The speculative gaze: design-research as diffraction

Gatehouse, Cally (2020) The speculative gaze: design-research as diffraction. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral Thesis)
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In this thesis, I propose an alternative conception of speculation within design-research that moves away from envisioning provocative futures and towards processes of ethical engagement. This informs a new framing of speculation within the context of design-research, that is first explored in the context of my designer-led inquiry and then revisited and troubled through contact with a participatory HCI research with LGBT young people.

I reflect upon critical and speculative design through the lens of recent developments in speculative research and feminist STS to form an account of these as a practice of ‘staying with the trouble’. I situate speculation not as an abstract thought experiment or future vision but as an embodied, material and social practice that is produced through the coupling of design and research. By hyphenating design-research, I view this practice as a co-production which is neither defined by the fixed prepositional relationship of through/into/for, nor is comfortably hybrid. This framing draws focus to the borders and breakdowns of design-research and as a result my reflective and diffractive account of design research practice centres on a series of transformative events. By dwelling on these moments of uncertainty and metamorphosis, I examine how design-research produces a tension between being present and making representations. Across these events, I find that design-research as a speculative practice is haunted by a range of absent presences that both enable and constrain speculation.

I propose that design-research is a diffractive as well as reflective methodology that produces knowledge that makes a difference in the world. I explore this common ground between design-research and diffractive methodologies (Haraway, 1994, Barad, 2007) and use these to shape the structure and style of this thesis. The resulting stories of dysfunctional wifi networks, haunted transcripts, camp machines, idiotic encounters, drunken screens, absent police officers, radio reporters, evangelists, and wearabledata analysis paint a picture of design-research as a practice that produces knowledge in material-discursive forms that can translate speculative events into shared spaces of wonder and concern.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Research through Design, Speculative Design, Critical Design, Network Technology, Feminist STS
Subjects: W200 Design studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2021 08:03
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2022 10:15

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