50 Percent Seminar

While approaches for engaging the social “wickedness” of design have been a prominent topic of design research, serious questions continue to revolve around the moral and ethical aspects of collaborative design. In my 50% review I explore how emphasizing deliberation in design methods can be a useful way to enhance our awareness and ability to engage the underlying social forces at play in designing. Specifically, I suggest that by fostering deliberation we may support more thoughtful consideration about what should be designed. To support my argument I present the work from my design research investigation conducted in practice. Using a program of collaboration, time, openness, and multiple platforms for participation, I describe my process of inquiry based on experimenting and reflecting upon different forms of design methods in practice. Through two cases from my research project — the Family Bike Life campaign and The People’s Supermarket project — I raise questions around how social and material contexts affect deliberation in co-design. After discussing the lessons I took away from the two cases, I draw upon the concepts of habit, impulse, and deliberation as presented by pragmatist philosopher John Dewey, as a way to pull together the theoretical insights of my experience and frame the next steps of my research.

Title: Design Methods and Collaborative Exploration
Opponent: Per-Anders Hillgren, Malmö University, MEDEA Collaborative Media Initiative

Description:
You can find a PDF of the report here:
Whitcomb_50-percent_Report

DESMA Course #2 – Design-Driven Innovation

Overview

The Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering Politecnico di Milano hosted the second full course of the DESMA program. A change of pace from the intimate format of Gothenburg we experienced, this course was open to current PhD candidates at Politecnico as well as candidates in the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM) circuit.

Around 70 students enrolled in the course with backgrounds and research interests in economics, organizational studies, management, product development processes, design, innovation, and engineering. At the start of the course we each stood up and introduced ourselves and our research interests, revealing a large portion of the class with backgrounds in the sciences, and only a few of us from the DESMA group with experience in the arts. As with any multidisciplinary course, the (apparently) alternate perspectives brought forth many questions about control, processes, structures, creativity, and meaning. Indeed, much of the course revolved around the work of Polimi professor Roberto Verganti, a leading scholar in design-driven innovation through meaning.

Day I

Roberto Verganti introduces innovation

Roberto Verganti introduces innovation

On Monday, professor Claudio Dell’Era introduced and managed the course, orchestrating a well-organized and stimulating week that included lectures and activities from five innovation researchers across two modules. After Claudio’s introduction we spent the remainder of the first day with Roberto discussing the evolution of the scientific field of Innovation Management. Building on some pre-readings assigned before the course, Roberto took us from two definitions of innovation through research trends in innovation management over time. The scope of the Innovation Management field laid out by Roberto engages a wide array of disciplines such as technology management, industrial design, engineering, knowledge management, marketing, and cultural anthropology. While Roberto recognized that each of these areas connect with innovation management, the first module of the course focused primarily on innovation related to business, management, and technology.

From these perspectives, he described two primary approaches of research in innovation management: strategic and operative. The two-levels of research, which generally reflect macro and micro perspectives, became threads that ran throughout the course — often as a subtext to comments, questions, and concerns from people with both design-oriented and business-oriented backgrounds. For me, the first day in general leaned towards a strategic understanding of innovation. Although Roberto alluded to the growing interest of innovation researchers in idea generation, much of the discussion revolved around economics and firm strategies. Indeed, a key driver of research into Innovation Management comes from the fact that an increased investment by an organization in Research & Development does not have a strong correlation with its level of innovativeness. In other words, innovation management research seeks to explain the surrounding circumstances that contribute to innovation beyond the direct investment in developing new technologies.

After Roberto’s brief framing of Innovation Management, we split into groups to piece together the rest of the story ourselves. Each group took a different stream of literature — I was in a group that combined literature around Organizing for Innovation and Learning / Knowledge Management — and mapped out some of the key texts, topics, and questions in the existing research. Before the class we were each asked to bring in some articles related to the topic we had chosen. Perhaps, in part due to the breadth of our topics, we had a challenging time creating our map. Additionally, we came with different language and perspectives about “learning” and “organizing”. Our map eventually reflected the composition of our group and took a relatively macro perspective on learning and organizing for innovation. My two articles based on individual interactions and experiences didn’t quite make it onto the final map, however I didn’t feel like I had the time or words to explain my own fuzzy understanding of how they fit into the landscape we had created.

Sara Jane writes up the literature on user-driven innovation

Sara Jane writes up the literature on user-driven innovation

After we had created our maps each group presented to the whole class, with a few follow-up comments from Roberto. It was a nice way to get a picture of the landscape of literature related to Innovation Management, however it was also a lot to take in. At the end of the first day I felt I had a much better grasp of how business and management viewed innovation. The PhD students from Polimi led many of the discussions and questions and appeared generally comfortable with the topic. Our DESMA group seemed a little quiet, as I think many of us with design backgrounds were trying to get our bearing among a class of students with strong opinions and knowledge about business and management.

Day II

Reinhard Prügl talks about  user-driven innovation

Reinhard Prügl talks about user-driven innovation

Day two featured lectures from Reinhard Prügl of Zeppelin University on User Centered Innovation and Federico Frattini of Polimi on Open Innovation. Both lectures stimulated lots of questions from the entire class, with the DESMA group appearing much more vocal than the previous day. Reinhard started with a description of the pressure that companies face to cut costs and increase their chances of developing successful innovations. As a response, many companies are searching for external knowledge to help them cope with pressure to innovate, aka “open innovation”. Reinhard’s research focuses on users as one important source of knowledge for innovation. In particular he described how they innovate based on use experience, making unusual discoveries, and develop totally new ideas. [To me, user driven innovation relates strongly to the concept of “everyday designer” developed by Wakkary and Maestri (2008).]

Pursuing user centered innovation means that R & D involves an extensive search process for the right kind of users. Reinhard described two types of search processes: direct search, or pyramiding, and indirect search, or broadcasting. The pyramiding approach is based on the concept that people in a certain area knows someone who is better or more knowledgeable than them, and through a chain of interviews and referrals companies can find external sources of knowledge for innovation. Broadcasting on the other hand poses a problem to a large group of people with the hope that casting a wide enough net will lead to people who already have a solution, or have the ability to develop a solution to it.

According to Reinhard, the best approach may be to combine the two search processes. Through a pyramid approach a company can find communities of people with the expertise to solve a problem that they can then broadcast a question to. A key aspect of the pyramid search is that once a company locates a top expert in a field, that person will start to refer across domains, leading to new and unexpected sources of knowledge. Additionally, Reinhard proposed the importance reading into the implied statements people make in interviews to uncover interesting and analogous areas to explore. In broadcast search, he suggested the framing of the problem that is posed to a community limits the space for possible solutions. For me, both approaches represent a certain level of craft, as companies or researchers need to act, reflect, and revise their approach throughout the search process. User centered innovation is an interesting area, as it recognizes that everyone is creative in some sense. A few people remarked on the potential problems of fairness and compensation, which to me highlights the need for companies to develop traits such as authenticity, balance, clarity, character, honesty, and openness.

In the afternoon we met Federico Frattini who took us further in depth into Open Innovation. Federico did an excellent job of providing an overview of open innovation and took us through how and why it has developed in Innovation Management research. He stressed that although open innovation has recently been packaged as a holistic approach for business and management, openness has always been a part of innovation and that it is impossible to say that an “open” approach is better than a “closed” approach. Instead he suggested that there are degrees and types of openness that organizations should consider in their innovation processes. Federico also framed the discussion of openness using some impressive statistics about the growth of buying and selling knowledge as a business model.

Federico Frattini discusses the history of open innovation

Federico Frattini discusses the history of open innovation

During a time when huge amounts of revenues are generated through the sale of patents, Federico described a shift in organizations moving from know-how to know-where. This shift is associated with the absorptive capacity of an organization that needs to be able to identify, acquire, and transform (use) external knowledge. In order to manage this, companies may maintain key people with expertise to recognize and incorporate technological developments into internal innovation processes. These people at the boundaries of an organization serve as intermediaries and deal with in-bound and out-bound knowledge. Cross-fertilization also becomes a key driver of innovation as organizations drive innovation by finding new or unforeseen applications for technologies. As organizations interact, the people serving as intermediaries may need to recognize their role in acquiring and integrating knowledge. Roles such as intermediaries and knowledge brokers also have implications for competencies to develop or nurture in an organization.

Federico ended the class with a few suggestions for future research. Using Coleman’s (1990) general model of social science explanation, he pointed to the need for further investigation at the micro level of individual action and how that affects the macro scale. The goal of researching the micro/macro scale can help link individual characteristics with social outcomes. I was excited to hear this because this is exactly the arena I hope to explore in my research. In particular, how might design methods connect the project level with the community level?

Day III

On the morning of day three we had another lecture from Roberto with a more in-depth focus on design-driven innovation. He opened the presentation describing how design as a discipline defies definition and has a constantly shifting agenda. However, in the 1990s, the influence firm IDEO started to get attention because they codified their process, and process is what innovation management research focuses on. Additionally, the creativity associated with IDEO’s process linked with an increasing interest in innovation management in the front-end and idea generation phase of new product development. All of these factors created hype around design, culminating in several books and articles in business and management circles in the late 2000s.

However, despite the growing interest in design, Roberto showed that in much the same way as R & D, increased investment in design does not guarantee innovativeness. For him, the question is how to use design to drive innovation. How to create products and services that people love? Roberto suggests that the answer lies in meaning. Going back to the root of the word designare (to designate, give significance to), he suggests that design plays a key role in changing relationships among technologies and meanings. He also pointed out that the prominent practice of human-centered design only leads to incremental innovations because it is based on the market pull of existing user needs. To reach radical innovation, rather, design should be focused on re-interpreting technologies — proposing new meanings that push or create new markets. According to Roberto, the Wii represents a strong example of design-driven innovation through meaning. Rather than pushing hardware to provide gamers with better graphics, Nintendo utilized other technology (gyroscope sensors) to propose new types of gameplay that invited a whole new audience to participate. The Wii, along with other examples such as the iPod and iTunes, an Alessi teakettle, and Whole Foods Market, have led Roberto and his team to research into how radical changes in meaning can lead to radical innovations.

Claudio on design, innovation, and interpreters

Claudio on design, innovation, and interpreters

Wednesday afternoon Claudio took the stage to present some further research about the process behind radical changes in meaning, specifically focusing on the role of interpreters during the design process. In his overview his presentation Claudio mentioned that he wanted to give some practical examples and lessons from his PhD research. Throughout his presentation he did field many questions from the class, and it was nice to hear some of the rationale behind how they structured their studies and analyzed their data.

Before diving into his research, Claudio presented a model of the process of design-driven innovation laid out by Verganti in his 2009 book. He then broke down three key areas surrounding interpretation in design-driven innovation: listening to interpreters, interpreting, and addressing interpretations. While he suggested that each of the areas played an important role in driving innovation, Claudio primarily presented his research on identifying, selecting, and attracting interpreters. As he presented research on innovation in Italian furniture companies, several questions came up about how they measured innovativeness in the research. For instance, in one study they measured innovativeness by the number of Compaosso d’Oros — awards for excellent industrial design in Italy. In another example, the asked design experts from different companies around Europe to rate their perspective of design in other countries. Both studies generated a good amount of discussion, which highlighted that metrics are not perfect, however they provide a baseline for comparison and further investigation.

Claudio wrapped up his presentation with the proposal that all interpretations are not equal, and that there are ways to find and work with the interpreters to foster innovation. We finished the third day of the course (and thus the first module), with a group activity around interpretation. Claudio split us up and assigned each group a product to reinterpret for the future. Although we never wound up sharing our interpretations, the exercise was a nice segue into the work of Åsa Örberg, who presented the following day on critical thinking in design-driven innovation.

Day IV

Thursday morning we met Åsa. She started the day with an intro activity where each person in the class shared a personal sports item. When we were all acquainted, Åsa presented some of her PhD work on design-driven innovation. She provided several examples of organizations that had innovated by proposing alternatives meanings for their technologies, one of which was a robotics manufacturing company. Typically, the company designed robots for the assembling of industrial equipment. However, one day an employee who happened to love roller coasters proposed that the company use their robots as thrill-rides for theme parks. Reinterpreting the robots as rides created a new market for the company while also bringing robots into the everyday lives of people, making them less intimidating and more humanistic.

Using hermeneutics as a foundation for analyzing innovation, Åsa built on the importance of interpretation in order to create new meanings and open up new markets. According to Åsa a key aspect of the innovation process resides in critical thinking to envision new meanings for a product or technology. Rather than simply describing the importance of critical thinking in innovation of meaning, Åsa and Claudio built the second module of the course as an “Innovation Gym” for us to exercise our critical thinking abilities. The gym started with a share-out of a homework assignment, where we each chose a “theory” that somehow related to critical thinking. As each person in the class presented his or her theory, Claudio and Åsa started to cluster them on the board based by affinity. At the end of the session they had created several groups under headings ranging from “Lean Supply Chain” to “Paradoxical Thinking” (my group). The headings of the groups became what Åsa referred to as “thinking frames” and for the next few hours we analyzed the frame in relation to critical thinking.

Claudio and Åsa cluster theories related to critical thinking

Claudio and Åsa cluster theories related to critical thinking

Working with two Politecnico students, a student from Umeå, and Sara Jane, I had the chance to discuss paradoxes and paradoxical thinking in regards to problem solving and innovation. After re-introducing ourselves, and our theories — mine was based on “designerly ways of knowing” — we started sharing several examples of paradoxes. While finding examples of paradoxes came relatively easily, defining “paradoxical thinking” proved a bit more challenging. Eventually we concluded that paradoxical thinking involved overcoming paradoxes by first recognizing a situation as a paradox, and second reframing the paradox in a solvable way. As an example, we presented a case from Star Trek, where captain Kirk overcomes a lose-lose combat simulation by hacking into the computer at night and changing the outcome so he would be victorious the following day. We felt that Kirk shifted his perspective on the simulation, stepping back from the paradox in order to find a way to solve it. In addition to the example, we also had to critique the concept of paradoxical thinking. We concluded that paradoxical thinking represented a bit of a paradox in itself, because there is no clear way to describe how to do it. Thus it represents a desirable skill that is extremely difficult to teach. Finally we created a small illustration of a “machine” for exercising paradoxical thinking. Our goal was to represent a process that built on personal experience and direct “sculpting” of both analytical and synthetic skills.

Day V

The final day of the course was spent presenting and discussing each of the group’s thinking frames. Each group had a chance to lead a critique of another group’s frame in order to enrich the concept. It was a long day, but a valuable chance to build our understanding of the work. Listening to the presentations there seemed to be a shift in tone from the beginning of the week. More and more I heard reference to the personal and intangible aspects of management and innovation. By the end of the day I felt that many of the groups had described critical thinking in a way similar to discussions around design and design thinking. Although time ran long, the presentations provided a nice wrap-up to the week. It would have been nice to have a group reflection, especially with the students from Politecnico, in order to share how our perspectives on management, innovation, and design developed throughout the course.

Group presentation on framing in problem solving

Group presentation on framing in problem solving

After the course ended the DESMA group gathered together to discuss the development of the network. Naiara had prepared a room prepared the agenda based on input we sent her before arriving in Milan. We began by discussing our vision. Several weeks ago a few of us had met in Gothenburg during the European Academy of Design conference. Together we had reflected on how we hoped the network would evolve, which led to a sort of vision statement that we thought could start a discussion with the rest of the group: A meeting place for everyone interested in design and management. You’re warmly welcome to involve yourself in this ongoing conversation. Without dwelling too long on the statement, the conversation quickly turned to our personal hopes for the network. For at least an hour we went around the room sharing what we considered our vision of DESMA, and the role we would play now and in the future.

A large part of the conversation focused on the scope and tone of the network. Who is involved? How do people contribute? Who is our audience? What are we trying to do? We shared a few examples of other networks that we admired, but in the end there was some confusion about what exactly we meant by “vision.” It turned out that some people were describing the need for us to envision the organization of the network, and others were more focused on the vision of the content of the network. Of course, both the organization and the content of the network are linked, and at this stage it is clear that we are still trying to figure out what we are trying to say and how we are going to say it. We ended the vision discussion with a commitment to write two short articles about topics we are interested in for the next time we meet in July. We also decided that it was time to actually brand the DESMA network. I see both of these as important steps in the development of the network. More than anything, the conversation helped solidify the need for action and production.

DESMA group hashing out the first network event

DESMA group hashing out the first network event

The second part of the meeting focused on the DESMA event in December. Ariana filled us in on some practical details regarding our report to the EU on our progress, and then together with Ulises presented some ideas for the structure of the two day meeting at Aalto. Taking what we learned from the kick-off meeting last November, we discussed ways to balance the needs of all the stakeholders that would attend the meeting. While we will need to present our work, we also want to provide an engaging and fruitful experience for the company partners. Additionally, we see the event as an opportunity to continue developing the network by bringing in guest speakers and inviting students from Aalto University. With only a day and a half to work with, we had some interesting discussions around how to balance expectations with different activities in a limited amount of time. For instance, I think we recognized the challenge of having all twelve of us present a year of work in an efficient format that provides for everyone in attendance. During the discussion I personally reflected on the need to foster expectations leading up to the event, so that people know what to expect and why. As we continue to develop the DESMA network through the vision and branding exercises I think we will also get a better grip on how the event will unfold.

Final Thoughts

Overall the course on design-driven innovation provided yet another example of the strange dance we do with partners from the worlds of design and management. During the first couple of days of the course, the value of innovation was frequently described in relation to profits. For instance, competition and growth frequently came up as key reasons that companies need to innovate. Due to the rapid pace of technological progress companies must innovate in order to stay commercially competitive. As the week went on however, I did hear people describe concepts such as the triple bottom line and socio-emotional wealth. Yet, there always seemed to be a general aim towards growth. For me, the complex challenges facing management and design should be connected with issues of ethics and politics as well as economics and technology.

At the end of the day we are talking about people driving the innovation process and it seems important to ask, “towards what end?” Of course, scale plays an important role in the theoretical and practical frames that guide our work. Large corporations almost inevitably demand structure, the shape of which affords different possibilities for action. Coming away from the course, I feel even more strongly the need to link the micro and the macro in my research. So far, my education and training have taken place primarily at the micro scale of individual interaction and experience. This course on design-driven innovation highlighted the importance of recognizing the heritage of research that investigates innovation at a much larger scale. As I take the next steps in my research, I plan to maintain the link between individual action and organizational change. The final part of the course involves a literature review of concepts related to design-driven innovation, and I look forward to digging deeper into critical thinking and learning as a way to connect design and innovation, individual and collective action.

References

Wakkary, R. and Maestri, L. Aspects of Everyday Design: Resourcefulness, Adaptation, and Emergence. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 24(5), 478-491 (2008).

DESMA Course #1 // D + M Essay Seminar

This week the DESMA researchers gathered in Copenhagen for the second part of our first course: Perspectives on Design + Management. For two days we met at the Copenhagen Business School, in a lovely old house turned studio, where we discussed our essays that we had written following our January meeting in Gothenburg. Several of us arrived on Wednesday evening, and sitting in the hotel lobby, we immediately began exchanging stories from the past several weeks. Sitting there, sharing experiences with the other researchers, it was clear that the diversity of partnerships that makes the DESMA network unique, has also led to some intense challenges for our group. From this initial discussion throughout the rest of the weekend, we constantly grappled with the tumbleweed of institutions, perspectives, expectations, beliefs, agendas, and protocols that make up our network.

On the second day we headed over to the studio where we would spend the majority of our time together, circled around a large table in a bright sunlit room on the second floor of the studio. After a short welcome from Anna and Stefan, we went over the agenda for the seminar. Due to the tight schedule, each of person had half an hour in which to give a brief summary of his or her essay, and to receive feedback from the rest of the group. To make the seminar manageable, we decided that two people would do a close reading for each essay and then lead the discussion during the seminar. While Anna and Stefan were there to provide some perspective towards the end of each feedback sessions, we were in charge of driving the conversation. As a reminder, the prompt for the essay was to take our discussions about theory and practice in Design and Management that we had in January, and to map our research topics.

Fernando volunteered to start things off with his essay on brands and meaning. The issues Fernando addressed regarding meaning became some of the central themes we grappled with over the course of the seminar. In particular different perspectives on knowledge impact how we discuss our work and how we conduct research. And so, how we define and describe meaning influences how we research it. Taking a stance that meaning is something objective that we can define and deliver is much different than describing meaning as a constant process of construction, particular to each individual. I have to admit that coming into the seminar I had not considered meaning in much depth, but several members of our group dealt explicitly with the topic and it emerged as a central theme that we all seem to engage in one way or another — meaning-making appears to be an important human activity, who knew?

After Fernando we discussed three more essays before breaking for lunch. Discussions continued to revolve around meaning, but we also touched upon knowledge in design and management, service design as innovation management, and the meaning of technologies in radical innovation. In the afternoon we covered a few more essays, one of which was mine. We were a little bit strapped for time, but I received some good comments regarding my focus on design toolkits. Reflecting on my work I realized the importance of presenting clear and targeted ideas. A good portion of my essay wound its way through different types of examples, making it difficult to hone in on the core of my argument. While this lesson may be particularly important for me, I also see it as essential to successfully communicating our research as a network.

Thursday afternoon we took a break from the essays and participated in a visioning workshop facilitated by our very own Veronica Bluguermann. We split into four groups based on four types of stakeholders in the DESMA network: companies, early stage researchers, universities, and fans. Our task was to compose a newspaper article for three years in the future, describing what each stakeholder group took away from the experience. It was a fun and enlightening activity as we confronted where we thought DESMA was headed. Veronica kept things fast paced and continually mixed up activities, which led to a productive and engaging workshop. In the end our articles served as a starting point further discussions about developing the DESMA network. Again we found ourselves confronted with the diverse environments and expectations of different stakeholder groups as we try to communicate with industry and academia, management and design, inside and outside our network.

Veronica rocks the workshop facilitation

Veronica rocks the workshop facilitation

Pulling and consolidating initiatives from the articles, we switched rooms to prioritize our next steps as a group. Through a relatively smooth and open dialogue, we were able to nail down around a dozen items that we felt were important to the success of the DESMA network. Then, casting votes, we chose the most urgent and least urgent initiatives we wanted to address, and split up into task forces to schedule a plan for each initiative. Five main initiatives came out of the workshop: Training Representative, Boot Camps, Off-line Meetings, Summer Labs, and Website. Each task force spent a few minutes outlining a schedule for their initiative and we presented out to the group before heading to dinner. For me, the workshop helped solidify our direction as a group. Each task force seemed to take ownership over its initiative, displaying a commitment to making it work. I joined up again with the website group and we are determined to get up a website as soon as possible. All around, it seemed that we are growing together as a group: gaining an identity, setting goals, and recognizing challenges that we will face along the way.

Dinner was a chance for us to unwind after the long day. Yet, more and more these casual gatherings seem increasingly important for our network. Discussions drift from topics such as workshop facilitation to cultural differences in surnames, blending our work and everyday experiences.

On the morning of the second day we sat down to discuss the final four papers. Our discussions were similar to the first day, feedback mainly coming from the group with bits of perspective from Anna and Stefan. Again the feedback revolved around developing a sound and consistent platform for our research projects. Setting goals, taking a stance, recognizing differences in perspectives, all affect how we present our work, and how other people interpret it. Meaning-making continued to be a topic of discussion, but we also heard about the history of user-centered / human-centered design, government procurement, social innovation, and organizational structure. Throughout the seminar, the discussions around the essays went by quickly. Rather than providing deep, critical feedback on our research topics, the seminar served as an important chance to hear what other people were addressing and why. I certainly came away with a greater grasp on what topics other people were dealing with, as well as a better understanding of the position my research has in the network.

On Friday afternoon we had the chance to visit MindLab, an innovation unit working cross-departmentally in the Danish government. For two hours we chatted with Jesper Christiansen, an anthropologist and Industrial PhD at MindLab. After introducing ourselves, we heard from Jesper about the unique structure and approach of MindLab. The conversation touched upon several areas pertinent to the work of our network: communication across disciplines and perspectives, research and public policy, organizational structure, knowledge sharing, qualitative research, and systems-level innovation. During our time together, Jesper talked candidly about the challenges working in government and also presented a case for design research as a viable way to bridge the gap between citizens and governments. Indeed, established in 2002, MindLab has long outlived the lifespan of similar initiatives in other areas, proving that something about it works. While we didn’t get at why exactly MindLab has stuck around so long, based on Jesper’s description it appears that the innovation unit is planning to grow and develop for many years to come.

After the visit to MindLab Anna and Stefan said a few final words to wrap up the seminar. We had a few minutes with Anna to discuss the fall course on Design Methods that will be back in Gothenburg. A few people brought up the desire to discuss different types of qualitative and quantitative methods, however Anna emphasized the need to differentiate the DESMA course from the standard courses offered through our universities. Finally, standing outside of MindLab, Anna and Stefan told us they would send us a few final comments on our papers in the upcoming week to help us push our concepts a little further.

Before calling it a day, the rest of us decided to grab some coffee and choose a date for the Summer Lab initiative we had discussed the day before. Sitting in a cozy café in downtown Copenhagen, we took on the challenge of coordinating schedules among eleven researchers. At times the conversation was difficult, with some of us questioning if it was possible to put on the Summer Lab. Thankfully, however, the group decided it was an important part of our experience together and we made it work. For me, the conversation served as a great example of our positive group chemistry as we somehow managed to work through a challenging process with level heads and democratic conversation.

The rest of the afternoon we split up and went out separate ways to enjoy the chilly, but sunny day in Copenhagen. Later that night several of us met up for dinner where we carried on many of the conversations from the seminar and workshops. At one point, discussing the challenging, almost paralyzing effect of different perspectives on research in design and management fields, the idea emerged that we should host some debates or panel discussions among leading experts in design and management. In just the short time we have been together we have already started to recognize the chasms that exist across design, management, industry, and academia. As our group toes the line between these two worlds, we agreed that it could be fruitful to confront these issues in a public forum along with people who have deeply held beliefs about the fields of design and management. There appears to be quite a bit of potential surrounding the idea, and we may incorporate it into our annual meetings.

Another interesting point that emerged from conversations over the course of the weekend was the need to brand our network. Hosting debates or forums, creating workshops, publishing articles, all go back to our mission as a research network. Meeting for only the third time as an entire group, it was impressive to see a shared vision of the network start to emerge. While we have a long way to go in fully fleshing out our position as a network, expressing the need for a solid brand suggests that we are starting to see ourselves as a group with a particular mission. Over the next several weeks I am confident that we will make great strides in developing our brand internally and externally.

On Saturday morning we had the last formal event of the weekend, a workshop with Citymart, one of the DESMA industrial partners based in Copenhagen, and Veronica’s host company. Growing out of the non-profit Living Labs Global, Citymart seeks to increase efficiency, transparency, and impact in public procurement. We had the opportunity to hear directly from co-founder Jakob Rasmussen about the mission and operation of Citymart. A relatively small company, Citymart has big aims. Leveraging the power of the web, they help research and connect solutions to problems shared by cities all over the world. The basis for their approach is that individuals or companies have already developed solutions to many of the problems facing municipalities across the globe. However, most municipalities have difficulty seeing past their own boarders. As a remedy, Citymart provides a platform for policy makers to find solutions that already exist, rather than spending large amounts of public money procuring custom goods and services for isolated problems spotted by different governmental agencies.

While describing the company, Jakob also raised some of the difficulties facing Citymart. Still in its early stages as a company, Citymart has to manage being a small size with a global mission. Thus the website, which serves as the primary touchpoint for their offering, houses an immense amount of complex information related to public procurement that must cater to diverse needs of small business, local governments, and citizens. Due to Citymart’s size, they must balance spending resources on the in-depth data collection and network development supporting their service, and the design, maintenance, and upgrade of their web platform. After our introduction to Citymart, Veronica coordinated a short workshop around some of the challenges facing Citymart.

We split into three groups—Cities, Companies, and Citizens—and imagined accessing the Citymart website based on different needs and expectations. In a short amount of time, we filled out what was possible and wasn’t possible on the current site, and came up with a few new options that Citymart could provide. Again the workshop format worked quite well as we were able to quickly dive into the content and gain insight into company’s situation. At the end, each group took a few minutes to report out to their findings and ideas for developing Citymart further. Overall, it was impressive to see the amount of headway eleven people can make on a problem in a compressed period of time. With the final word from workshop, Jakob sounded pleased to have some concrete feedback to move Citymart forward.

I left the workshop feeling positive with the outcome, but also wondering what we could have done with more time. In just three hours we dug quite deep into the Citymart.com experience from multiple perspectives. However, as a group of researchers with expertise in Design and Management, we began touching upon issues regarding the structure and strategy of Citymart as an organization that we simply didn’t have time to address. For instance, after hearing our feedback on Citymart’s offering and user experience, how will they implement changes? What are the internal priorities and operations as a company that will either support or hinder change in their organization? These are all questions that we are equipped to engage as a group. In future workshops or “bootcamps” I see potential for us to provoke questions around a huge array of issues connected to Design and Management, and I look forward to seeing how the Bootcamp initiative develops in the future.

To sum up, the seminar in Copenhagen was another fruitful DESMA gathering. There were several times over the few days when people remarked how amazed they were with the complimentary mix of personalities in the group. Perhaps it is that we are all struggling through similar issues, or that this is such new territory that we aren’t bogged down with prior expectations. I can say that I am already anticipating our next gathering at the course in Milan — not just because it is at the end of May. I came away from the trip with a sense of excitement and responsibility for helping our network flourish. Judging from what I saw and heard in the conversations and workshops during the seminar, I believe the rest of the group is just as committed to making the most out of this incredible opportunity.

DESMA PAPER REFLECTION // Week 10, 2013

I’m in the midst of writing my essay for our first DESMA course “Perspectives on Design + Management” and yesterday I took a day trip over to Gothenburg to have a group discussion with Anna, Ariana, and Ulises. It was a long day, but I got some nice feedback on my paper and my research project in general.

I packed a lot into the paper, so there was plenty to discuss. It’s still a work in-progress — and will continue to be well after the deadline — but without going into too much depth here is the general gist of it.

1. Very broad overview of contemporary design practice: increasing descriptions of design as an approach for solving complex social problems
2. Brief history of what brought contemporary design to where it is today based on three main threads in its history: design methods movement based on structures and systems, reflective practice refocusing on creativity, and informing design by understanding people (user-centered, inclusive, participatory, etc).
3. Comparing design with experiential learning: meant to focus on the importance of learning design through experience, which makes it difficult to “package” design in the form of descriptive toolkits that are commonly published today
4. Potential for digital technology and online-networks to support experiential learning at a large scale

As you can probably tell, any of those topics alone could be a pretty extensive paper. However, I felt that it is important to touch upon each of them to support my research interest. From my discussion with the group, the pieces of my argument didn’t fit together quite right, and I will have a fair amount of tweaking to do over the next week and a half. I haven’t reviewed my notes yet, but below are some of the key points I took away from our discussion.

– I outline the paper, but I don’t clearly state my thesis, and my purpose
– Most of it is written in the third person and therefore it is hard to discern what are my words and perspective
– Need to clearly describe how and why I’m building my frame for the history of design methods
– Why experiential learning? What are its limitations?
– I don’t mention management at all.
– What’s at the core of my argument? It appears to be that I am expressing the need to explore the space for teaching design that falls between design toolkits and master-apprentice style education.
– Look at how people learn design (Bauhaus) and also how people experience design (serious play).
– Carefully consider the title of my essay
– Also, on a personal note, I need to improve the illustration I use in the paper and also describe what it shows.

Overall it was a great chance to get my thoughts down on paper. I feel like I have started to lay a foundation that I can explore and build upon over time. Previously I had felt like I was totally swimming, but now I think my toes have started to touch sand.

Supervisory Meeting Notes // Week 07, 2013

Today I met with Anna for an update on my project. There was a lot to go over, but we covered pretty much everything I needed to talk about. Our conversation focused on four main issues: framing my topic, describing LUIL project, my role in the LUIL, next steps (some of which I added afterward)

I. Framing my topic

One of the areas I feel I have made the most progress over the last month is on framing my topic. Spurred by my initial interest in making design tools more accessible to people not trained in design, I began questioning the relationships among design toolkits, design methods, and design practice. The number of toolkits published by professional design firms displays a growing interest in disseminating design methods as a way to address social problems. While many of these toolkits explain the methods and process of design through descriptive text, diagrams, and pictures, they may be of limited benefit to someone who has not learned how to use them.

In design education “learning how” is linked to a particular educational model focused on developing skills over time and through direct experience in a particular process. Toolkits that only “show and tell” design methods fail convey the experiential learning that supports a design approach to addressing problems. Therefore I believe there is room for research into support systems for teaching design methods and scaling the teaching of design methods.

Viewing design toolkits from a teaching perspective, the focus will need to be on understanding how they can facilitate the learning of a design process. From this viewpoint, design education and teacher education share similar characteristics. In both cases, the educational aims are focused on training people in processes and skills for addressing open-ended situations through reflection and dialogue. Additionally, research into metacognition and knowledge transfer from education could provide guidance on how to facilitate reflection and understanding of the design process for people educated in other practices.

II. Describing the Lead User Innovation Lab (LUIL) project

The second topic we discussed was my involvement in the LUIL project, a partnership of three organizations (IKEA, Interactive Institute, and Veryday) to develop methods for collaborating with “Lead Users” in to create product concepts around Urban Biking Ecosystems. While the idea of “Lead Users” is interesting in itself, my participation in the LUIL is focused on its basis as a co-design method, where multiple stakeholders collaborate in ethnographic research, data analysis, and concept development. Due to the wide range of people participating in the design process, I see it as a great opportunity to gain insight into the way people with different backgrounds experience a design process.

The project runs for all of 2013 and revolves around the staging of two Innovation Labs, one in the spring and one in the fall. A method developed previously by the Interactive Institute and Veryday, the Innovation Lab takes the design process out of the design studio and creates a space for stakeholders and users to participate in a variety of activities to identify design opportunities.

III. My role in the LUIL

Although I am part of the core team responsible for preparing the Lab, Brendon Clark (Interactive Institute) and Nicola Chamberlain (Veryday) are carrying out most of the project planning and management for the Innovation Lab #1 in the spring. Throughout the preparation phase, I am providing feedback on activities, learning about the NPD process at IKEA, and conducting “pre-studies” to inform our search for lead users. During the running of Lab #1, I plan to document the process as thoroughly as possible through video recording, observation, and interviews. I will pay particularly close attention to the illustrated interviews between designers and lead users. Looking at the interaction among the designer, the illustration, and the lead user could provide some interesting insights about externalizing, reflecting, and learning.

IV. Next Steps

1. Reading & Writing
– close reading of Kolb & Kolb on experiential learning (use to inform observations of LUIL)
– review research on design expertise (starting with Dorst and Cross)
– outline DESMA paper on “Mapping my research topic”

2. Preparing for LUIL #1 Research
– develop research plan as LUIL activities are clarified (interview/observation schedule)
– observation data collection sheet
– interview questions
– IT plan and equipment checklist
– discuss plan with project team

3. Meetings
– Trip to HDK, first week of March to discuss DESMA paper
– Full committee meeting, mid-March
– 25% seminar, think over how to use it

4. Miscellaneous
– resume weekly reports
– continue developing “HCD method map”
– keep searching for class (re-email SU about Philosophy of Science)

D! Faculty Internat 26 // Actor-Network Theory

This week I ventured down to the southern part of Sweden for my first trip to the Medea lab in Malmö and my second experience with the D! Faculty Internat series. Each Internat is built around a topic somehow related to design research, and this meeting focused on an in-depth discussion of the social philosopher Bruno Latour and his work with Actor-Network Theory. Although I was acquainted with the name ANT, this was my first real exposure to the writing and philosophy behind it. Before the Internat we were asked to read to pieces by Latour, a 2010 piece entitled An Attempt at a Compositionist Manifesto and his 2005 book Reassembling the Social. Without any experience reading Latour or much knowledge of ANT, it was challenging reading. Not only were the concepts hard to wrap my head around, but the writing never seemed to provide any clear answers. There were moments where it appeared Latour was emphasizing, or reiterating an important point, but I couldn’t quite decide if I understood or not. A few times I found myself feeling like he was presenting his ideas as if they were so obvious and clear that a child could grasp them.

Thankfully, when I arrived at the Internat I learned that I was far from alone in my experience with the readings. The three-day seminar started off with a presentation by Torben Elgaard Jensen that outlined some of the arguments that span Latour’s career. Torben’s lecture helped clarify who Latour is and what is might be trying to do. One of the most the most revelatory insights I took away from Torben was his description of the split between the natural sciences and the “social” sciences. By looking at the historical development of science, it is interesting to consider how so many theories and perspectives have kept the natural and social worlds separate. To me, it makes sense that the natural and social are indeed connected—I have learned a little about embodiment in the past—and when discussing any scientific approach, it is important to consider the “actors” and “networks” that surround it.

Following Torben’s lecture we broke up into groups to discuss the readings in relationship to our own work. Our group took some time to get acquainted with each other and our individual research projects, which later on helped us connect ANT to our own experiences. The major thing I needed to get off my chest was the concern that the process of ANT appeared to be never-ending. As I understood it, when pursuing research from an ANT perspective, Latour suggests that the researcher trace the movements of actors related to the situation. However, according to ANT, it appears that anything can be an actor. One of the members of our group is researching materials for medical equipment that needs to be both cleanable and cost-efficient. Looking at such setting through ANT, it appears the researcher would have to trace the different staff at the hospital, the patients, the company that sells the medical equipment, the company that produces the medical equipment, the type of cleaner used to clean the equipment; but also, each of those actors has relationships that could play a role, such as families, friends, education, work experience, the diet, etc. Does it stop there? Or do we keep going to the family members’ family members, or the farms where the food they eat is grown, and the farmers who grow the food, and their families? Although we didn’t quite come to a conclusion in our group on the first day, we did have a good conversation grappling with the use of ANT in our work.
On the second day we had the chance to try a method based on ANT. Using articles from the newspaper, Alex Wilkie from Goldsmiths College, led us through an exercise in controversy mapping. It was a good chance to get out of pure discussion mode and start producing something with our hands. My group chose a controversy surrounding the recent film Zero Dark Thirty. One of our first steps was to review the guidelines for the activity. After some time discussing how to tackle the process, some further guidance from Alex, we started highlighting actors specifically mentioned in the content we pulled from the newspaper. Although had all heard Alex suggest that we stick to content we could clearly identify in the article, it was impressive how quickly we started to speculate from our own experience and interpretation of the topic. Even in just a short exercise it was valuable to see how hard it can be to follow Latour’s demand to stick to description rather than explanation. However, even with our battling of the subjective, we all seemed to find something intriguing or unexpected using the method. For me, I came away thinking of the importance of “reading” a map based not only on what is there, but what is not there. Our goal was to stick to the actors explicitly mentioned in the article, but it was interesting to consider how one “actor” in our map actually represents an entire organization of actors that could be overlooked.

After a lunch break—where we ate soup and watched a dance performance next door to the Medea studio—we regrouped to finish off the mapping presentations before moving on to the PhD presentations. We heard from two PhD students that are part of the D! Faculty, Zeenath Hassan and Henrik Svarrer Larsen. Each presentation was interesting in its own right and it was valuable to hear the different topics of projects, research approaches and styles of presentations. It was a little difficult to give feedback, but I imagine part of my difficulty comes from the fact that I am still learning how to critically view and respond to PhD work. However, I did take away that whatever form my projects takes I need to make it my own and have confidence in my project.’

Post coffee break there was a panel discussion among four relatively recent PhD graduates who had dealt with ANT in some way during their work. One of my main takeaways from their discussion was their focus on making ANT useful for their projects. Rather than simply subscribing to all things ANT, it seemed that they each had a critical stance on ANT and used it for very specific purposes in their work. I appreciated hearing them discuss ANT as a tool, because until then it seemed like I needed to either subscribe to all things ANT or I would be misusing it. Although, I will say that I am still somewhat wary of the danger of using ANT as a way to justify one’s work without full knowledge of what it is. Additionally, it was interesting to hear them describe ANT as a way to support the process of design intervention in their research. It seems that one of the pitfalls in ANT could easily be too much watching and not enough action. Especially from a design perspective—action is what we do! Messing with networks is fundamental to our work and I felt that come out in the panel discussion. Another good point that was brought up in the discussion was that we should not only consider what ANT can do for design, but what design can do for ANT. One answer was a characteristic of design that continues to come up again and again: the expertise that designers have in visualizing.

Before dinner the panelists sat in with us for another round of discussions. During the conversation I presented my observation about the experience of jumping to conclusions in the controversy mapping exercise. For a short time we talked about whether or not that was a particularly “designerly” thing to do. I think I dwelled on it because it seems that people who are not designers might have approached the activity much differently. While there are certainly plenty of factors at play in a group activity, it seems possible that a bunch of PhDs in chemistry might have approached things differently. We talked for a bit about the subject and how we might manage those “aha!” moments of design in what is supposed to be the slow and methodical process of mapping all the actors in a network. I’m not sure we reached any conclusions, but for me it seems possible to go back and forth between mapping and ideating, or to keep track of insights while still maintaining focus and rigor in mapping relationships.

The final morning we reformed in our discussion groups for one last talk about critiquing Latour. For many of us, I think our question for ANT is still “but how can I use it?!” Perhaps it is somewhat ironic that in Reassembling the Social Latour writes a fictional dialogue between an ANT professor and a PhD student who expresses exactly the same sentiment. While I see potential for ANT to play an influential role in my research, at this point I see it simply as a way to keep an eye on myself. I am a little bit wary of all the theories and frameworks out there and it seems like ANT could be a good way to keep myself grounded, focused, and critical of my own research.

As a last item on the agenda, we had a short presentation from SVID on their research journal. It seems like an organization that can be a great advocate for design research in Sweden and beyond, but they are still building their publication and dissemination strategies. They are pretty new, and I hope that the research done by students in the D! Faculty can help establish the credibility and value of the SVID publication.

Overall, the week was a great introduction to Actor-Network Theory and Latour. I am quite interested in learning more, but for now I have a few takeaways that sum up my experience. On the critical side, I have some remaining questions. In the dialogue between the PhD student and the professor, the student asks when he will know when to stop. According to the professor, the student should “stop” when it is time to turn in his paper. This idea sort of makes sense to me, but it also seems possible that I could easily drive myself mad trying to follow all the actors in a network. So I guess the question is, unless I want to make a single project my life’s work, how do I know what I should follow and what I shouldn’t follow? My second question goes back to the need to go all or nothing with ANT. The way Latour presents it, it doesn’t seem like something one can do halfway. My concern here is that if I only use parts of ANT, then I am missing out on what makes it valuable and valid as an approached to research. Finally, I only thought of this after the fact, but I have questions about defining actors. It seems clear to me that all types of objects can be actors, but what happens in the digital realm? Digital actors are so dynamic I wonder if ANT can meaningfully account for them?
On the positive side, I have a few simple and practical takeaways. One, I think that ANT points to the need to be slow and thorough in research. While it may seem like an obvious point to any experienced researcher, I like how ANT seemingly forces you to slow down from the sheer quantity of work it entails. Second, it seems that ANT is inclusive of multiple types of research and tries to break down epistemological boundaries. I have more to read on this, but I appreciate the idea of bringing together research from different traditions rather than criticizing different perspectives on knowledge. And on another process note, I like how a thorough mapping activity will help me to reflect on my own perspective in relationship to other perspectives around me. In my researcher, I am an actor in my own network, and visualizing the other actors I am connected with can force me to confront the position of my work.

DESMA Course #1 // Design + Management

Last week was our first official course for the DESMA program. The title of the course was Perspectives on Design + Management (emphasis on the “+” to distinguish it from “Design Management”). Our instructors were Anna Rylander from Business & Design Lab at University of Gothenburg (and my supervisor) and Stefan Meisiek from the Copenhagen Business School. As this was only our second time meeting as an entire group, the first order of business was reintroducing each other. Following the introductions Anna and Stefan explained that they wanted to shake up the structure of the class, and start from contemporary perspectives on design and management and work backwards, addressing the background of the field of Design Management at the end of the week.

Thus, on the first day we had a presentation from Anna on the history and relevance of Pragmatism as a theoretical grounding for design and management research. While Anna went into details regarding the different contributors to the development of Pragmatism, my major takeaway from her presentation was the practical underpinnings that make Pragmatism a particularly useful way to look at design and management. As suggested by the “+” in the title of the course, Design and Management are two different perspectives and practices that have different histories and traditions of research. Although a field called Design Management has been established, it is still useful to look at the relationship between Design and Management and try to understand what it really means to combine them into something new — what they can learn from each other, and what aspects of the two fields don’t quite gel. It seems to me that Pragmatism can be a useful way to draw connections between Design and Management practices. Through Pragmatism, we can look at and gain understanding of the relationships among the physical settings, the activities, the expertise, and the experiences of people practicing in both Design and Management.

On Tuesday we had presentations from two professional design practitioners in two very different settings. First was Malin Orebäck of Veryday (my practice advisor) and second was Stina Nilimaa Wickström of Volvo Product Design. It was really interesting to see the differences in practices between a relatively small design consultancy and a large corporation. However, to some extent, both situations dealt with issues of organizational learning, albeit in very different ways.

A growing part of Veryday’s offering is their design led business innovation strategy. Many of these projects demand a great amount of user research, which can generate a large amount of visual information. While Veryday could go out, collect data, and return to their offices to analyze it, they learned that it is often more fruitful to bring a project room to their client’s offices. In the project room the team conducts interviews, posts pictures and snippets of text; they interpret the information and arrange it using a variety of methods; and, of course, they produce the sketches, maps, and diagrams that plaster the walls of design offices — all in an environment where the client can simply “pop-in”. Such a set-up challenges not only the designers to be able to discuss and explain their work on the fly, it also enables the clients to participate in the rough stages of the process that they do not historically have access to. Either way, both the design team and their clients must learn a little bit as they must interact outside their comfort zone.

At Volvo Product Design, another type of organizational learning takes place. In Stina’s description of her work she emphasized the size and structure of the Volvo corporation. In her case, she has a department that has been an integral part of the product of vehicles for a long time. However, a changing attitude toward design practice and the understanding of what design can offer a company (creativity, innovations, adaptation, customer empathy*) do not always align with the attitude and structure of a large corporation like Volvo. Therefore Stina and her team engage a different type of organizational learning that is internal and at a very large scale. Indeed, designers inside Volvo may be viewed very differently than designers at Veryday, even though their everyday design practices share many traits in common. We spent the afternoon following the two presentations trying to write research questions that would be interesting and useful to professional practitioners.

Wednesday focused on a different approach to writing research questions. Rather than constructing questions based on professional practice, we discussed how to develop questions from theory. It was a challenging day for many of us who are still trying to wrap our heads around different philosophies of knowledge. Stefan presented three different epistemologies for us to consider: neo-positivism, symbolism, and post-modernism. Each epistemology carries with it important implications for how we choose / construct methods, analyze results, and interpret our findings. Our discussion revolved around a selection of readings from three topics: design thinking, materiality, and sense-making. Although we didn’t quite achieve the goal of constructing our own questions based on theories, I think many of us came a step closer to understanding them through some good discussions. One such discussion revolved around the readings on materiality. There were three readings on materiality and different types of “objects”. The articles themselves seemed clear as I read them, but as soon as I tried to explain my understanding to someone else it got complicated extremely quickly. However, when we came together as a large group with the guidance of Stefan and Anna we were able to see how each of the articles took a theory and built off of it. It was a good lesson, and I look forward to attempting to identify threads of theories and epistemological stances in future readings. Although, I will also say that many of us were also a little wary of getting too sucked into a world of theory. There seems to be a strong desire to keep things connected to everyday practice — a hope that we can make our work understandable and useable by people outside of academia.

Thursday was a chance for us hear a little bit about the history of the field of Design Management. Our first lecture, from Lisbeth Lisbeth Svengren Holm of the University of Borås gave an overview of design and management from the start of the Industrial Revolution to today. For me, a main takeaway from Lisbeth’s lecture was the split between design and management that occurred with the mechanization of production. Throughout most of the 20th century the two practices moved further and further apart, with only occasional instances where the two aligned, often through designers gaining a central role in organizational decision-making (e.g. Braun and Apple). These examples highlight the potential for design to be a fundamental aspect of organizations rather than a styling exercise sandwiched between specifications and production. In the afternoon we heard from Ulla Johansson and Jill Woodilla on the concept of Design Thinking. Ulla and Jill presented the progression of mentions of “design thinking” in academic and popular literature for the past two decades. It was impressive to see the spike in references to “design thinking” that occurred in the 2000s. One of my favorite insights of their findings was in the distinction between design thinking mentioned in design literature compared to design thinking mentioned in management literature. I see their work as an important step in clarifying what we mean by terms and concepts found in design and management.

On our last day of the course, we had the opportunity to sit in on a “final seminar” for Marcus Jahnke, a doctoral student at HDK. Stefan served as an “opponent”, although he was more conversational than antagonistic, and the two sat in front of an audience of close to fifty. It was interesting and valuable to hear Marcus talk about his work. Particularly, I began imagining myself in his situation. The content of the week started to come together, and although I won’t be volunteering to give any lectures on epistemology any time soon, I felt like I could see how he had deliberately chosen theories to support his perspective and work. It was also a good chance to reflect on my perspective, and how I hope to justify it in the future. Overall, I still have some things to sort out as far as epistemology is concerned, but I feel like I have taken a baby step in understanding theories and how they will impact my research efforts. To wrap up the week we had a discussion about what we learned and how we hoped to move forward the essays we will write for the course. A common theme amongst the group was to connect what we learned back to our own work. I think this reflects the desire for many of us to stay rooted in professional practice. On my way home I took some time to reflect on the course, and I think I will have plenty of interesting points to discuss in the essay.

In addition to the content of the course, the week was also an opportunity for us to grow together as a group. We shared challenges and perspectives from our various disciplines, and while I always wish there was more time to have one-on-one discussions with everyone, I felt like we all received a lot of good feedback on our work so far. We also had a chance to discuss the DESMA platform, which we are still developing. The primary decision coming out of the week was that whatever platform we use, we need to be active sharing knowledge and information. For now, we will focus on Facebook as the primary mode of communication as we continue to develop a prototype to support external communication. On that note, I will say that I look forward to seeing everyone again in March, and hope to have plenty of work to present for critique and feedback.

***For me these are still question marks because I’m still working on describing this clearly and effectively. How can state this in a way that doesn’t sound fluffy?!)