Speculative design workshop – “Alternative present”
Arts Academy, University of Split | 23 – 28 March

Speculative design workshop
"Interakcije 2015: Alternative present"

Speculative design workshop Alternative presents will take place at the Arts Academy in Split, Croatia, from 23rd till 28th March 2015. The aim of the workshop is to imaging alternative presents by questioning today’s use of the technology in urban environments. Focus is not the technology itself, but the wider social implication of emerging technologies and the ways we interact with it. Throughout the workshop participants will design alternative narrative experiences, systems and technologies.

The workshop offers participants the unique experience of multidisciplinary group work that enables them to perceive design as different way of thinking – reflective, critical and socially responsible.

Workshop will be lead by trans-disciplinary designers Liam Healy and Dionysia Mylonaki, from London, with assistance by Oleg Šuran (Pula) and Pika Novak (Ljubljana).

Students (bachelor and master) from variety of different fields (design, arts, psychology, sociology, architecture, engineering, urbanism, etc.) will take part in the multidisciplinary team aiming to go beyond the limits of design definitions and re-thinking what design is today.

Speculative methodology

Design practice is grounded in observation and understanding of our world, and it seeks to articulate our needs, desires and expectations in product and services. What happens when we need to extend that horizon in order to identify emergent themes? How do you begin to design concepts when you don’t know what the design space will look like or who the user population will be? Speculative design approach and practice is stimulating new research strategy for exploring the space that lies beyond current and the now.

Speculative design, includes (or it is a synonym for) a series of similar conceptual design practices, design about ideas: critical design, design fiction, design futures, antidesign, radical design, interrogative design, discursive design, adversarial design, futurescaping, design art, etc. It is about detachment from the commercial design perspective which is marketled.

In speculative practice models and prototypes are used for questioning, while fiction is used to present alternative products, services, systems or worlds – in order to facilitate discourse with a broad audience, from experts in the field to the consumers and users of technological products and systems (Auger). It explores new roles, contexts and methods for design in relation to social, cultural and ethical influences of new technologies, but also there is a strong potential in the large-scale social and political issues, such as democracy, sustainability or even alternative to existing economic models (Dunne and Raby). Speculative design methodology has a broad range of aplications in a contemporary design practice, from “everyday” design challenges, via industry, to university research.

Alternative presents

This year workshop will deal with “alternative presents”. Alternative presents as a speculative methodology is intended to question and critique contemporary use of technology. Participants are going to re-imagine the present creating a parallel urban technological reality. This specific technique offers a rich narrative potential for re-thinking and critiquing technological developments as well as the contemporary world (Auger). The themes of the fiction can be extremely broad, from large-scale socio-political themes to the small everyday habits.

Participants will use critical design inquiry to discuss, discover and define the design space working as a team. These alternative presents scenarios, embedded as fictional products, services or narratives, will articulate concepts and communicate ideas. Creation of alternative words and social relations will be used to question the current social, technological and cultural relations. Imaginary worlds are exceptional source of designers’ inspiration when questioning the past, present and future. The ancient city of Split, now-days emerging urban touristic destination, hopefully will offer inspiring context for alternative presents case studies.


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Design as discursive practice

Modern vision of design as profession see design as practical activity for solving problems mostly detected by other professions (e.g. economy, sociology, philosophy), lead by industrial demands, in order to produce better life (better – as was perceived by modernistic vision). Design was perceived as “service” activity, which will solve problems for its clients. Rapid development of information technology focused design event more toward consumer level.

Kršic states that especially in the age of digitalisation, virtualisation, when the design of mass produced objects is more and more replaced by designing services, interfaces, interactions, etc., design should be observed as a discourse practice. He stress that works of design cannot be viewed as just static and pretty objects made by some genius author, “products” of design are events in time, they change meaning, roles, uses, and functions.

Designers today are focusing more on cultural implications of technology use through the critical design practice, and not exclusively on the technology itself. Rodgers and Smyth in their book Digital Blur: Creative Practice at the Boundaries of Architecture, Design and Art discuss the changes in the practice. New generation of practitioners is emerging, practitioners who are blurring the boundaries between traditional disciplines (art, engineering, fashion, architecture, etc.). They act at the intersections between art, design and technology.

Interakcije

Department of Visual Communications Design (Arts Academy, University of Split) initiated a series of workshops as an introduction to the interaction design in the region. The workshops promote a multidisciplinary educational approach started with the successful Convivio Summer School in 2004, which continued with UrbanIxD summer school in 2014. UrbanIxD summer school was based on the "Interakcije" concept – eight years of interaction design workshops experience.

Themes of the previous workshops were: Communities in Transition; People-Centered Methodology; Public Spaces; Relations between Technology, Interactions and Learning; Invisible Cities, Hybrid Cities and Real Utopias. Workshops were led by well-known international experts, practitioners and academics coming from: i>iRoyal Institute of Technology – KTH, Stockholm; Limerick School of Art and Design, University of Limerick; California State University East Bay; School of Arts and Creative Industries, Edinburgh Napier University; Royal College of Art (RCA), London; Konstfack – University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm; Birmingham City University; Coventry University in Design; Swedish Interactive Institute.

So far, 180 students attended the workshops – students of visual communications, new media design, interaction and product design, fine arts, architecture, computer science, ICT, film and video, and sociology, all from the major Croatian Universities and other Universities in the region – University of Ljubljana and Schools of Design in Belgrade and Cetinje.

Workshops have traveled outside Croatia, at the Magdalena Festival of Creative Communications in Maribor; Academy of Fine Arts, Sarajevo; Faculty of Fine Arts, Cetinje. Projects were presented at the exhibitions and festivals in the region and awarded at the Biennial exhibition of Croatian design and Zagreb Salon of the Applied Arts and Design.

Faculty and participants

The coordinator and workshop leader is assistant professor Ivica Mitrovic from the Department of Visual Communications Design. Workshop ateliers will be lead by Liam Healy, trans-disciplinary designer from London (tutor on the design course at Goldsmiths) and Dionysia Mylonaki, designer and artist, also from London (guest tutor on Royal College of Art), assisted by Oleg Šuran (Fazan, Pula) and Pika Novak (Institute for Transmedia Design, Ljubljana). More then 20 students from various academic fields, both from Croatian universities and from the regional countries, will participate in the workshop. Projects developed during the workshop will be presented at a public presentation at the Arts Academy on the last day of the workshop. All projects will be documented on the workshop’s web site. With sucessfull completion of the workshop, each student will gain 1.5 ETCS.

Workshop is supported by The City of Split and Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia.