ID707 Critique of Design I Syllabus for 2019-2020

This year we move our focus away from conventional “cultural” analysis toward “material” analysis. In the first module we’ll be interested in actor-network theory, including design researchers’ take on ANT. In the second module, we’ll be interested in “material engagements.” With readings from postphenomenology (Ihde etc.), material engagement theory of Malafouris and ecological anthropology of Ingold.

Here is the syllabus. (Updated 11 November 2019)

Completed thesis: Duygu Vatan on the Smart Village as DSI

Duygu Vatan has successfully completed her Master’s thesis, titled “Design for Social Innovation for rural development in Turkey: Actor relationships in the Smart Village project” in August 2019 (supervision: Harun Kaygan). Her work investigated the social innovation strategies of the designers of the Smart Village toward integrating smart agricultural technological into village life. In ethnographic work at the village, she looked into five different strategies: (1) crop selection facilitating technologies, (2) the plant breeding plot, (3) the smart pasture, (4) entrepreneurial development program, and (5) miscellaneous trainings. Her conclusions regard the different ways in which the villagers and the designers were co-constituted in the five strategies, and their successes and failings.

Paper at EASST2018 on The Uses of ANT in Design

At the EASST 2018 Conference: Making Science, Technology and Society Together, we presented a paper on the ways in which design scholars have made use of ANT-inspired methodologies. Here is our abstract:

Ali O. Ilhan, Harun Kaygan and Sebnem Timur Ogut, “Uses of ANT in design research: towards a critical dialogue”

Actor Network Theory (ANT) has been increasingly utilized in recent design literature, albeit often with a celebratory rather than critical tone.ANT indeed provides a powerful toolbox to untangle complex technoscientific assemblages, yet—like any other large framework—it is not without its shortcomings. We argue that ANT’s full potential in design research can only be realized through a critical lens.

To this end, we review four distinct uses of ANT terminologies in design research. These are (a) theoretical introductions for design researchers, (b) ANT analyses of design products, which typically foreground the concept of nonhuman agency, (c) ANT analyses of design processes, which often return to Callon and Law’s early work, and (d) the uses of ANT concepts, and especially Latour’s writings, to theoretically ground co-design practices. For each of these headings, we identify key opportunities and potential pitfalls by turning to the original theory and its well-established critiques such as the problematic status of the notion of non-human agency, problem of managerialism and disregard for existing social structures.

We argue that such a critical dialogue with design research can be beneficial also for the STS field at large. Despite its increased relevance today with regard to material, organizational and social change, the agency of design is still largely missing from STS accounts. We demonstrate that current engagements with ANT in design literature provides questions and arguments that complements the STS interest in the mutual shaping of the social and the technological.

We are working on publishing a paper on this, so wish us luck (and perseverance).

A pen that ‘looks like a CEO in a business suit’: gendering the fountain pen

New article about the gendering of the fountain pen is published, co-authored by Harun Kaygan, Pınar Kaygan and Özümcan Demir.

This article investigates the gendering of the fountain pen as a product category mainly used in the office environment. It draws on hobbyists’ accounts and evaluations of fountain pen use from online forums. The accounts suggest that hobbyists perceive the fountain pen market to take executive men as its authentic user group, whereas pens that target women often reflect stereotypical femininities. At the office, this gendering process impacts users’ everyday experiences especially with reference to the managerial norms that govern the use of suits and accessories, since the fountain pen is considered by its users as part of an array of men’s status objects. The article contributes to the literature on the gendering of artifacts by describing a hegemonic manner in which artifacts are gendered, that is, as a range of products that target diverse masculinities and femininities in contradistinction to a single, masculine product type.

Find the article here.

Material Semiotics of Form Giving: The Case of the Electric Turkish Coffee Pot

DI 32.2 Figure 3

New article on Design Issues 32:2, Spring 2016. Here is the abstract:

The article discusses material semiotics as a valuable framework for the analysis of design processes, and focuses on form giving practices. For this purpose, the design processes of electric Turkish coffee pots are studied through interviews and document analyses. It is argued that neither form giving nor product form can be considered to be singular or stable throughout a design process, and that semantic and material relations that are built and maintained around the product form need to be traced for a fuller understanding.

Download the article here.