Module 4: Interventional and Workshop Methodologies

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The materials, systems and relationalities that are central to design ethnography provide opportunities for intervention that can advance research understandings. This can happen in the field, as researchers prompt changes to established ways of doing things, or in purposefully designed workshops where participants are invited to reflect on their experiences and imagine new ways of doing things. Prototypes can play a role in both these examples, as people speculate or learn through making things, or as prompts, props and probes created by researchers generate new insights. The capacity to be uncertain or open-ended makes design interventions, prototypes and workshops valuable, as does the collaboration and cooperation that is often required with such approaches.

This Module will explicitly incorporate design theory and practice, showing how co-design processes can come together with ethnographic research. Students will explore how design practice can be integrated into other fields of inquiry to creative and generative effect, including through prototypes intended to animate research conversations with participants. From specific and directed questions about technology design in the field of Human-Computer Interaction, to the careful practice of attuning to ‘everyday design’ in various settings, the materials in the Module will show different ways that interventional and workshop-based approaches play out in practice.

Accordingly, the videos address:

  • Open-ended prototyping, and video conversations as design interventions, particularly through field material drawn from Melisa Duque’s PhD research.
  • Design as an integrative practice and participatory prototyping, which discusses how designers can collaborate with other disciplines and its integration of ethnographic methodologies.
  • The design workshop as a methodology, by recognised authority and Module leader Prof Lisa Grocott

The reading list extends the video content with additional examples of the use of design probes, and links to Lab members’ projects where trialling devices in homes was a form of research intervention. Yoko Akama, Sarah Pink and Shanti Sumartojo’s co-authored 2018 book Uncertainty and Possibility: New Approaches to Future Making in Design Anthropology, which details the generative possibilities of uncertainty in the different formats of various design workshops, rounds out the reading list.

Learning outcomes

  • Students will learn how design and ethnography connect through the specific practices of workshopping and prototyping.
  • They will also be able to consider how purposeful design interventions can instantiate collaboration with research participants and prompt new research insights.

Design as an integrative practice and participatory prototyping

The Co-Design Workshop

Reading list