Speculation, Design, Public and Participatory Technoscience: Possibilities and Critical Perspectives

Carl Disalvo (Georgia Institute of Technology), Tobie Kerridge (Goldsmiths, University of London) and myself are running the track ‘Speculation, Design, Public and Participatory Technoscience: Possibilities and Critical Perspectives’ at EASST 2010 in Trento, Italy, 2-4 September 2010.

Over the past decade there has been an increasing engagement between design and STS. One emerging and novel area of exchange is concerned with exploring the ways in which practices of ‘speculative design’ and STS concerns of publics, participation, politics as well as expectations come together to inform one another, to critique one another, and to collaborate in developing new modes of co-production of contemporary technoscience. Although such associations are promising, they are nascent and in need of articulation and critical examination.

For this track we are soliciting participation from STS scholars, design researchers and practicing designers. Our objective is to present a range of scholarly approaches and exemplary projects in order to critically explore the practices of Speculative Design.

The EASST_010 conference is the biennial forum of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) for contributions on topics from the range of disciplines found within science, technology and innovation studies. The particular focus for the 2010 conference is that of practice and performance. Science and technology, are seen as performative domains of the “social”, situated practices rooted and grown in a sociomaterial context.

More About the Track
By speculative design we refer to a set of design practices and outcomes that are moving away from common notions of design as “problem-solving” or “styling”, towards framing design as a means for surfacing and materialising issues and contributing to the formation of publics and futures. In this move, design is increasingly cast as a possible mode of intervention into technoscience, thereby establishing renewed associations with STS. With speculative design the performativity of the object comes to the fore as a concern for both designers and theorists, as its objects and outcomes are often brought into being to, and interpreted as, materially and discursively enacting values, identities, agendas and beliefs. A challenge for STS then is to describe and characterise the performativity of the objects of speculative design in new ways that avoid recourse to the familiar positions and debates concerning ‘the political of artefacts’.’

For this track we are solicit participation from STS scholars, design researchers and practicing designers. Our objective is to present a range of scholarly approaches and exemplary projects in order to explore and outline this field of convergence. Within the track, presentations will be organised thematically.

Key questions we hope to address include the following:

  • How does a convergence of STS and speculative design reframe the notion of intervention?
  • How does the convergence of STS and speculative design perform issues of politics and the political?
  • How does speculative design operate to articulate issues, and what are its limitations in these endeavours?
  • What kind of futures and expectations are performed in the doing of speculative design?
  • How can we understand novel objects and materiality as forms of engagement and involvement?
  • What are working strategies for supporting this convergence of STS and ‘speculative’ design?
  • What are the limitations of STS methodologies in contributing to the design process and analysing the objects of design?
  • What are limitations of design practice and methods to seriously taking up STS concepts and methodologies?

Making and Opening

Entangling Design and Social Science

24 September 2010, 9.00 – 5.30 | Ben Pimlott Building – Lecture Theatre | Goldsmiths, University of London

Design and social science disciplines intersect at a number of points. While there is excellent work exploring many of these points of contact, there is also a tendency for social science to treat design as a topic (eg what does design do and how might this be accounted for in sociological terms?), and for design to treat social science as a resource (eg what useful knowledge does sociology produce and how can this be deployed to model users or construct scenarios?).

This day conference will contribute to the move beyond this pattern. Collecting a group of leading practitioners in design and social science, the conference will present a series of dialogues and commentaries on a range of common, open issues:





In the process, the conference will explore possible, emergent interrelations and synergies between design and social science, for example: how might the practices of speculative or critical designers furnish social science with new insights into the study and articulation of society? How might social science’s interest in complexity contribute to the iterative process of making in design? Speakers will include: Bill Gaver, Pelle Ehn, Mike Michael, Bill Moggridge, Harvey Molotch, Michelle Murphy, Lucy Suchman, Nina Wakeford.

This conference is limited to 60 delegates. To book a place please contact: Sociology@gold.ac.uk. £15.00 Full Price £10.00 Concessions. Sponsored by: Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process, Interaction Research Studio, Incubator for Critical Inquiry into Technology and Ethnography. This event is financially supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and is part of London Design Festival.

Making and Opening
Poster for the Making and Opening conference.

The Objects of Design and Social Science

The Objects of Design and Social Science is the title of a series of seminars for this academic years at Goldsmiths. The programme has been put together by the Interaction Research Studio and the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process. The topic of objects is used as a device to hopefully pull out some intersections within the practices of social scientists and designers.

Below is a list of presenters and dates for these seminars, which are free and open to all. They take place at 4:00pm-6:00pm, at the Interaction Research Studio, 6th Floor, Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW.

Autumn Term 2009

Seminar 1 – Wednesday October 14th
Introducing the Objects of Design and Social Science
With: Bill Gaver, Tobie Kerridge, Mike Michael & Alex Wilkie, Goldsmiths

Seminar 2 – Wednesday November 4th
Buildings as Things
With: Albena Yaneva, The University of Manchester

Seminar 5 – Wednesday November 18th
Speculative and Critical Objects
With: James Auger, Royal College of Art & Jimmy Loizeau, Goldsmiths

Spring Term 2010

Seminar 4 – Wednesday January 27th
Objects and Services
With: Chris Downs

Seminar 5 – Wednesday February 17th
From Objects to Issues?
With: Noortje Marres, Oxford University

Seminar 6 – Wednesday March 10th
Object Fair
With: Bill Gaver, Tobie Kerridge, Mike Michael & Alex Wilkie, Goldsmiths

Poster for the Design and Social Science Seminar Series.