Tag Archives: conversation

The Practice of Constructive Design Research

– a conversation during:

DRS 2014 conference Logo

This year’s DRS conference was redesigned. Apart from regular paper sessions, the program now featured a debate at the start of each day and the new format of ‘Conversations’.

The (open) format of a conversation seemed to me very well suited for the methodological thread I have been spinning in my project. In a previous post I discussed a paper I wrote for the IASDR’13 conference regarding my search for methodological support in existing discourse on Research through Design/Constructive Design Research.
For the conversation at DRS2014 the intent was to bring the daily practices of design researchers in this field to the forefront and avoid more abstract reflections.

Actually, the intent initially was to approach possible reasons for much of the discourse in Constructive Design Research to be centered on: its academic standing, the kinds of knowledge contributions it provides and the forms and formats it is published in. Those reasons may have to do with the various and possibly disparate academic backgrounds of people practicing this kind of research.
But that, again, could very quickly become an abstract , political discussion, of little practical use for projecting and navigating my own project. So instead I decided to leave those issues implicit at this point.

My conversation at DRS2014 was titled: The Practice of Constructive Design Research.
Catalysts (=invited participants) for the conversation were researchers in this field: Lorenzo Davoli, Mahmoud KeshavarzPierre Lévy and Ambra Trotto.
In order to feed and frame the conversation, I made a video containing statements taken from interviews with more consolidated researchers: Pelle Ehn, Daniel Fällman, Caroline Hummels, Johan Redström and John Zimmerman.
In the interviews, ranging from 15 minutes to a full hour, many things were discussed that I could not or did not want to use for the purpose of this conversation. They were very rich for developing my ideas in various ways. I’m still thinking about what and in what form to publish regarding those.

The conversation was well received it seems. There was a good number of people in the room and many people joined in. We received much positive feedback on how the session went. For me it was a success in the way that the conversation seemed to develop consistently and we avoided too much abstraction.
Having spent many days on the preparations (interviews and editing the video), to me it felt like we only started scratching the surface of many aspects that I had hoped to dig into much deeper. Maybe my expectations were a bit ambitious for a 90 minutes discussion; maybe I set up the conversation still rather broad. All in all, I have (and am) learning a lot from reflecting on this event, both on the subject and on how to do these things.

Integral conversation

Conversation Starter video

All in all, this year’s DRS conference was one of the better conferences I have attended.
Throughout the conference there was a friendly critical and engaged atmosphere; there was incentive, time and space to exchange and actually develop ideas. The plenary debates at the start of each day I think were a great way to set the tone. The informal and friendly but knowledgeable and capable attitude of the organizers certainly gave a good example. Similarly the branding, graphics design and routing of the conference was simply well done (Art Direction by Marije de Haas). And then I think there are the difficult to grasp qualities of the isolated but international atmosphere of Umeå Arts Campus.