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Personal profile

Supervisory Interests

My research centres around the relationship between the designed environment and the politics of action, particularly in realtion to issues of embodiment. I take a transdisciplinary approach to what I study, including methodologies such as design history, design studies, anthropology, social and cognitive psychology, and philosophy. I am interested in supervising projects concerned with design activism, social design, critical approaches to design, emotion and design, affect and design practice, the politics of design history, craft practice, and the relationship between design, craft and other disciplines.

Research interests

My current research interests centre upon how our physical experience of the world co-incides with our cultural, social and political relationship to designed objects. What can be described as 'design sensibilities' can in this sense be said to describe a relationship to design that relies upon the senses rather than the rational analysis of the made environment (Hendrix and Fulton Suri, 2010). With the development of User-Centred approaches to design in the 1990s, there has been an increasing appreciation of the idea that the things we make and use can as much be about feeling as practical function. In the past twenty years our perceptual relationship to design has increasingly moved to centre stage in the discourse of design. However, this idea that design engages us in such a way has tended to emphasize ‘product experience’ and ‘engagement’ in relation to concepts such as usability, and this approach sought to render emotion and sensual experience of design quantifiable and measurable, yet my contention is that it is based on an ontological assumption. This is the idea that there is a ‘normal’ or typical human neurological phenotype, that ‘we’ all respond in more or less the same way to stimuli and thus experience design in a similar manner. My current research is thus a challenge to this received wisdom.

Recent work on the history of emotion suggest that far from ‘feeling’ being a set quality of the human animal in response to its environment, rather such responses are culturally specific (Watt Smith, 2016). Similarly, developments in the field of cultural neuroscience have thus begun to demonstrate how activities such as seeing, touching, hearing and taste are not fixed qualities of a given physiology, but the result of biological processes meeting social ones (Lin & Telzer, 2018). At the same time research into the nature of embodied cognition, how thinking is not just a quality of the brain but something that is distributed throughout the organism, is coming to suggest that the way we ‘understand’ the world is actually a process of making sense that is not just situated in the body but arises out of being an embodied self. In recent years knowledge developed in the study of conditions such as Autism, ADHD and dyslexia have come to emphasize how the way people perceive the world is not homogeneous but diverse and multifaceted. Thus the paradigm of ‘neurodiversity’ is one which suggests that how we perceive the world varies both within and between social groups, whereby it is a form of human diversity ‘that is subject to the same social dynamics as other forms of diversity (including dynamics of power and oppression)’ (Walker 2019). This therefore has profound implications for the practice of design, and is a area of knowledge and practice that has yet to be systematically explored. One of the central strands of my current work is therefore an investigation into the  theoretical dynamics and practical ethics of design that acknowledges neurodiversity in the context of embodied cognition.

 

PhD Completions

Speight, Catherine (2018) Looking, Understanding and Making Meaning: Higher Education Ceramics Students as a 'Community of Learners'

Marmont, Giovanni, (2019) Nanopoetics of Use: Kinetic prefiguration and dispossessed sociality in the undercommons

Sanchez-Moreno, Lilian. Towards Professional Recognition: Social Responsibility in Design Discourse and Practice from the Late 1960s to the Mid 1970s

Rowland, Suzanne (2020) The role of design, technology, female labour, and business networks in the rise of the fashionable, lightweight, ready-made blouse in Britain, 1909-1919

 

Current Supervision

Bailey, Jocelyn. Governmentality and power in 'design for government': an ethnography of an emerging field

Farrelly, Liz. Making a museum: Documenting change at the Design Museum, London, 1979 to 2016

Abbas, Shahid. Agency in Generative Design

 

 

 

Scholarly biography

I have a very diverse background in the study of design, craft, fine art, advertising and marketing communications. I have worked in many institutions across the sector and taught extensively at undergaduate, postgraduate and PhD level. I teach both historical and theoretical studies and practical design approaches and methods. I currently work as a design consultant, author and educator. I am presently Senior Lecturer in Design at the University of Brighton, where I teach product design, the history and theory of design, (un)sustainable design, socially useful design, and design systemics.

Approach to teaching

I enjoy teaching very much, from lecturing to seminars and one-to-one tutorials. I believe that the teaching and learning experience should be challenging but fun, that in the process we should all want to come out of it changed.

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