everyday life. The practice-based research activities of the studio integrate design-led research methods with work on embedded and ubiquitous technologies to produce electronic devices that embody new concepts for computationally mediated interaction. Integral to their work is the long-term deployment of the devices they build into everyday settings, where participants’ engagements reveal both the potentials of the systems and the range of orientations and activities people find engaging more broadly.

This context, as well as ongoing collaborations between the Department of Design and the Department of Sociology, will allow the MA Design: Interaction Research (MADIR) programme to deliver research-led teaching that provides graduates with specialized practical expertise in Interaction Design as well as a grounding in both sociological and design-led methods for empirical research and conceptual development.

MA Design & Environment

The MA in Design and Environment addresses the intersection of design and environmental issues from the perspectives of both theory and practice-based study. In distinction to other programmes in the area, the programme undertakes an intensive inquiry into environmental discourses and practices, and maintains that such an inquiry enables creative projects that would not be possible in other contexts. In this sense, the MA establishes a critical-creative setting in which you can challenge existing theory and practice and explore ways to expand your own research and practice.

Researching Design and Environment explores the means through which we know about – and find out about – design and the environment. We examine research paradigms, including what kinds of questions can be explored through observing and engaging in practice, and what questions emerge through empirical, critical and theoretical inquiry. We explore methodologies; create new research tools; and analyse and present research in new ways for the purposes of specific users and audiences.

As part of Researching Design and Environment I run a brief entitled ‘Controversy and Publics: Mapping Issue Networks’. In this project students are asked to identify and map an issue related to their ongoing research. They are asked to develop 3 design proposals for a chosen issue. These design proposals then contribute to their design research proposals as investigations into the key issues relating to their project. The potential of designing artifacts and services as a means to engage publics around particular issues, or ‘matters of concern’ suggests that design can be employed as a means to explore and intervene in emerging environmental and sociotechnical matters. This brief is therefore an opportunity for students to define an emerging user group and propose how they – as designers – might participate in an issue through a design outcome or intervention.

BA Design: Studio Practice

Using an interdisciplinary approach to design learning, this degree allows you to develop your own creative approach to a multitude of design disciplines. The programme sets out to advance your ability to think creatively about the possibilities of design. You will be asked to engage with a diverse set of critical and practical ideas that will enable you to push traditional notions of design, including extending the practices in graphics, furniture, product, interaction, and multimedia design.

BA Design: Methods and Processes

The course begins with an introduction to the methods and processes in design. Students examine whether and what methods and processes exist in their work currently. They also question whether the analysis of creative processes is necessary in developing themselves as designers. And if it is how, and in what way may different methods and processes be used to produce shifts in design outcomes. The first section of the course focuses on drawing. The second section engages with prototyping and model making. The third section provides the students with an introduction to the concepts and methods of social research. As the course progresses these practical exercises elide with the studio projects. Students act on their studio projects within this course thereby understanding clearly how what they are taught in this course is useful in their own designing. In the second term the course focuses on research and ideation more generally.

As part of Methods and Processes I run a series of workshops entitled ‘Mapping Societies: Social Research for Designers’, which I also run with MA design students at Goldsmiths. The aim is to introduce the students to an empirical form of design practice drawing upon the concepts and methods of social research, particularly those of STS and ANT. I have also taught these workshops internationally.

BA Sociology: Researching Society and Culture (2006 – 2010)

This social research methods course aims to teach students to make the transition from reading sociological texts to designing and doing their own social research. It combines lectures that focus on the theory and rationale behind different methodological approaches with workshops in which students learn different approaches and techniques during seminars. This course includes the following topics:

  • Ethnographic Research
  • The Use of Biographical Methods in Ethnography
  • The Case for Quantitative Sociology
  • Modelling Quantitative Data
  • Understanding and Doing Discourse Analysis
  • Semiotics and Reading Signs
  • Oral History
  • Focus Group Interviews
  • Visual Methods
  • Designing a Research Project
  • Conducting On-Line Research
  • Semi-structured Interviews
  • Research Design in Quantitative Sociology
  • Researching the Importance of Social Space
  • Researching Across Difference
  • Researching ‘‘Sensitive Topics’’
  • Ethics as Process and Practice

Courses Taught

BA Design, Goldsmiths
MA: Interaction Design, Goldsmiths
MA in Design – Critical Practice, Goldsmiths
MA Design & Environment, Goldsmiths
BA Sociology, Goldsmiths

Institutions Taught At

Goldsmiths, University of London
University of California Los Angeles: Design Media Arts
Art Center College of Design, Pasadena: Media Design
The Danish Design School
IT University of Copenhagen

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