Interakcije (eng. Interactions) is an informal educational platform at the Department of Visual Communicational Design at the Arts Academy in Split, connected with its master program module Interactive media. Main activities are organization of workshops, publishing and exhibitions.
Activities started in 2001 (during summer school at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea) with first event in 2004, the International Interaction Design Summer School “Convivio – Communities in Transition”. However, with time the methodology changed its focus from the user-centered, participatory and critical interaction design toward speculative approach.
In 2009. Arts Academy hosted International Interaction Design Symposium “Research and Education”. Collaboration at the FP7 FET project “Urban IxD – Designing Human Interactions in the Networked City” (2013-2014) resulted with highly successful UrbanIxD Summer School followed by the “City | Data | Future – Interactions in Hybrid Urban Space” exhibition (and catalogue). As follow-up of the “City | Data | Future” exhibition in 2015, an educational reader “Introduction to Speculative Design Practice – Eutropia, a Case Study” was published (in collaboration with Croatian Designers Association) as the part of the “Design fiction: Eutropia – Introduction to Speculative Design Practice” exhibition.
Split hosted among others, following names as workshop leaders and lecturers: James Auger, Tuur Van Balen, Nelly Ben Hayoun, Nicolas Nova, Liam Young, Noam Toran, Tobias Revell, Anab Jain, Demitrios Kargotis and Dash Macdonald (Dashndem), Michael Smyth, Steffen P. Walz, Chris Hand, Victor Vina, Erik Sandelin and Magnus Torstensson (Unsworn industries), Gordan Savičić, Martin Avila, Liam Healy, Dionysia Mylonaki and many more.
So far, more than 450 participants took part in the Interakcije educational activities. Some of these activities were presented in 2013 as the overview of interaction design workshops and methodology in exhibition “Interakcije 2004 – 2012”, hosted in the Croatian Designers Association gallery in Zagreb.
Speculating through Design
From the modernist perspective, design has been primarily regarded as a problem-solving practice, primarily addressing the clients’ needs. However, design has always been a discursive practice. Today design is once again positioned at the centre of the interrelations of various disciplines, no longer through a complete (modernistic) synthesis, but, above all, through their interaction. It is no surprise, therefore, that an increasing number of designers is taking upon some new approaches to design. These “new designers” are acting on the edges of traditionally defined disciplines, removing the borders between them.
In their research, “new designers” relate to diverse fields of science, primarily computer sciences and engineering, sociology, psychology, architecture, and, in the recent times, increasingly to biotechnology, all with the goal of critically reflecting on the development and role of technology in society. Designers re-think the role of technology in everyday life, not dealing with the applications of technology, but with its implications. Turning away from the commercial aspects of design with the focus on the demands of the market, they are now engaged with a broader social context. The “new designers” use design as a medium and focus on concepts and artifacts, in which, rather than solving problems, they ask questions and open issues to discussion.
Speculative design is a discursive practice, based on critical thinking and dialogue, which questions the practice of design (and its modernist definition). However, the speculative design approach extends its critical practice one step further, towards imagination and visions of possible scenarios. Speculative design is also one of the most representative examples of the new interaction of disciplines. It is therefore interesting to see how new designers view their practice: they call themselves trans-disciplinary, post-disciplinary or even post-designers, quite often even simply – designers. However, occasionally they do not even indicate that their perspective is design at all.
Interakcije workshops offer participants experience of multidisciplinary group work that enables them to perceive design as a different way of thinking – reflective, critical and socially responsible. Students (bachelor and master) from variety of different fields (design, arts, psychology, sociology, architecture, engineering, urbanism, etc.) are taking parts in the multidisciplinary team aiming to go beyond the limits of design definitions and re-thinking what design is today.
Participants use critical design inquiry to discuss, discover and define the design space working as a team. These scenarios embedded as fictional products, services or narratives, articulate concepts and communicate ideas. Creation of alternative words and social relations are 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 workshops promote a multidisciplinary educational approach started with Convivio Summer School in 2004, which continued with UrbanIxD Summer School in 2014 based on the Interakcije concept – eight years of workshops experience. Themes of the previous workshops were: Alternative Present (2015), Real Utopias (2012), Hybrid City (2011), Invisible Cities (2010), Technology, Interactions and Learning (2009), Public Spaces (2008), People-Centered Methodology (2007) and Communities in Transition (2004).
Workshops were led by well-known international experts, practitioners and academics coming from: Royal 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; Goldsmiths, London and many more.
So far, more than 200 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 travelled 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.