16 May 2011

Endless End EAD09

Earlier this month I was at the 9th International European Academy of Design conference, at the Universidade do Porto, Portugal. The overarching concept for the event was ‘Endless End’ as, “[t]here is a sense of vertigo permeating contemporary culture as a whole, and design in particular. So much so, that we often find ourselves wondering if design as we have known it still matters.  Design seems to have lost its universe of focus, branching exponentially into a multitude of concerns and activities formerly situated well beyond its scope. Likewise, design seems to be the new interest of so many professionals situated outside its area of expertise…”

6 themes ran through the conference –

Locality - the role of design in specific social and cultural environments,
Liquidity - design´s redefined and expanding territories
Nomadism - design actively searching for new areas and tools of expertise

Involvement - design as a catalyst for change and progress
Vertigo - 
envisioning what´s ahead, calibrating past inheritances
Education - how can design be taught in era of multiplicity and open creativity?

They were not ‘closed’ themes rather they are open-ended, open to transformation.

It was under the theme of ‘Liquidity’ that I presented the 5-year project ‘Past, Present and Future Craft Practice’, introducing the team and their research, exposing our craft studies through jewellery, metalwork, textiles, interactive media design and film. I talked about the shift in how we communicate craft, how we value craft and its practitioners and how we invest in its future in a collegiate manner.

Of interest to the audience was the new visualization method devised as part of the study whereby I looked to investigate effective new ways of communicating craft. Understanding craft practice as a life-world rather than an object or product of making was the direction. Capturing the layers of activity in a person’s life that have affected their thinking - for example, teaching, travelling, writing, making, exhibiting, hobbies/past-times, people – and mapping these over a ten-year period, the visualization of craft practice offered insight into the circumstances and environments that support and/or hinder creative development.


In addition, the craft as mindful inquiry study suggests an opportunity to re think how we categorise craft, positioning a classification system that doesn’t heavily rely on the issue of materiality but focuses on its cultural significance, thereby offering an approach to knowledge exchange that transcends subject and discipline specialisms – for example, positioning craft as a social, political and/or meditative product.

Questions after the presentation are always critical to the development of a researcher’s ideas and theories. The one that has lingered was from Professor Mike Press who asked, ‘what is the significance of your method and methodology to other disciplines, including design?” It seems an obvious question to ask, but one that no-one has, til now. My response noted 'progressiveness' as the generic issue - how a person, not just crafts people, can measure and improve their performance, levels of creativity and innovation. However, there remained a ‘niggle’. Upon further reflection, I realise that the various research outputs we have successfully delivered (for example the book, website and research papers) give some insight, but the ‘significance’ has yet to be discussed, directly…So, I seem to have found a next step for my research and understanding of its impact!

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