The Offject. A Design Theory of Fiction

Encinas, Enrique (2018) The Offject. A Design Theory of Fiction. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
encinas.enrique_phd.pdf - Submitted Version

Download (13MB) | Preview


More and more design researchers and practitioners are expected to design objects that deal not only with the actual but with the imaginary too. Many of them see their practice developing in a reality where alternative facts and fake news complicate any attempts at rationalization. This dissertation attempts to provide a new way of making sense of the real and fictional character of the objects that designers make.

My research question is “What makes design objects real or fictional?” and the research contribution is a design theory of fiction. This research contribution focuses on design researchers and design practitioners. People entangled with the practice of designing. It is structured in three parts:

Part I is called Methodology. It is composed of two chapters. Chapter 1, Path, first develops the ethos that grounds this research endeavor. A description of the rationale and research questions of this research program follows. Then, I proceed to review the methods that have informed my research process and give an account on what a design theory is as opposed to a theory of design. Finally, I argue for the need to deploy a metaphysical workshop where ideas can be built and tested before venturing into theorizing. I call the metaphysical workshop Milieu and, in Chapter 2, I proceed to give a comprehensive description of it.

Part II is called Insight. There is only one chapter in this part and it is called Object. In this chapter I explore and critically analyze all the design objects that I have produced or been part of producing for the last three years. It is structured according to what I have called ‘metaphysical probes’: research efforts trying to understand what makes design objects real or fictional. Each metaphysical probe is structured by a design event that lead to a final design object. After explaining what each metaphysical probe examines, the design event that served as its vehicle and the final design object that resulted, I reflect on the insights gained.

Part III is called Theory. This is where I develop a design theory of fiction by applying the conceptual tools from Part I to the insights from Part II. There are two chapters in this part. Transitional is the name of Chapter 4 and it is where I develop a set of intermediary concepts that will help me in making a number of arguments in Chapter 5. They are three design theoretical concepts: a principle (Ontoference), an operation (Deswing) and a design object (Offject). In Chapter 5, Induction, I mobilize these transitionals to give an account on real and fictional objects, their interactions, their effects and their influence on each other. Also, I provide a genealogy of the design object of speculation as it has been commonly understood in design. Finally, I rely on my design theory to position myself within three debates that designers dealing with speculative objects normally face: on design objects as props, on make-believe and on fictional worlds.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Speculative Design, Design Fiction, Interaction Design, Design Research, Design Theory
Subjects: W200 Design studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2019 09:19
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:33

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics