EAD2019 – European Academy of Design

EAD2019 is the 13th European Academy of Design (EAD) International Conference held at Dundee, Scotland, 10-12 April 2019. As the conference title ‘Running with Scissors’ shows, the discipline of design has been evolving and changing quite rapidly in recent years.

All the keynote lecturers, Craig VogelIngrid van der Wacht and Ravi Naidoo in particular, were very enthusiastic about and proud of what they have done as entrepreneurs as well as educators. Unlike other academic conference speakers, their confident, cheerful and somewhat provocative talks were really fascinating and enjoyable.

  • Aslihan Tece Bayrak ‘Games as a catalyst for design for social innovation. Unlocking legendary tools’
    A nice study on social impacts of game and game designs, with an emphasis on user attention to dystopian future worlds. Problems raised in her presentation have much in common with the PEPPER project – society is complex; public engagement is hard in activating citizens’ tacit knowledge and engaging them for action; and the target is moving that requires design for and with emergence.
  • Farnaz Nickpour ‘Design meets death. A case of critical discourse and strategic contributions’ & Marieke Sonneveld ‘Lessons from designing for end-of-life’
    These two positioning papers examine how design can contribute to end-of-life as a relatively unnoticed issue in social design, by proposing conceptual and practical shifts from conventional design approaches – which are more transdisciplinary, interventional and oriented to problem framing; from human-centred design to relation-centred design; and from self-efficiency to together-efficiency.
  • Emilia Veselova & A. Idil Gaziulusoy ‘Implications of the bioinclusive ethic on collaborative and participatory design’
    A path-breaking paper in design conference in the sense that stakeholders include natural things that are based in the idea of ‘bioinclusive ethic’ by Freya Mathews. Questions remain in terms of inter-species communication and appropriate involvement (who and how represents), but this surely resonates the recent development of object-oriented approaches in philosophy, sociology and human-computer interaction.
  • Franziska Pilling & Paul Coulton ‘Forget the singularity, its mundane artificial intelligence that should be our immediate concern’
    It is curious to see that the session for ‘artificial realities’ and that for ‘co-designing with nature’ address somewhat similar concerns and concepts but not many attendees were well aware of such interdisciplinary intersections. This paper clearly refers to the idea of object-oriented ontology and depicts the whole picture of flat interactions between humans and non-humans.
  • Matthew Pilling, Daniel Richards, Nick Dunn & Allan Rennie ‘Social design fiction. New methods for the design of emerging technology’
    Yes, designing future society becomes more important but more difficult than the design of emerging technology. With the aphorism from Black Mirror ‘our technologies mirror our society’ in mind, they tried to engage more general public in visioning our desirable futures (cf. Strange Telemetry) when catching visitors at Bluedot (music fes) and Electromagnetic Field (camp fes). More diverse engagement might be possible in such unusual locations but interactions and deliberations on ethical, cultural and political implications of emerging technologies at a deeper level would be more challenging.

Dundee Dice Walk, organised by Paul Hardman, is a way of moving through the city in a random but conscious way. This early-morning walk gave me a great opportunity not only to rediscover the relationship between the city and myself but also to redefine what and how we can do under the names of ‘design’ and ‘academic conference’.

At the end of the day, the first attendance at a design conference was really inspirational, intriguing and informative. Mapping what’s going on now in design research leads me to believe that design researchers have also been struggling to frame complex social problems and risk issues, implement transdisciplinary collaborations, transcend human-centred approaches, and find a hope in the ever-worsening planet.