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Tracing the tensions surrounding understandings of agency and knowledge in technology design

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conference contribution
posted on 11.05.2017 by Ruth Neubauer, Erik Bohemia, Kerry Harman
The literature suggests that prevailing understandings of the makeup of design knowledge and agency in producing design knowledge in technology is not helpful for design processes and its practitioners. Tensions arise within processes of designing, when design knowledge is understood as objective, whilst subjectivity is experienced in the research methods employed. In the same time, knowledge production is pursued in an individualist manner, where the situated nature of knowing as an interplay of factors, likely reaching beyond personal traits and human intention, is not acknowledged. In this way, design processes are currently working against their inherent potential with likely effects on designers and subsequently design outcomes. The arising tensions cause issues for practitioners, who are stuck in between an objectivity demand and experienced subjectivity, without an alternative conception of their work. Practice-oriented conceptualisations of social dynamics, how things are, and come to be, as well as existing research in consumption practices and sustainable design, have shown that agency and knowing conceptualised as emerging from practice might reconcile this tension. It is therefore that we argue for a reconceptualization of the makeup of knowledge and agency in knowledge production, so that these advancements in conceptualising practices can be of service to the technology design discipline.



  • Loughborough University London

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Design Management Academy | 2017 Hong Kong | Research Perspectives on Creative Intersections


NEUBAUER, R., BOHEMIA, E. and HARMAN, K., 2017. Tracing the tensions surrounding understandings of agency and knowledge in technology design. IN: Bohemia, E., de Bont, C. and Svengren Holm, L. (eds.) Proceedings of the Design Management Academy 2017 Hong Kong: Research Perspectives on Creative Intersections. Hong Kong, 7-9 June 2017.


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