19. Mai 2015, 19:00-20:30 Uhr, Kesselhaus, MKH
Tara Mullaney, Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden
In this talk, I will present the work that I have done as a PhD student and design researcher within a 3 year, EU funded, project called PERT (Patient Experience of Radiation Therapy), in collaboration with the Radiotherapy Department at Norrlands University Hospital in Umeå, Sweden. I will present my research, including two design experiments, Taklandskap and ActivPPS, which were executed within this project, and discuss how my research context shaped the methods and theories I used as well as the type of design construction I engaged with. I will finish with a discussion of the concept of context-driven design and its core principles.
Tara Mullaney is a scientist-turned-designer that loves exploring emotions and experiences. She holds degrees in social anthropology and biology from MIT, cancer biology from Stanford University, and design from SAIC. Her work experience ranges from anti-cancer drug development to interaction design consulting, and she is currently writing her dissertation on cancer patients‘ experiences during treatment.
Reflection: ‘Implicated Actor’ and ‘Design Experiments’. What are they?
(A note on Tara Mullaney’s lecture by Rosan Chow)
Tara’s research-cum-practice project is situated in the context of radiotherapy. While Alastair’s talk highlighted the issue of role of design(er), Tara’s emphasized process and methods. There was, however, clear resonance between the two. Tara echoed Alastair’s concern with reductive scientific approach to healthcare: the focus of radiotherapy is on disease and not human. Patients are left out of the design of technology although they are the ones who must bear the anxiety-inducing medical equipment (e.g. immobilizer and thermoplastic mask). Tara, as Alastair, problematized their extreme emotions and traumatic experiences as issues of design.
To account for them, Tara found the current concepts wanting. Patients are not users (the therapists are), not consumers (the hospitals are), and not customers (the medical staff are). She introduced ‘implicated actor’ to grant them a proper place in the design of technology. I find the concept a significant contribution to design discourse in which the borrowed marketing language dominates and tends to narrow our minds. Words and names direct the way we see and think, as Klaus Krippendorff urges, designer-researchers should be ‘critically examining and re-designing the intellectual infrastructure of their design community’ and must continue to re(de)fine design discourse.
(Krippendorff, Klaus. 1997. “A Trajectory of Artificiality and New Principles of Design for the Information Age.”)
Tara further discussed how the technoscience-industrial-healthcare complex (my words) shaped the theories and methods she used. Actor-network theory and social shaping of technology were her main theoretical sources and she differentiated her methods between ‘empirical methods’ and ‘design experiments’. ‘Empirical methods’ included a survey to gain a systemic overview, an ethnographic field study of workflow, and design probes to identify stressors. ‘Design experiments’ were, as I understand, making of variations and solutions to reduce or eliminate anxiety among patients. My comments are on methods.
There is not (really yet) a consensus on design-research-cum-practice in terms of its name, theoretical underpinnings, methodological orientation or execution. I try to be open to all models and like to compare and contrast them to gain clarity. My personal baseline is Wolfgang Jonas’ ‘Research Through Design’. Jonas has developed a ‘hypercyclic’ model of design (research) process. He names the three main design phases as Analysis, Projection and Synthesis and articulates their respective characteristics and methodological questions.
(Jonas, Wolfgang. 2006. “Research through DESIGN through Research – a Problem Statement and a Conceptual Sketch.” In DRS Conference Wonderground. Lisabon, Portugal.)
Using his model, I would locate ‘empirical methods’ in Analysis which are ‘to get data on the situation as it is’. But I have difficulty locating ‘design experiments’ mainly because they are relatively new in research context and there were not sufficient details in the talk for me to judge. It is likely in Tara’s final dissertation there will be clearer articulation of ‘design experiments’ and I look forward to reading that. But as a critical comment, NOT on Tara’s presentation but the general norm in design research: I wonder whether the methodological discussion ought to be as detailed as that of the (social) sciences. As Latour has taught us, it is precisely because the data is constructed, and that’s why the construction must be revealed and subject to scrutiny.