Here are some quick notes, made during bus travels. I missed the first day (tutorials), and the last day for me was the program committee meeting, focusing on the future of Nordic Design Research Conferences (Sweden, 2007, most likely). More information on the event: http://www.nordes.org.
May 30. The first day of the conference at least to me proved to centre on two main themes. The first one was embodiment, or how to approach the sense and significance bestowed upon material reality – as was only natural for a conference with so many contributors working upon industrial design, or arts and crafts related fields. There were some nice thoughts that I should consider in my work on digital culture, and culture of technology studies, when I again find some time to continue writing on those themes. The second set of key issues centred around the relation of design and research. Design research seems to be going through similar kind of soul-searching as has been the case for other academic fields closely associated with a creative practise. In games research as well there are the tensions whether the rationale is to aim for new designs or into new research, in the scientific or scholarly sense of the word. Obviously, some of the attractiveness of these fields rise from the fruitful interactions between academia and creative professions, and industries, too. But as in several presentations today it was pointed out, it is important to remember which one is aiming for: to evaluate a hypothesis (and create generalizable knowledge), or to research in order to create designs. The concept of knowledge is slippery, and it is easy to prove that any evolution of artistic skill also involves knowledge creation. The discursive standards guiding the formation and distribution of scientific knowledge and artistic or professional knowledges are nevertheless generally separate and distinctive.
May 31. During this second day, I mostly focused on methodology sessions: ethnography, in vivo observations, etc., and to the technology domestication and other social sciences inspired presentations. There were some interesting points, but there was also a growing feeling that I had heard most of these things before. The concluding panel on the identity of design research was translated into the form of seeking inspirations for a hypothetical Nordic Design Research Centre. This appeared to lead into all sorts of vague directions, missing the potentials for really trying to understand the fundamentals of design research as an academic field, as contrasted to various design professions and their concerns. I left the session early to get into the bus which then carried me through the grey and rainy, but mostly rather nicely designed Copenhagen.
The papers of the conference are currently available for download in: http://www.tii.se/reform/inthemaking/proceedings.htm.