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Kaptur interviews: Goldsmiths, University of London
 

Kaptur interviews: Goldsmiths, University of London

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    Kaptur interviews: Goldsmiths, University of London Kaptur interviews: Goldsmiths, University of London Document Transcript

    • Interviews KAPTUR 28th October 2011KAPTURGoldsmiths, probing interviewsTahani Nadim, Kaptur Project OfficerI’ve carried out 2 initial interviews, one with a design-researcher (Design Department),the other with an artist-researcher (Art Department). Both interviews wereunstructured and took the shape of a conversation about the nature of research data indesign and art, respectively. I was familiar with both interviewees prior to theinterviews through my work in the Sociology Department and in managing GoldsmithsResearch Online. Each interview lasted about 40 minutes and notes were inputteddirectly into my laptop.1. Design-researcherThe researcher situates himself between 2 disciplines: sociology and design. There is atension in that the former is more concerned about the way in which data is producedwhereas the latter, design, looks at what to do with it. Sociology has very formalmethods for the production of research data. In design, issues have been addressed,sometimes heatedly, around what counts as data and how design is meant to positionitself vis-à-vis data. Should design draw from exiting methodological approaches? Orshould it rely on its own disciplinary heritage? Is design practice also about definingnew ways of producing and working with data?Within the social sciences there are efforts towards rethinking methods and rethinkingthe nature of data. This work is often done by people who are positioned in betweendisciplines or who work alongside people of different disciplines such as NoortjeMarres1 (sociology and design), Nina Wakeford2 (sociology, design and art), Alex Wilkie3(sociology and design). Projects such as Energy and Co-Designing Communities (ECDC)4point to some of the more innovative ways in which research data is being produced andworked with.1 http://www.gold.ac.uk/sociology/staff/marres/2 http://www.studioincite.com/people/nina.html3 http://www.gold.ac.uk/design/staff/wilkie/4 http://www.ecdc.ac.uk/ 1
    • Interviews KAPTUR 28th October 2011The researcher mentioned the PHD-DESIGN@jiscmail.ac.uk email list where issuesaround the production and application of research data form a continuous trope. On thislist, various figures within the "design academy" (that is, designers working inacademia) debate about how to conduct research and the value and role of data.Asked about designs disciplinary heritage in relation to research data, the researcherpointed to the sub-discipline of HCI (human computer interface) design: This began as acrossover between cognitive psychology and design and has made use of extensiveexperimental data. He also pointed to the ethnographic and participatory design comingout of Scandinavia under the umbrella of "action-research", in particular the work ofPelle Ehn.The researcher pointed out that one has to distinguish between design research in theacademy and design in the commercial world. He said that design education in placessuch as the RCA is very practice-oriented, bringing in professionals to teach studentsrather than providing theoretical reflections of the disciplines history and differentapproaches.Having run his own design consultancy prior to joining academia, the researcherstressed the fact that it was very much an integral part of his work to do and presentresearch. But the difference, he argued, between this and the academy is in theepistemology: why youre creating knowledge is different. In his consultancy work,knowledge was produced to further insights that lead to commercial opportunities. Inhis work for a multinational microchip producer, many of the designers assumed hybridroles: publish papers while also making prototypes.He provided a concrete example of the design of a new technology for elderly peoplesuffering from chronic disease. This was an "innovation project" which meant that itstarted off with a vague idea. The aim was to pin it down: identify a chronic disease inwhich they could intervene and where there was a big enough market. Asking him aboutthe kind of research undertaken, he listed the following: People did web searches; theylooked at existing technologies supporting diseases; they did market research intocompanies and organisations that deliver services for people with chronic diseases;some people researched form factors, that is, the aesthetics of devices; there were "in-home interviews" which are a very common technique in design where design andethnography intersect; 2
    • Interviews KAPTUR 28th October 2011In-home interviews include photographs of the habitat and setting as well as participantobservation. They had a doctor to look into medical aspects and computer scientistsresearching existing platforms and hardware solutions. All this generated masses ofvery heterogeneous data that was then presented at weekly meetings, brainstormmeetings; every week;The researcher noted that there are different settings in which data is curated. Inbrainstorm meetings, for example, the data gleaned from interviews is put on post-itnotes and arranged on a wall. This visualises the data in a way that tries to offer a"realistic representation": each interviewee has bit of data associated and this isspatially related (on the wall) sticking to a certain logic. However as the meetingprogresses, these post-it notes become rearranged. Thereby the data transforms from arealistic representation to a speculative one.Another kind of presentation described by the researcher is the PowerPoint: Here data"ends up" and is "enacted" in front of stakeholders or other interested parties. Itsinterpretation and presentation is neither flexible nor open. PPT presentations areabout relating a coherent and rational story.The researcher calls these different settings for data presentations "events" and arguedthat data can be handled very differently: sometimes the difference is subtle, sometimesit is more explicitly different. Most important for him in understanding and workingwith data is its fluidity and its heterogeneity.2. Artist-researcherThe second artist-researcher works in the Art Department (part-time). She is a painter.Aside from teaching and painting, she also curates projects and exhibitions.She views research data very much in terms of "academic work" which she situatesoutside her daily practice of painting. This, she finds very hard to articulate "asresearch". This is not because its not research but because it is conducted in such anexperiential way that cannot be taken out of and presented *outside* the (practice of)painting. Doing so, extrapolating and externalising research data from the process,would engage it in a structure which "seems uncomfortable". However, she is quitehappy to think and talk about research data in relation to the "projects" shes beenengaged with, in particular, the curatorial projects shes done. 3
    • Interviews KAPTUR 28th October 2011It is hard for her to talk about research and research data around her own studio workbecause her work is such a "material practice". She could say how translucent the colouris or how the image is an effect of constantly changing syntactic changes or how thepainting is painted after other paintings. All this could be described as or in a "morelogical process". But she described her practice as "I make surfaces and I paint on them".This is "antithetical to doing funding applications". When she has become involved withcurating, she has found it a "more externalised" activity: it has become easier toarticulate the various elements that inform it. With painting, she says that she makes itand that meaning is "found". Meaning is emergent and generative from the practice andactivity of painting. She talked about that there is an "inside" that, although informed by(other) paintings and material practices, remains on the inside. There is, she said, "noresearch trip required". Following from this she noted that research trips were anotherway that she thought of research data.The making of her work, she stressed, has to do with "the pit of my stomach" and this isnot something shed like to make public. She also mentioned that it took her a long timeafter having made the work to "catch up" with it. For example, in her studio she hasmounted a painting that she had started two years ago and which is just now cominginto its own, starting to make sense.She talked about being/feeling "stumm" in relation to articulating her paintings and theresearch process behind painting: "one doesnt want to be in a room full of people andnot be able to speak". However, when working with someone else on a project (shescurrently collaborating with another artist), this articulation becomes much easier. Inthis collaboration, they conceived of a proposal for an exhibition of their work and"bounced ideas around". It was, she described, about "trying to find a place that isalready made"; the "nearest embodiment of the thing that I wanted to start with."She sees her studio practice separate to her work in the academy but central to herteaching there. Like most artists in the academy, she works part-time and is funded forhalf a day of research per week (academic staff contracts specify teaching and researchtime - paid differently). She noted that though the process of making work might beinaccessible to useful description in this context, the work does become public throughexhibitions etc., and that at this point can be contextualized and discussed andcounted/assessed for auditing purposes (eg REF). 4