Embracing Conversations around ‘Social Objects’:How This is Reconfiguring Design Education.

Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Location Aesthetics: 13th. ELIA Biennial Conference, The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Scotland, 13-15 November, 2014


In Ireland there has been a narrow focus on getting our economy in order so we can create a decent society. Surely a more pertinent question is ‘How do we unleash the potential of society to....articulate clear collective values and therefore generate sustained prosperity? (Irish Times Nov 2013)

This paper will explore how design becomes reconfigured, towards articulating these collective conversations, in the light of participatory culture. Our media and designed environments, infrastructures and artefacts have been overly positioned towards consumption, distribution and product (Lievrouw) - a closed system. Design practice, education and research need a focus on an enquiry that increasingly allows voice, participation, and creativity for whom we design with and for. This perspective reflects Umberto Eco’s ‘The Poetics of the Open Work’ in which he states that the ‘open work’ is ‘unfinished and the author (insert artist, designer) seems to hand them on to the user, more or less like the components of a construction kit’. This paper will explore situated practice, arguing that designed artefacts act as ‘social objects’ thereby providing reflective conversation for citizens’ involvement and agency in locally situated context.

At Technological University Dublin, our art and design programs are working increasingly on inter-disciplinary projects that activity explores ways of increasing agency in the public realm of our towns and cities, for its citizens. Students were asked to engage with the meaning-making potential of the situational and social aspects of place. This paper explores a case where ‘social objects’ in the shape of situated, contextualised social media can connect citizens and communities. They are ‘unfinished’ narratives offering communicative and socio-technical affordances within cultural settings. Using this case-study we will explore design affordances needed for participation.

Prospectives of scaffolding (Sanders), infrastructuring, (L.Star in Binder et al.) and meta-design (Fishcer, Giaccardi) will be explored in context to this case, questioning what this means for designer and participant. How do we design for participation?

This document is currently not available here.