• Xenodesign: Towards transversal engagement in design

Schmeer, Johanna, 2021, Thesis, Xenodesign: Towards transversal engagement in design PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

In a time when the anthropocentrism of Western thinking and acting is under increased scrutiny for its role in the ecological and social crises of our time, new imaginaries and design approaches that question human-centrism, and open up paths towards alternatives, are needed. As a design field concerned with challenging the status quo and discussing ideas, discursive design – which encompasses practices such as speculative design, design fiction, or adversarial design – provides a useful testbed for investigating what these alternatives could entail. Posthumanism, with its history of critiquing anthropocentrism and Enlightenment humanism’s dualistic view of the human as separate from “nature,” can stimulate much-needed shifts in thinking and acting within this realm.

Xenodesign – Towards Transversal Engagement in Design, a Ph.D. by project, expands discursive design by drawing upon theory from posthumanism and its subfields of xenofeminism and xenoarchitecture and merging these with discursive design. It aims to develop design and engagement approaches that allow new, collaboratively developed posthuman imaginaries to emerge. The practical research achieves this by engaging with diverse human as well as non-human audiences, in contexts including a field in the countryside, a museum, educational and research institutions, and a community garden. It involves three design projects, three workshops, and one event, which are used to develop and test three approaches to xenodesign, thematically engaging with issues related to the posthuman condition – being in a time between technological acceleration and ecological collapse.

The written thesis encompasses six chapters in dialogue with the practice, providing a theoretical framework and a space for reflection and discussion. Chapter 1 outlines the research questions, which are situated in the overlap between the conceptual frames of posthumanism, discursive design, and engagement practices. Chapter 2 introduces posthumanism and xeno theory. It highlights the relevance of the posthuman concept of transversality for the research, which describes overcoming dualisms, cutting across perceived boundaries, and engaging with entanglement. Chapter 3 gives a brief overview of related work within discursive design. Chapter 4 introduces xenodesign as a discursive design and engagement approach developed through practice. Subchapters 4.2–4.4 each focus on one transversality-enabling and -reflecting concept from posthumanism: object-oriented ontology, alienation, and hyperstition. Chapter 5 reflects upon the practical explorations and positions xenodesign within a broader context, elaborating on how the posthuman methodology developed in my research can help overcome dualisms between human and non-human and between fiction and reality. The development of transversal design and engagement approaches and techniques is the key contribution my research makes. Chapter 6 concludes with a summary of findings, limitations, and an outlook
towards further work.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Design
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2021 15:47
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2021 15:47
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4712
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