Making contested futures: a politics of designing with people

Agid, S 2016, Making contested futures: a politics of designing with people, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Agid.pdf Thesis application/pdf 18.68MB
Title Making contested futures: a politics of designing with people
Author(s) Agid, S
Year 2016
Abstract This PhD research explores how collaborative relationships and capacities for critical knowledge making emerge and are formed through embedded, situated design with people. It focuses especially on designing in the context of working for social and political change. I conducted the project as an embedded designer-researcher with Critical Resistance (CR), a US-based grassroots organization seeking to end reliance on the interconnected systems of prisons, policing, surveillance, and other mechanisms for control and confinement. Reflecting on over two years of work with CR members, the research proposes the importance of attention to the dynamic situatedness of being a designer working with others in participatory and collaborative design, and to the specific contexts that inform and are created through such work.

This research builds on scholarship in Participatory Design, Service Design, and feminist and critical epistemology that emphasizes the value of collaborative identification of concerns and possibilities at multiple scales and also explores questions of power, position, and the socio-material and political nature of working with groups to make things and ideas. I suggest that collaborative relationships created through an ongoing practice of doing work together, and a designer’s capacities to be present for it, are a critical component of shaping and understanding participatory practices and what they can generate.

In my practice with CR, what we designed together both produced, and was made possible by, how we created ways of working together over time. My capacities and position as a designer in relationship to members’ work were determined by what was of use to the organizing, and through the means we made for sharing ideas, strategies, and goals. In this doctoral submission I argue for an approach to practice that prioritizes what I call “design co-authorship” in which collaborators shape both the contexts for designing and what is designed in the process of creating a shared practice. This requires a deep and explicit engagement by all participants with the dynamic mess of collaboration, including attention to the contradictions, differences, and open questions that emerge and become part of designing together. Working in such a shared practice is, ultimately, a way of creating not just artifacts, systems, or services, but collective knowing and action. Through these ontological and epistemological arguments, I assert that it is the relationships participants create and the knowledge made through them that come to define how designing matters in participatory and collaborative design.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Subjects Design Practice and Management not elsewhere classified
Cultural Theory
Design History and Theory
Keyword(s) Participatory design
Service design
Social justice
Relational practice
Design co-authorship
Prison industrial complex
Social design
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Created: Tue, 19 Jul 2016, 16:18:51 EST by Keely Chapman
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