Worldmaking: Working through Theory/Practice in Design

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Abstract:

This article argues for an active role for theory in designing, especially feminist theory and cultural studies, both as a means of theorizing design through the work of designers and as a means of reflecting on the complex contexts in which designing takes place and designs take hold. This has particular relevance in the participatory and user-centered frameworks increasingly favored in design practices and education. Changes in design methods, the emergence of "design thinking" in a range of fields including but not always linked to design, and the growth of contemporary "social design" over the past two decades have greatly shifted design practices and contexts. This article argues that Donald Schön's exploration and theorization of "reflective practice" should be expanded to include a framework for seeing what designers are "reflecting through" in relationship to their own position and location. Building on Lucy Suchman's argument for "located accountability," the author proposes that critical engagement with a range of theories of worldmaking and worldknowing to increase and ground design and designers' points of reference is critical to practice and, therefore, education in design fields.
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