I wish to acknowledge and pay respect to the Elders and Traditional Owners of the lands and waters on which this study was conducted. I acknowledge First Nations connection to material and creative practice which has existed on these lands for more than 60,000 years, and celebrate their enduring presence and knowledge. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. I take this opportunity to acknowledge those who have helped me along this path of doctoral study: My supervisors, Lisa and Kate, for joining my research journey and exciting possibilities with me (and within me), guiding emergent insights and caring for the curiosity that kindles doctoral research. To Fiona Young, my PhD collaborator on the ‘Making Space’ project. Our project would not have been possible without Fiona’s tenacity and sheer generosity. Fiona genuinely inhabits the spirit of collaboration. I would also like to thank all the teachers who engaged with our project and gave us so much of their precious time. It was a privilege to be part of your world through conversations about practice. I would like to thank all those in Wonderlab for the seriously playful conversations that stoked the liminal becoming vital to this PhD. A special thanks to Allison Edwards for the time, boundless energy and resources shared with me as I embarked on this co-design journey. Thank-you Ally. This research was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship.
This research was made possible through the generosity of the Innovative Learning Environments and Teacher Change (ILETC) program, an ARC Linkage Project (2016—2020). My sincere thanks to Wes Imms for inviting me to be part of the ILETC. Thank-you to Marian Mahat, Joann Cattlin and Sarah Healy, and to all those who I’ve met over the course of the program’s productive duration. The invitation to collaborate with such an incredible team of dedicated researchers has taught me what it means to practice, share, and apply research.
Thanks everyone
Dion Tuckwell
PhD Candidate, Monash University
[email protected]
Download this thesis as a PDF
Get the tapeface typeface
© 2021 Dion Tuckwell
Website by Amici

Part One

Context Context Context

Part 1 introduces and positions this doctoral research before a substantive project outline in Part 2 and analytical discussion in Part 3. Part 1 provides a research context that outlines critical concepts attending to the central concerns of this study—giving shape to a design practice joining collaborative research. This part established the theoretical frame, and methodological approach, critical to this study:

How might design practice join ways of becoming with collaborative research?

This part will, in turn, outline concepts accompanying the research design, situating relationships between the researcher, literature, theory and methodology.

  • Chapter 1.1 positions the research and the researcher within the complexity of this practice-led inquiry. This chapter will introduce the investigation and establish a methodological framework, including an emergent structure of analytical sense-making.

  • Chapter 1.2 provides a substantive theoretical outline of how joining practice-led research has been framed by this doctoral study. Keywords such as ‘becoming’ are given greater conceptual clarity, and theories are situated throughout this chapter to guide the reader through theoretical constructs activated by this practice-led inquiry.

  • Chapter 1.3 outlines designing, co-design, and other practice(s) central to this thesis. This chapter clarifies terms like ‘designerly’ and ‘speculative’ through a reading of ideas and practices in attendant literature. What design practice looks like, in terms of how it manifests within this study, will be given attention through an explanation of project grounded research as a framework that contains this study.

1.1 Positioning the Research

Chapter 1.1 positions the research and the researcher within the complexity of this practice-led inquiry. This chapter will introduce the investigation and establish a methodological framework, including an emergent structure of analytical sense-making.

1.1.1 Proof of Practice

This practice-led research begins in a knot—

—that never bloody happens!

The exclamation of that print technician bolts through me whenever I touch anything printed in hot pink. The printer, ‘Geoff’, scowled at his print er’s proof—briefly wincing toward me—then back to the offending proof (as if we were all ‘bloody’ colluding). The proof was still so wet we were both smeared by the hot pink ink … it’s a memory of my relationship with a graphic design practice that now feels like a distant presence. Memories like these draw me toward practice-led design research.

Shifts in my design practice compel this study toward states of contingent ‘becoming’. I appreciate these shifts through the work of eco-anthropologist Tim Ingold (2015), who illustrates a ‘knot’ as a kind of joint that has “enduring conditions of becoming” (p.23). The knottiness of my antecedent practice contains memories of how designing has conditioned a central thematic frame of becoming. Memories of ‘proofing’ things from my graphic design practice previews this becoming.

Actually … I loved handling printed proofs—it was a joyous thing to take receipt of your work on that glossy sheet of fresh ink. The precision of the printers’ marks seemed to vindicate any doubts about the carefully considered typography, or the fastidious photoshopping ...

I considered the Printers proof to be much more than ‘evidence’ of a formal transaction between designer and supplier. There’s something else going on. It felt closer to the romance of the ‘artists proof’; a lovingly processual artefact that reveals an impression of the print process, energising the artist as it reiterates the creative effort and holds the possibility for further refinement. This is the kind of ‘proof’ that speaks to how my own creative inquiry has also become an impression of possibility, rather than a transaction, of practice. What I discover is a portrait of practice that captures a sense of the emergence at the centre of the study. It has delivered me to better questions about how my relationship with design practice (and designs’ relationship with the world) is undergoing radical change.

This thesis attends to ‘becoming’ through emergent design practice, shaped through collaborative research. Joining this process requires shifting from a practice situated in graphic design, toward a practice shaped by collaborative research. As an emergent practice, this is a pursuit of the possible through a specific and simple notion—how we join co-creative research. Practice-led inquiry occurs in this study at sites of collaboration with interdisciplinary researchers and participants. This opportunity freights my design practice toward meaningful examinations of collaboration—an analysis of how to join creative collaboration through research that informs an immanent practice of co-design. The ILETC program of interdisciplinary research that houses this doctoral study enabled experimenting with ways to make-sense of the sense-making so fundamental to what designers share with others.

I kept wondering—how could design shift with this ‘social-turn’ that has radically reimagined the role of design in the 21st century? It’s so disorientating. I wonder how design could generate real knowledge about how creative collaboration is calibrated by the social—by how we grow and become with one another through materials and making. I recognsise this as a design process of forming the world through the social imagination—and leading new worlds into becoming active and effective.

This practice-led research seeks to investigate how shifts in design practice toward collaborative practices might be better understood through research—engaging with interdisciplinary research compelled shifts in my designing toward more collaborative modes of practice. This shift supposes an expansion of design practice seeking to understand in what ways practice might shift from being a designer toward becoming a co-design practitioner.

Doctoral research has followed an opportunity to join a significant interdisciplinary research program where creative collaboration is folded into the program methodology. Crucially, the installation of a co-design project within this program enabled this practice-led PhD to capture data of the designer and participants working creatively and collaboratively. Collaborative-creation at the site of this study assisted participants in making up conversations as welcome exhortations of their practice. Video capture enabled an exploration of the workshops as imaginative ‘portraits’, and I examined these portraits informed by my expertise as a design practitioner. This process helped position me within my practice. I designed the workshops, and I participated in them as a co-facilitator, assisting and joining teachers.

This research reveals ways of ‘joining’ as a mode that shifts toward a whole design practice. Research activity shifted from examining practice as it is, toward an analysis of practice coming into being—a framework of sense-making emerged from within the exploration. This emergence reflected the nature of practice-led research and became indicative of how methods followed a similar path of developing as they unfolded from within. To meaningfully engage with data was to engage with methods created for the participants—methods carried by a material playfulness designed to allow ‘making’ to be revelatory. Similarly, I discovered that creating instruments to see my practice helped position my practice within situations of creative collaboration.

I found myself wanting to learn more about how the relational nature of designing might describe the contribution design makes to sites of collaborative research. That is, I always sense how design exists in the ‘in-between’ and sets into motion disciplinary knowledge as a state of becoming. It beckons our imaginations towards what feels unknowable. We don’t yet know how to know this.

1.1.2 Project within a Program

The Project — Making Space

This PhD research conceived ‘Making Space’ as a project situated within the ‘Innovative Learning Environment and Teacher Change (ILETC) program. ‘Making Space’ is critical as the container for this doctoral study and will be given substantive description and analysis in Part 2 & 3 of the thesis.

Making Space is an exploration of co-design within this practice-led research. This project is situated within and determined by two separate but overlapping doctoral studies: an interdisciplinary inquiry of Participatory Action Research (PAR) and a Co-design practice-led research that explores teachers’ practice development in relation to new learning spaces associated with the ILETC program. Fieldwork was conducted at two secondary schools – both seeking to develop new pedagogical practices amidst the process of transitioning into ILEs. The studies engaged teachers as both participants and co-researchers, involving them in planning, enacting, and reflecting upon pedagogical development amidst the process of shifting into new learning spaces.

Data generated by Making Space forms the ground for a methodological inquiry central to this doctoral study. Making Space contains the practice at the centre of this study. This speculative practice imagines how we might shift co-designing in ways that understand our relationship with modes of becoming. Emergent methods of analysis are described alongside detailed illustrations of practice and practice-led methods associated with research activity.

The Program — ILETC

The ILETC program is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project funded for four years from 2016-2020. This PhD is one of eight on the ILETC and the only doctoral research with a practice focus. The program investigates how teachers can use the untapped potential of ‘Innovative Learning Environments’ (ILEs) to improve learning outcomes for students. It’s seeking to identify a link between quality teaching and effective use of ILEs and develop practical tools to assist teachers in adapting their teaching practices to maximise deeper learning. Innovative learning environments (ILEs) are commonly emerging in place of traditional classrooms in Australian and New Zealand schools, intending to support more student-centred pedagogies, as opposed to teacher-centred instruction (Paniagua & Istance, 2018; Imms, Cleveland, and Fisher 2016). Designed to facilitate a variety of collaborative, participatory, and independent teaching and learning approaches, ILEs may ‘become’ effective socio-spatial contexts for learning as “the product of innovative space designs and innovative teaching and learning practices” (Mahat et al., 2017, p. 8).

‘Teachers as Designers of Learning Environments’ (OECD) (Paniagua & Istance, 2018), asserts that pedagogy must be combined with expertise in the design of learning spaces for teachers to get the most out of ILEs. The report makes explicit the relationship that teachers could have with design: “It is precisely through the idea of teachers as designers of learning that innovation at the level of practice can be seen as a normal side of the teaching profession to solve the daily challenges in a context which is in constant change” (Paniagua & Istance, 2018, p. 21). The report goes on to state that there is a clear relationship between the role of design in schools that lends itself to teacher expertise: “Teacher learning—collaborative, action-orientated, and co-designed—is fundamental to change’’ (Paniagua & Istance, 2018, p. 43). For the ILETC program, a ‘design thinking’ approach responds to the suggestions of this OECD report, inviting a practice-led collaboration with design to investigate what is needed to activate these new ILEs. Like the OECD report, this study appreciates how well-intentioned architectural design has given shape to the emergence of ILE’s—but how could engaging with co-designing bring them to life?

The ILETC program collaborated with Wonderlab, a Co-design Research lab at Monash University in the Department of Design. As a core member of Wonderlab, I work with other doctoral candidates on a variety of speculative projects and PhD focused research. I also teach Design at Monash and appreciate the role of the research lab in contributing to the research culture within the design department. Wonderlab engages a co-design-based research approach to questions around how we might better understand design learning. During the early stages of the ILETC, workshop projects were co-designed with Wonderlab as encounters that surface teacher mindsets and beliefs surrounding the use of and transition into ILE’s. Research has developed an approach to co-design, inquiring into how design might shift teacher behaviour by making social practices more knowable. Wonderlab proposed a series of complimentary co-design workshops instead of typical ‘information sessions’ or ‘focus groups’ allowing messiness of teacher experience to inform the research ideation in the early stages. ILETC initially perceived these workshops as significant to establishing stakeholder engagement and ‘buy-in’. However, as the workshops progressed, this significance expanded as key knowledge building for the program. The workshops started to reveal how creative teacher engagement is a key to participation in the study. Workshops surface tensions in a productive and revelatory way and the role of co-design on the project emerged as a significant contributor to its methodological inquiry and research design.

1.1.3 Thesis Outline

There are three distinct parts to this thesis:

  1. Part 1 outlines the context of this research, including critical concepts that positions the study and the researcher. A methodological overview will introduce and detail how this practice-led methodology is structured. Included is how the project (PhD) is situated within an interdisciplinary program (ILETC) of collaborative research. Theoretical framing will further situate this PhD study as a ‘joining’ of collaborative practice-led research to a methodological inquiry.

  2. Part 2 outlines the practice-led project and site of research fieldwork (‘Making Space’). This project is key to how I join with participants in the field and adapts the method of joining from the strategies of Participant Observation (PO). A research design reports on our approach to the Making Space workshops, and the implications of the project for the research discussion, given substantive attention in part 3.

  3. Part 3 develops the significance of the methodological inquiry. ‘Joining’ methods is an analytical framework of speculative sense-making. It is presented as a vital contribution of this doctoral study and an original contribution to how we might learn from co-design practice through research. This part considers joining as a material and embodied process of becoming.

An interrogation of my relationship with data is developed as a speculative study through experimentation as a way to inhabit sites of inquiry (Stengers 2008). This doctoral investigation considers ways in which design research can create methods that better express the contribution design expertise makes in collaborative research contexts. Research contends that engaging creative strategies affords imaginative, inventive and intuitive methods—all familiar to design practice. These innovative strategies reveal a research process that occupies a productive ‘disorientation’ of transformative learning (Mezirow 1990). Practice emerging through research shows we can join data analysis as a transformative practice.

1.1.4 Research Inquiry

How might design practice join ways of becoming with collaborative research?

This research locates an immanent practice of becoming through a process of joining. I conceptualise ‘joining’ as a meaning-making process corralled through the practice of design. The term ‘joining’ is adapted from Participant Observation (Peterson et al., 2010) as a method of inquiry into data derived from collaborative practices within interdisciplinary research. The practice at the centre of this study develops from antecedent models of design that focuses on the designed artefact, toward a sense of design as an agent of social learning and collaboration (Grocott, 2019).

An invitation to work on the ILETC program provided the setting to situate this research question. A contribution to knowledge is developed through an experimental approach to practice-led research. Projects grounded in the ILETC program afforded an opportunity to experiment with a practice-led inquiry into how design in service to interdisciplinary research programs might generate research-led shifts in design practice. I reflect on my practice as a designer setting out on a co-design path, learning how to build a collaborative practice from the inside-out. This doctoral research is situated in interdisciplinary research and seeks to develop knowledge through intra-disciplinary inquiry.

My experience of graphic design practice has been framed by design that services a clients’ patronage. It’s a model of designing that was taught to me at University and one that continues today. This is design as a noun; as a concrete commercial endeavour. As a design educator I’ve taken this model as a provocation—what might it mean for designing—for the processual nature of design as a verb? I associate designing with our natural inclination to learn from the world. Teaching design has led to an active engagement with students who naturally question their burgeoning relationship with designing—to do design. This has inevitably led to me shifting my perception of designing, one that has appreciated the expansion of design as a way into understanding the world, a way to research and learn. I have taught (and learnt) design, and I have taught (and learnt) through designing. A reappraisal of what it means to practice design is an underlying catalyst for pursuing research through this shifting sense of what becoming a designer means.

Doing a PhD presented an opportunity to research across a messy and uncertain collaborative practice space, opening the possibility to shift designing through research that points towards better questions about a whole practice.

Grounding design practice within the ILETC program establishes a ‘laboratory’(Vaughan 2017, p.101) for experimentation. This situates experiments as iterative and evocative encounters with data, creating knowledge with an openness to emergence in practice and data. Through interrogating designs’ relationship to practice, this research seeks to develop the social imagination of design. That is; an imaginative practice that turns the affective language of materials toward meaningful analysis. I argue that through collaborative research, we might build better modes of practice-led analysis that situates design becoming with others. The materiality of this analytical mode is key to how I develop the object of this research.

The outcome of this research contributes to the practice of co-design by developing ways to ask better questions of practice. Research interpolates practice as a mode of learning that I embody through my hesitations, worries and struggles as a researcher. This study is an embodiment of becoming closer to the purpose and possibilities of co-design practice.

1.1.5 Methodological Overview

The following section outlines the methodological adjacency within this project-grounded research, including a conceptual outline of key concepts that have informed methodological inquiry.

Fieldwork undertaken as part of this study negotiated a complex entanglement of methods associated with large scale research projects such as the ILETC. Research work at the site of the project is situated by a Participant Observation (PO) of a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project that is embedded in the ILETC program. The following methodological outline will detail how a practice-led research strategy chose methods appropriate to the intent of this inquiry. Attending to the choice and application of methods, chapter 1.2 situates how theory framing these methods provides a philosophical stance behind the methodology.

This doctoral project appreciates methodology as the systematic, theoretical analysis of the methods applied in this research (Crotty 2020). The methodology offers a theoretical framework for understanding which methods, or best practices, are applied to the project space of this inquiry in response to the research question. This section posits that methodological adjacency emerges new approaches to understanding how we make meaning from data produced through co-designing within collaborative research. A broader discussion is applied in Part 3.

Developing an analytical framework adapted from Participant Observation (Schensul et al., 1999) situates how I join participants and data in this research puzzle. This approach aligns with thinking on how we frame both the design and the design practice as a way of inquiring into the design process, and draws attention to how narrative flows in the design process (Lloyd & Oak 2018, Dorst 2015, Paton, B., & Dorst, K. 2011).

Practice-led Research

Methodology emerging from within this practice-led inquiry is corralled through a Participatory Action Research (PAR) (Denzin and Lincoln 2005) study that employs a Co-design (Melo 2018) practice-led approach to frame participation. This, in turn, establishes a collaborative approach to engaging with a methodological inquiry that is grounded in a shared project: Making Space.

This methodology identifies practice-led research as a central framework. Practice-led research is conducted through designing alongside embedded and situated theory. This focuses on the nature of practices that lead to new knowledge significant for the operation of that practice (Candy 2006). As a practice-led researcher, I’m concerned with how practice-led inquiry advances knowledge about practice, from within practice (Smith and Dean 2009). A practice-led inquiry is, therefore, a significant part of this methodological framework.

Co-designing: Workshops as Research

Workshop design engaged with methods that enable generative, collaborative activities that explore assumptions, surface beliefs and reveal the mindset of teachers and participants engaging with ILETC research. Workshop participants were explicitly asked to show, rather than tell, their stories of what they were feeling and to playfully engage with prototyping their ideas (Royalty and Roth 2016). Using a framework developed by Sanders et al. (2010) the workshops guided participant between;

  • Making tangible artefacts;

  • Talking, telling and explaining;

  • Acting, enacting and playing (Sanders et al. 2012)

Methods: Workshop

Conversations were framed through a practice of co-designing with participant-teachers, who were asked to explore, through collaborative making, the intrinsic values that drive their practice. An assumption guided this—when latent values are surfaced, design-led workshops have the capacity to generate rich conversations that have meaningful connections to professional learning (Sanders and Stappers 2012). These methods developed in response to the possibility of learning through design, an iterative process given focus in Part 2; Making Space.

Figure 1: Say, Do, and Make tools and techniques reinforce each other (Sanders 2012)

Workshop methods follow the practice of Liz Sanders (2012), who claims that the best way to approach the organisation of tools and techniques that drive innovation is by being people-centred (Sander, 2012, p.66). The workshop methods focus on the activities of the participants rather than the researcher or the data. A turn toward data analysis occurs during experimental methodological inquiry (Part 3). However, the design and development of workshop methods follow Sanders in observing what people do, what they say, and what they make (Say/Do/Make, figure 1). Through this framework, designs’ most potent contribution is through ‘make’. In the context of our methods, we asked teachers using innovative learning spaces, to make a model of a classroom that reflects how they currently use the space, or how they could be using the space more effectively. This permitted participants to dream about the potential of space through a making process, a creative process that leads to conversations and reflections on their teaching—what works, what could be improved, who needs to be part of the conversation?

The confection of Say/Do/Make is multifarious. Say techniques involve familiar forms: questionnaires, polls, interviews are all aligned with the Say technique as a way of getting answers from people by asking them questions. Say techniques come is a variety of ‘objectiveness’ as questions can be framed in very subjective terms. Interviews probably have the greatest level of flexibility to learn from people as there is scope to shape the direction that questions and answers go. In other words, the interview can be more conversational and free form.

According to Sanders (2012) Say techniques can go a little deeper than Do, as participants can express more through their ‘voice’. The receiver in a Say technique colours the response by his or her interpretation. Likewise, the sender colours the message, for example, by answering what the receiver wants to hear. Therein lies a dilemma at the heart of the Say/Do technique: what pole say is different from what they do. People do not necessarily practice what they preach, or they may express views to cast themselves in a particular light. 

When using the Say techniques we consider:

  • Who talks? Interviews can take on many variations, and the decision of how the interview should be structured and facilitated should be carefully considered alongside the desired outcomes;

  • Is there a predetermined structure? From basic questionnaires to more free form conversations, this must also fit the purpose;

  • The media/form dimension. This point regards the form the conversation will take. Through the mail? Zoom? etc. This dimension will also determine how the Say technique is documented.

Do techniques involve observing people: their activities, the objects they engage with, the space in which they conduct these activities. The person doing the observation can be the research, or it could be the participants themselves. In Say/Do/Make, Do is the closest to a ‘scientific’ practice as it suggests the facilitation by unobtrusive research who ‘objectively’ observes and reports on the workshop. It should be noted that there are significant limits to how objective ones can be. Often this is just impractical. There are tools for capturing the ‘Do’ process that could assist in preserving objectivity, or the lack of objectivity itself needs to be factored into the outcomes of the workshop (Sanders and Stappers 2012). When studying what people do, we consider:

  • Who does the observation? Researcher-as-observer?, or participant-as-observer? or a hybrid of both?

  • How intrusive is the research? From hidden cameras to researchers accompanying participants, obtrusiveness must be appropriate and measured;

  • What media is being used for documentation? Likewise, this must suit the intent. New media has opened up possibilities, but sometimes pencil and paper is better for getting to undistracted outcomes.

Finally, Make strategies involve the practice and process of designing. We can get participants to make things as a response or expression of their thoughts and feelings. Make techniques form part of a suite of generative techniques—as pathways of expression. These pathways become crucial and are carefully crafted by the research team. They might elicit the recall of memories, making interpretations and connections, explaining feelings, or imagining future scenarios or experiences. Creating a pathway that is fit for the study is a crucial skill and central to the success of the Do exercise. It is also vital that the materials of the pathway are married to carefully considered instruction and facilitation. How the participants are instructed and supported enables the pathway to facilitate the emergence of new understandings.

The use of generative pathways are many and varied, however central to their usage is the creative process—there is usually an outcome of a material or made artefact, and in making artefacts, we are engaging with designing. This involves synthesising ideas (Kolko 2011) and making sense of ambiguities. It is engaged as a powerful method of reasoning as confronting the ‘messiness’ of a problem forces abductive thinking processes to make the latent more explicit. These methods outline the approach to a variety of workshop encounters within this study. The practice of co-design, in collaboration with PAR, shifted through this interdisciplinary paradigm.

Methods: Participatory Action Research (PAR) and Co-design

Making Space is a collaborative effort, designed as an innovative methodological pairing of PAR, and Co-design. The PAR research process followed the typical action research spiral of planning, acting, observing, reflecting, re-planning, new action and observing, and further reflection (figure 2)

Figure 2: An action research spiral within a PAR cycle

This PAR cycle was established by a PhD colleague on the ILETC program, and together we conceived of ‘Making Space’ as an embedded project that both locates her inquiry and situates my practice of co-design within the program. Co-design was installed within the PAR cycle as part of a practice intervention, seeking to establish richer participation from the PAR constituents.

Figure 3: Installing co-design methods within a PAR cycle

The installation of a co-design approach initiated responses from participant teachers being led through a PAR process (figure 3). A practice of creative collaboration with participants was activated by workshops that were framed by the research questions inherent to the PAR study. These questions are significant for the PAR study. For this practice-led study, the PAR questions were prompts for the design of the workshops. Data gathered from workshops would be directed toward the methodological framework emerging from within this meshwork of collaborative research.

The outcomes of the participatory encounters led to an iterative approach to workshop design—each workshop built on the preceding experience. A full description of the workshops is given in part 2 of this thesis. Iterating workshops situated the designing from within the community of teacher-practice we were engaging with.

This methodological inquiry focuses attention on analysis of workshop outcomes rather than the processes of the workshop design. The workshop design, although significant to the practice, is considered to be in service to the ILETC program and is not the research focus of this inquiry. It is the outcomes of the workshops, and how I engage with the sense-making of data analysis, that forms the focus on this methodological inquiry. This has been conceptualised through adapting and developing methods of ‘joining’.

Figure 4: Joining the Process

Methods: Joining

I established an initial relationship with the PAR process as co-designer facilitating workshops. Collaboration has been situated within this methodological framework as ‘joining’—a method of PO (figure 4). As a PO joining a PAR, I begin to conceptualise what it means to join through practice. This process of joining advances through the research as I intentionally shifted ‘joining’ toward a mode for inhabiting the whole inquiry—how I learnt through this process is itself an evocation of ‘joining’ with processes of ‘becoming’.

Joining is adapted from Participant Observation (PO) (Kawulich 2005; DeWalt, DeWalt, and Wayland 1998; Schensul, Schensul, and LeCompte 1999) and established an active mode of engaging with data emerging from the Making Space project. Joining becomes closer to a practice of designing as it absorbs the reflexive dialogue of design in conversation with the material affect of collaboration—the designer ‘joins’ an unfolding practice through research.

Figure 5: Locating a ‘speculative joining’ emerging from within PO joining a PAR.

Figures 5 & 6 describe how the expanding notion of ‘joining’ taking a speculative approach—joining becomes situated as a speculative practice of experimentation. This led to a ’speculative joining’ as a set of emergent methods I conceptualise as ‘knots’

Figure 6: From methods of interaction (being with the data), toward ‘knots’ (becoming with the data).

In this way, ‘joining’ becomes a creative act of discovery and exploration. The methods, interacting with the data analysis, transforms into a ‘knot’, conceptualised using Ingold’s notion of becoming. From interaction with the data, analysis inhabits a mode of inquiry that reflects the affective texture of the workshops that generated the data. The methods remember the makerly modes of play and creative invention that the teacher-participants of PAR experienced. These ‘knotty’ methods are embodying the act of joining through an intra-active process of analysis. For the researcher, this is not looking at what the data is saying, but becoming with the data through creative speculation.

Methods: Purposeful Knots

The ‘knot’ becomes a method that shifts my practice toward inhabiting the inquiry as a process of learning (becoming). This is evidenced in how a ‘knotty’ method shifts how I relate to the data—a method that changes my relationship to the data to one of deliberate disorientation—a scripted methodological dilemma that provokes processes of transformation.

The knots’ “enduring condition of becoming” emerges from within the speculative joining. The knot completes the formation of a methodological inquiry which developed as it unfolded through an experimental approach to data analysis. Speculative joining became a way to learn with the disorientation of data analysis. A more substantive and expanded discussion around joining, and knots, is provided in Part 3 (‘Discussion’).
The purpose of the program (ILETC) is framed, explicitly, by a set of broadly stated research aims. The purpose of the practice (PhD/Making Space) emerged through the implicit and emerging development of relationships between the participants and the program. To establish, through co-creative methods, a set of concepts for approaching the research projects core suppositions. The purpose of this doctoral research is in establishing a curiosity that re-positions design through the program and asks how this re-positioning of purpose has shifted the practitioners underlying practice values.

As a designer, I created knotty methods. As a researcher, I revelled in the activation of knowledge entanglements.

As a design researcher, this study seeks to understand methods through research. I contend that design that understands method and theory is more conscious. To be aware of the assumptions and implications of the practice is to see it whole. If we take methodology to be processual—looking at methods with active theoretical appraisal—this research argues design must develop new ways of becoming; learning through practice change that I seek consciously and purposefully.

1.1.6 Positioning Experimentation

Joining Possibilities

This study follows Findeli (1998), developing a practice posture of project-grounded (Making Space) research embedded in a program (ILETC) (see 1.3.5). Experimentation within the project, positions this practice-led research (and the practice-researcher) within a deliberate mode of ‘becoming’.

The ILETC program installed a design thinking approach that engaged teachers seeking to augment conversations that occur with teacher-participants. This program of design thinking situates the suppositions or ‘hypotheses’ made by the ILETC (Binder and Brandt 2017) that has invariably directed this PhD project. However, from within the ‘hypothesis’ emerged a practice of experimenting with research methods that situate the attendant co-designing, and analytical framing. Design practice is typically framed by the services and outcomes delivered by the designers. In the case of ILETC, design thinking, and the co-creative approaches to generating imaginative conversations is in service to the expectations of the program’s broadest research intentions: how teacher practice is changing in line with the implementation of ILE innovations. Research in this doctoral study found a ‘voice’ in the Making Space project, situating the possibilities project-driven experimentation—Making Space.

This project recognises that the possible is always contingent, and it is through research that we might convincingly make arguments that positions possibilities (Stengers 2015). It is positioning the possibilities of experimental methods grounded in the project that sets this doctoral research in motion (Brandt et al. 2011). A more extensive discussion on what it means to ’experiment’ in the context of this research is provided in section 1.3.4.

Developing a Practice from With-in

Figure 7 describes the progression of this doctorate from the initial project being conceived within the program, toward an inverted state of a program within the project. This expansion recognises how a limited practice of co-design in service to the program grew through research processes to become a site of knowledge creation informing the program.

Figure 7: Practicing co-design on an interdisciplinary research program provides an opportunity to develop and examine project-grounded research—a pracitce with-in.

This progression of becoming develops as it unfolds, revealing ways that practice-led research has shifted my relationship with a collaborative research program from being a practice with-out (on the outside of the program looking in), to practicing with (co-creation with participants inside the project), toward becoming with-in (joining research through practice).

Throughout the doctoral research, Making Space amplified a sense of the agency of design-research becoming in tune with sites of collaborative knowledge creation, leading to a greater sense of how designing might contribute to interdisciplinary research.

1.2 Joining the Research

Chapter 1.2 provides a substantive theoretical outline of how joining practice-led research has been framed in this doctoral study. Practice-led research recognises that theory develops a perception of practice expressed through language located within that practice, constructing a shared reality through language (Althusser 2018). This chapter attends to keywords such as ‘becoming’, and theories are situated throughout this chapter to guide the reader through theoretical constructs activated by this practice-led inquiry.

1.2.1 Situating Theory

Doctoral studies in design engage different forms of fabrication or making—and this includes the making of theory (Redstrom 2017). Co-design within this study engages with and through theory to develop a conceptual framework as a critical part of practice-led research.

Thomas Markussen (2017) raises a fundamental question for design researchers: can design work lead to theory? (p.87). Markussen speculates if a ‘theoretical design science’ is possibly too restrictive. It is a critique that aligns with Gaver (2012) and Bowers (2012) who argue that the goal of theory in research through design (RtD) is essentially different to that of science. That is; ‘theories produced by RtD are not falsifiable in principle’ (Gaver 2012, p. 940), they are not evaluated according to whether or not they hold or provide meaningful interpretations of an existing reality. Design theories are not confined to descriptions, explanations or predictions of existing realities. These considerations are taken into account when conceptualising the theoretical framing of this study—how I choose theoretical frames, and how they are made through a designerly (Cross 2006) lens. There have been efforts to model this for design research. Haynes and Carroll (2007) argue for designs as embodied hypotheses that could lead to theories. According to them, the founding of these research outcomes might be evaluated from the philosophy of science; a theoretical design science that is purposeful, illuminating and grounded.

However, Markussen (2017) describes how design theories take on a different form, that they tend to be more provisional, contingent and aspirational, or what Zimmerman et al. (2010) refer to as ‘nascent theory’ (p. 312). A ‘guiding philosophy’ (p.90) might be concepts that help sensitise or direct designers and design researchers when reframing design problems (Zimmerman et al. 2010). Or a conceptual framework is another common form of theory where design researchers borrow concepts from other disciplinary areas and apply them to design. This research draws on conceptual frameworks from practice theory, alongside concepts from PO, in order to build theory into the study. Gaver (2012) asserts that this might inspire new designs or design practice.

1.2.2 Becoming: An Outline

‘Becoming’ as Speculation

The complexity of relational concepts embedded in this research is conceptualised through Ingold (2015), who describes the relational networks of humans and objects through a ‘meshwork’ metaphor—an intertwined and knotted ‘life of lines’ in a constant state of becoming (Ingold 2015, p.22). This study develops these concepts through a speculative lens.

Speculative researchers seek to examine processes of becoming through ‘social dreaming’ (Dunne & Raby 2013), a practice that engages creatively with the latent possibilities of the present, working with methods that enable the becoming of possible futures. This socially embedded practice has propelled researching the social and dialogic nature of the design process. Design practice continues shifting with this ‘social turn’ (Lloyd, 2019, p.171) that has reimagined how we evaluate and position designing and the designer (Oak & Lloyd, 2016). The Making Space project has been driven by these shifts and frames theoretical analysis through notions of ‘becoming’ a researcher.

Situating the designer learning through speculative research deviates from the ‘pre-formatted geometry’ (Wilkie et al. 2017 p.25) of ‘predicting’ futures and instead aims to build a capacity to emerge through the temporal—‘responding to the insistence of a possible that demands to be realised’ (Stengers 2015, p. 19). In turn, this research project does not seek to predict future practices; rather, speculative capacities provide an opportunity to experiment with processes of becoming (Michael and Wilkie 2020). This study therefore positions designing as ‘becoming’ through the experimental frameworks that emerge with design practice through research, constructing a relationality which contributes to knowledge of designing. This relationality critiques ‘design thinking’ as a practice that cannot be planted into complex sets of social relations—especially in interdisciplinary research—and must instead emerge from within research (Boelen et al., 2020). It is through a speculative framework of becoming that I appreciate how we engage with the social through the material and relational nature of designing—and that this both troubles and disorientates my sense of what it means to be a designer.

I design with a sense of exquisite disorientation.

‘Becoming’ as Learning

Mezirow (2000) describes a ‘disorienting dilemma’ as an integral catalyst for ‘Transformative Learning’ (TL). This is identified as a learning experience triggered by a life crisis that leads us to challenge our assumptions, leading to a transformation of beliefs and values (Taylor, 2000). Since the promotion of Mezirow’s model of TL, research has revealed greater complexity at what we might mean by a ‘dilemma’, and how it can be connected to learning (Merriam and Clark 1991; Daloz, 1999). Merriam and Clarke (1991) for example, describes ‘integrating circumstances’ (p. 177) that might lead up to the development of a disorienting dilemma. These may not necessarily be ‘crisis’-like. There is still much to be uncovered about the nature of a disorienting dilemma and how it comes about as a catalyst for transformative learning (Laros, Fuhr, and Taylor 2017).

This ‘disorientation’ experienced in this research aligns with the likes Nohl (2015) who has described a TL process as starting with the integration of new practices into existing ones. In this case, there is no ‘crisis’ at all (Laros et al. 2017, p. 85). Nohl’s studies have shown that a ‘disorienting dilemma’ might be better understood as an “unfolding evolution” (Laros 2017, p.176) which leads to potential shifts in perspective. This differs from the negativity implied in Mezirow’s ‘crisis’ framing of a disorienting dilemma and instead exhibits positive affect as the catalyst for the integration of old and new practices. This approach to transformation galvanises self-empowerment rather than any implication of diminished personal agency associated with the notion of a ‘crisis’.

The ‘proof of practice’ story previewing this thesis is not one of crisis—I can appreciate it as a moment of ‘unfolding evolution’—a fragment of practice that forms part of the whole disorientation so central to this study.

The ‘disorienting dilemma’ that seeded motivation for this doctoral study is a sense of how formless design practice has become—and how this diminishes a sense of positionality in collaborative research.

Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama (2015) describes how poetic form can help hold things in us that feel formless—and in that internal formation, we find space to name the things we seek to learn and understand. I wonder how I might imagine these forms, and how this might reveal a practice that develops from being a designer (servicing), toward becoming a design-researcher (learning ).

I’m curious as to what form of poetic navigation might guide my practice in a way that educates my imaginative attention (Ingold 2015, p. 134)—making visible a relationship with the possible by creating frameworks for analysis.

Becoming a ‘Navigational Vector’

According to Rogoff (2014), knowledge produced through creative practice enables us to question how we might know what we don’t yet know how to know. Rogoff posits a need to change the language we use to access and assess ‘knowledge’, and to search for new terms or a different set of research aspirations (Rogoff 2014, p. 132). According to Rogoff, this ‘not-yet-known-knowledge’ requires an emergent language. The terms that emerge through such inquiry become the building blocks or ‘navigational vectors’ (p. 132) for learning that is not preoccupied with measuring success - one that is content with merely trying.

Following Rogoff’s critique of knowledge, design research is an emergent field of significant epistemological disorientation. However, in the spirit of Rogoff’s critique, this disorientation might be useful in how it reveals to the design practice-researcher, ways to make known the impact of their practice, through their practice. To know what we still don’t know how to know is a disorientating technology for creating knowledge.

Rogoff posits that an epistemological crisis allows us to consider absent knowledge and to propose new research methods. This isn’t limited to building new ways of operating as researchers; it offers a letting go of ways of thinking as a deliberate invitation to ‘try on’ new modes of knowing. Making Space moves to ‘re-compose’ design practice through research that permits the emergent to take hold—an unnerving and vulnerable state of becoming.

Becoming With—

This collaborative research recognises that effective design practice comes about by working with people rather than for them (Grocott et al., 2019); a supposition that forms and informs the basis for how I ‘become’ with my practice alongside data generated with participants. Data analysis of co-design workshops interrogates better ways to understand the ‘other’ we work with. Understanding the others we work with supposes that we must learn to pay attention to practice in ways that move from being with others, toward a developing practice of becoming with—

It’s as if my design practice feels with-out—I move with the flow of this research as it directs designing with-in—giving form to the formless qualities of becoming.

A theory of becoming with design practice through data analysis is developed in Part 3 of this thesis, appreciating how learning in design research occurs as the designer becomes part of the research process (Findeli 2001)—how the designer shifts with this research process.

As design practitioners, how might we become closer to our discipline in the context of the social habitat of practice?—the social world in which design exists. This positions design as an ontological medium that shapes our actions and in turn, generates our worlds (Winograd & Flores 1986). The work of design shapes our social imagination, and this research recognises how the experimental nature of ‘social’ design is a powerful medium that resonates with speculative methodologies, supposing that practice both forms and transforms the one who practices (Kemmis, 2014)

I’m curious: how does my designing with others become part of a research process of shifting practice?

A framework of relational interactions reveals how methods emerge in spaces of practice-led research. With-in the practice space of this research project, data becomes conceived as a practice of knowing. That is, as the ‘knots’ of data emerge, a practice of speculation becomes integral to how I make sense of what that data means in the context of this study. In this way, data is a form of practice activation that flows with the creative inquiry.
My background in communication design (formerly graphic design, graphic arts, commercial art, printing, typesetter … ) forms a slippery continuum of practice convolutions. My practice is held by—and emerges with—the tensions that pulse within these ontologies. This slope of this disciplinary convolution forms a dislocated cartography—a map that forms as it’s read—uncharted and bewildering. However, this research recognises that rather than generating and delivering an instructive ‘map of practice’, methodological inquiry looks to explore strategies that permit this disorientation of practice contingency as a process of learning.

My design practice led to design teaching and further qualifications in education. Expanding my disciplinary boundaries invited a transformation, as I was seeking to begin to integrate my design skills into more collaborative learning spaces. The initial bewilderment of this interdisciplinarity has become a transformation of my original graphic design practice. This practice of becoming learns from the process of its own emergence. The research draws on these antecedent practices that make up my way of knowing as a designer—drawing from the interiority of practice—toward immanent sensibilities of becoming.

I’m looking to name the form of this shifting practice—it feels formless. I can sense how this emerging practice is, in fact, the shifting—and it looks to find form in the spaces it moves into and becomes.

1.2.3 Ontological Entanglements

This doctoral research is framed as an entanglement, anticipating how encounters with theoretical perspectives contain ontological shifts for design. Does design shape things in the world in the same way that epistemology shapes things in the realm of knowledge (Murphy 2017)? If research advances our knowledge of the world, how might we consider this against how design becomes a mode of inquiry? What knowledge does design produce and how? These complex questions have ontological implications.

Ontology is the study of being that is concerned with ‘what is’ — with the nature of existence and the structure of reality (Crotty 2020, p.10). Ontological issues emerge alongside epistemological issues. In many cases, it would be better to retain the use of the term ‘theoretical perspective’ and reserve the term ‘ontology’ for those occasions when we exclusively need to discuss ‘being’ (Crotty 2020, p. 11). However, this doctoral research looks to make meaning out of design as a way of being in the world.

Design is ontological in that all design-led objects, tools, and even services bring about particular ways of being, knowing and doing. Arturo Escobar (2018) posits radical independence and autonomy for the making of worlds through design. An ontological designing might come to play a constructive role in transforming entrenched ways of being and doing toward philosophies of well-being that finally equip humans to live in mutually enhancing practices with each other and with the Earth (Escobar 2018).

Design is ontological because: “we encounter the deep question of design when we recognise that in designing tools we are designing ways of being” (Winograd and Flores 1986, p. xi, in Escobar 2018, p. 110). If we take design to be an interaction between understanding and creation, design is ontological because it is a conversation about possibilities. The more significant and more complex implication here is how we address this dimension of design as having the capacity to address how society engineers inventions whose existence in turn alters that society. The idea of an ontological design is derived from the work of Winograd and Flores (1986) who summarise the principles of ontological design as thus:

The most important design is ontological. It constitutes an intervention in the background of our heritage, growing out of our already-existent ways of being in the world, and deeply affecting the kinds of beings that we are. In creating new artefacts, equipment, buildings, and organisational structures, it attempts to specify in advance how and where breakdowns will show up in our everyday practices and in the tools we use, opening up new spaces in which we can work and play. Ontologically oriented design is therefore necessarily both reflective and political, looking back to the traditions that have formed us but also forward to as-yet-uncreated transformation of our lives together. Through the emergence of new tools, we come to a changing awareness of human nature and human action, which in turn leads to new technological development. The designing process is part of this “dance” in which our structure of possibilities is generated” (1986, p. 163)

And, crucially, that:

“In ontological designing, we are doing more than asking what can be built. We are engaging in a philosophical discourse about the self—about what we can do and what can be. Tools are fundamental to action, and through our actions we generate the world. The transformation we are concerned with is not a technical one, but a continuing evolution of how we understand our surroundings and ourselves—of how we continue becoming the beings we are” (1986, 179).

According to Escobar, every tool is ontological in the sense that it establishes a set of rituals and ways of doing, models of being (Escobar 1995). From a much broader perspective, these designs contribute to shaping what it is to be human—we design tools, and these tools design us (Escobar 2018). Escobar conceives of design as ontological through a weaving together of theories that put forward a constructivist epistemology; we are not separate from the world, but rather we create the phenomenal domains within which we act; and that this world is created through language. This thesis follows Escobar in recognising how constructing ontologies is practice-orientated—the sensing of disharmony in one’s world is addressed by eschewing abstract theory for intense engagement and involved experimentation. Active exploration resonates with designs’ propensity for engaged experimentation through prototyping or imagining future worlds through playful speculation.

1.2.4 In-Between: a Theory of Lines

Critical to methods of ‘joining’ is Ingold’s conception of a ‘line’ and how it speaks to, and through, method. This section outlines how I develop Ingold’s ‘Life of Lines’ (2015) as a significant theoretical framing.

By way of explanation, Ingold begins by describing what a line is not—that is, a ‘blob’. Blobs have insides and outsides—they expand and contract—they take up space, and they can even meld into each other. But what blobs cannot do, is to cling to each other without losing their own particular identity. According to Ingold, a world of blobs can therefore have no social life, and if we take all life to be social, in a world of blobs there can be no life at all—that is the world of the line.

A ‘life of lines’ is described by Ingold as a state of entanglement. When everything tangles with everything else, when all is entangled, the result is what Ingold calls a meshwork. A meshwork is a collection or a bundle of lines. The line brings the social back to life as it accounts for the movement between blobs. Lines are described as a ‘composition’ (Ingold 2015, p. 3). Lines, in the meshwork of this research, are life-giving compositions that create meaning through ‘knots’.

For Ingold, a meshwork is full of joins he describes as knots, and I ask, with Ingold, what does it mean to join? The notion of joining explored through the concept of a knot isn’t to be mistaken for the kind of ‘joints’ we find side by side or end-to-end like a chain. The inherent rigidity of these joints means interiors cannot mix or mingle—such as the ‘articulation’ of carriages of a train linked end to end. Ingold suggests a chain has no memory and when separated it simply falls to the ground, unaffected. A knot, on the other hand, retains an impression of its former state. It curls back into a memory of its joined state. This memory is baked into the material—it’s in its very fibres. An articulated structure like a chain remembers nothing because it has nothing to forget. But the knot remembers everything and has everything to forget—untying a knot reveals memories of former associations that are present in its material presentation. Joining with a knot requires the things joined to be flexible. They do not just meet on the outside; they meet in the interiority of the knot. This is different to end-to-end joining, this is joining in the middle.

It is in this way knots are in the midst of things. Their ends are looking for an entanglement. The flexible knots and articulated joints are, therefore, contrasting ideas. A carpenter makes joints, whereas knots are closer to basketry—weaving pliable materials rather than solid wood. With a basket, it’s the “countervailing tensile, and compressive forces of bent withies lend rigidity to the whole structure” (p. 22). Ingold’s conceptual exploration alludes to what it means to make things. Both carpentry and basketry have making in common. Both use different kinds of joining. “ The necessity of the knot is not a brittle one … but a supple necessity that admits to movement as both its condition and its consequence” (p. 23). This necessity comes from commitment and attention to materials and listening to the “ways they want to go” (ibid.).

Ingold re-considers the carpenters joint as more knot than articulated joint because of the way materials offer themselves to one another on the inside without losing the identity of a whole—a composition of materials that retains the individual identity of the parts. The carpenter’s joints interpenetrate making an enduring condition of interiority at the joint. The joint then becomes an enduring condition like a knot which has a condition that lives on beyond the joining. These joints, according to Ingold, are relationships not of articulation but sympathy. “The parts possess an inner feel for one another and are not simply linked by connections of exteriority” (p. 23).

Supposing practice to mean the making of ontological realities (Stengers and Annemarie Mol, 2002, in Michaels, 2018) we might conceive of ‘making’ as an opening-up of ways of knowing between existing bodies of knowledge. I appreciate this idea alongside Ingold’s (2015) distinction between and in-between. For Ingold, ‘between’ articulates a joint—again—the articulation of a divided world. ‘In-between’ on the other hand, is a movement of becoming without a final destination. ‘Between’ has two terminals, whereas ‘in-between’ has none (p. 147). A movement in the ‘between’ state is from ‘here to there’—toward a final state whereas ‘in-between’ is an ongoing condition. It is the ‘in-between’ that is the realm of the life of lines—not joining up, joining with.

This research is framed in the ‘in-between’, and develops conditions for ‘in-between-ness’, building knowledge along the paths that continually unfold (p. 148). Inhabiting the in-between locates the space of knots, where collaboration becomes possible through intentional research. It is in-between the human and non-human acting on the research puzzle we ‘see’ the interconnected habitat of design’s relationship to the social imagination of things and practices. We reveal design’s capacity for imaginative connections through practice.

1.2.5 Theories of Practice

The following section outlines practice theory as significant to how this research is framed as ‘practice-led’. This section analyses conceptual frameworks associated with practice, including models that appreciate the role of practice within this study.

A so-called ‘practice turn’ was conceived in the social sciences around the time of Donald Schön’s study, ‘The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action’ (1983). Schön’s work is a significant inquiry into the practical and experiential knowledge of designing. The ‘Reflective Practitioner’ teases out concepts of the tacit knowing and implicit knowing of practitioners that surface in action and doing, rather than words. Schön’s work is consistent with Theodore Schatzki, who edited ‘The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory’ (2001) with Karin Knorr Cetina and Eike von Savigny. Schatzki describes a common interest: “Practice theorists conceive of practices as embodied, materially mediated arrays of human activity centrally organised around shared practical understanding” (Schatzki, T., 2001, in Joost, et al. 2016, p.36). Consistent with this research, practice theory appreciates the practices themselves as central to the production of meaning. According to Andreas Reckwitz: “A practice is thus a routinised way in which bodies are moved, objects are handled, subjects are treated, things are described, and the world is understood” (Reckwitz 2002, p. 250).

The ‘practice turn’ in the social sciences identifies the field of practices and the significance for social and cultural creation of meaning (Mareis 2016, p.40). Locating a co-design practice within this research has signalled a move away from artefact or object toward an open-ended set of actions or processes—toward the sense of practice emerging. This doctoral study aligns with Claudia Mareis (2016) who promotes design practice research as evolving new languages and definitions of research methods and actors alongside “a distinct discourse of the praxeological” (Mareis 2016, p.35). Design research looks to the reciprocity of practice and theory construction, seeking new ways of understanding how practice research produces knowledge (ibid.).

Immanent Practice

According to Phillips (2018), practice is a kind of rehearsal. Work is the expectation of remuneration, compared to practice that has no such ‘discrete expectations’ (p. 72). In our practices we have a heightened appreciation for our participation in the flow of the process (ibid). It is through this flow we develop the improvisation that is key to the practice state of productivity. The practice of designing can, therefore, be distinguished from the work of a designer—to be a practising designer is to be embedded in the immanence of creative flow. It is to be reflexive—and this renders the practitioner with a capacity to be more active (or perhaps less reactive). Practice outcomes, in this sense, do not necessarily summarise this process, but they do present an embodiment of the states of flow. It is in this way that practice can communicate different ways of being in, and coming into, the world (Phillips 2018).
Practice is imbued with a sense of the active—an active relationship with the realities we inhabit (Althusser 2018, p. 44). This is an activity of formation; both the formation of the practice and the forming of the practitioner. If we take practice to imply the notion of active contact with the real, there is an implication of active agents (either human or non-human). Practice designates people’s active contact with the real, making all practice social: “We shall therefore use the world practice to designate a social process that puts agents into active contact with the real and produces results of social utility” (Althusser 2018, p. 45).

Every practice is deeply social and surfaces a complex set of elements and agents (Althusser 2018). We can conceive of social practices not as simple acts or activities but as processes. Joining Althusser, I engage with a definition of practice that designates a social process that ‘puts agents into active contact with real results of social utility” (ibid). And that the way we engage with and visualise the determination of practice is itself part of an immanent practice of becoming.

Mapping Emerging Practice

Professional learning in design research results from the designer becoming part of the research process (Findeli 2001). Learning through research is “a distinctively unique, situated and bounded problem space that includes a variety of actors and human and non-human factors and relations” (Shumack 2015, p. 236). Learning in this context is a complex and emergent process of discovery—the situated nature of iterative designing takes on a significant role in guiding and shaping the research outcomes (Lawson, 2006, in Shumack 2015). New approaches to interdisciplinary research surface new practices, and there is value in the potential to develop autonomous and accountable research outcomes (Lury 2018) from within those practice habitats.

In this study, practice is mapped though modes of emergent making and iterating. This mode is conceived of as a mapping process, a practice that can focus attention on alternate possibilities and potentials of the situated research through designerly ways of knowing (Cross 2006). The emergence of this type of approach enables the design researcher to engage with a multiplicity of data forms in dynamic and speculative ways (Shumack 2015), drawing attention to what is not known and what may emerge.

A mapping practice is analogous to the data sense-making process, where data produced in the documentation of the teacher workshops is re-mapped through creative mark making to develop methods of sense-making. In joining the teacher-participants, I refer to the process as ‘context mapping’ (Visse et al. 2005), aiming to create a range of perspectives from a collective of expertise. Experiential inputs from participants contribute to the shape of the design outcome, thus, “creating new domains of collective creativity” (Sanders and Stappers 2014, p. 5) in which participants bring an emergent and embodied knowing, alongside practical perspectives, that inform the design research context.

Noticing Practice

‘Joining’ is adjactent to a practice of ‘noticing’. John Mason’s thesis ‘A Discipline of Noticing’ (2002) expands on Donald Schon’s (1983) valorisation of ‘reflective practice’. Mason expands Schons’ deployment of the terms ‘reflection-on-action’ and ‘reflection-in-action’. ‘Reflection-in-action’ identifies the work of designers and might take the form of diagraming to externalise relationships or ideas common in design practice. Mason adds ‘reflection-through-action’ (Mason 2002, p. 15) where a practitioner becomes aware of the practice through the act of engaging in that practice. It is this particulat mode of reflection that is significant for the methodological inquiry of this doctoral study.

Research with teacher-practitioners led to questioning how teachers might reflect through their practice. However, a more significant question for this study is how designing might engage with reflective practice. This question takes into account how reflection includes a process of attention that flows outward toward broader socio-cultural forces, and how these forces press upon the practitioner to act, work or speak in particular ways (Mason 2002, p.16). This flow or mode of reflection works toward our internal or external realities that are located at different levels. Mason refers to this as a ‘scope of reflection’ (ibid.) and indicates how reflection contains many possibilities. Scoping can be understood through the analogue of learning. Following instructions and completing tasks might give the learner a sense of engaging in or completing learning; however, this does not necessarily ensure learning has actually taken place. A student needs to participate in the activation of learning for it to be meaningful. The same is true for reflection, as a practitioner must activate the learning from within the scope of their practice expertise. This research corralls Masons’ ‘noticing’ alongside the method of ‘joining’, framing how we might activate the ‘disorientation’ provoking transformative learning. A practice-led design researcher creates the scope of reflection that, in turn, determines deeper learning about that practice­.

Layering Practice

Conceiving of reflective practice as a set of layers contains the variety and context of reflectiona and improves how we appreciate the scope of practice (MacIntyre 1993, in Mason 2002). MacIntyre (1993) describes these layers as:

  • First, a technical level of setting professional goals in establishing management or assessment frameworks—specific practical goals. This is closer to the work of professional development;

  • The second level concerns more complex concerns of assumptions, predispositions, values, and consequences which connect with our actions. This places the practical issues or goals in a wider context and interrogates the hissed assumptions etc.;

  • The third level is much more critical—even emancipatory. It concerns broader ethical or social issues and how the individual practice is situated within those issues. Crucially, this level critically inquires into the institutional or social forces which might be constraining the individual’s freedom of action and in turn, might limit the agency of those individuals and their stories. It essentially questions how institutions come to exert their influence—where those institutionalised practices originate and the powers behind them.

This kind of layering orientates a movement outwards from individual practice to broader structures of social forces—it is a social-reflection. Conceptualising the ‘knot’ within the methodological inquiry takes into consideration how the ‘layers’ of the knot correspond to MacIntyre’s model, and how the knot aims to shift practice toward situating design within broader social settings.

Mason’s (2002) noticing, on the other hand, is more psychological-reflection as it starts with the same first level but instead moves inwardly. According to Mason (2002, p. 17) it is an act of sensitising oneself to notice situations where alternative actions are possible, and making changes to your practices through those choices to act differently. This sensitivity equips a practice with the capacity to identify and in turn question underlying assumptions and values that inform the scope of reflection. A scope of reflection requires a field of visible qualities, both internal and external, and a practitioner’s capacity to see and experience the site of practice—a practice of witnessing.

Witnessing Practice

According to Mason (2002), practice involves developing an ‘inner witness’. The inner witness ‘watches’ without getting involved or stuck in the participation—detachment can be a refuge for the practitioner (Mason 2002, p.19). This discipline helps the practitioner to ‘see’ the activity in front of them and can surface implicit assumptions and can work to develop a distinction between the actor and observer. As Schon reminds us; reflective practice requires a kind of ‘living in’ and not just occasional attendance (Schon 1987, p. 311). It leads to the question: how might we ‘live in’ our practice in ways that encourage learning from experience and enabling that experience to inform practice?

To develop ‘inhabiting’ practice is to foster the epistemic beliefs of a practicing researcher appreciating the value of deepening practice knowledge. Shifting values requires an expansion of world-views which positions what it means to know, and how we can validate new ways of knowing. This ‘knowing’ primarily comes about through our experience of language. A social-constructivist stance would describe this unfolding as occurring through our engagement with and immersion in the language (Burr 2003). It follows that our perceptions are limited by the language that allows us to perceive; this includes the experience, and participation in, the actions of sense-making—making the sensate intelligible. Making our worlds intelligible is driven through how we join our past experiences with the present. To ’see’, and to ‘make sense’ of what is unfolding in practice requires a capacity to be present. It is an act of attention, the giving of attention to the present moment and the development of the unfolding events (see 3.3.3).
Mason’s ‘Discipline of Noticing’ is a call to broaden the scope of our reflection to articulate our practices, noticing the potential of ourselves as practitioners-in-action. To witness an extension of the present moment, Mason posits this discipline as key to informing future actions—a sensible approach to pursuing practices that inhabit sites of research through creative methodologies.

1.2.6 Shaping Relationships

This research recognises that a ‘social turn’ has shifted how we imagine, position and evaluate the dialogic nature of design practice. This re-evaluation prompts an ethical turn in how we critique the efficacy of the social practices that design seeks to inhabit. Methods developed in this study recognise the ‘dialogic’ in design locates an understanding of how design has shifted from material outcomes towards discursive exchange (Bishop 2006). A ‘social turn’ also indicates that design has been shifting toward community-based social practices that are relational and situated. Co-design practice might be evaluated by the qualities that design brings for communities building a capacity to create new relations between people, places and objects. A co-design practice seeks to develop these relationships in response to a specific and situated problem space.

Perhaps it’s in the quality of the relational practice space that co-design inhabits that we find a ‘proof’ that speaks to its efficacy.

Despite the conceptual obfuscation of ‘co-design’ there is a consistent epistemic belief in how collective creativity can empower a community through collaborative action—sharing ideas, and sense-making—coming together and making changes from within rather than without (ibid.).

A co-design practice engaging with communities through creative participation must allow agency to emerge through consensual collaboration. Consensual emergence might be best understood in how we situate ourselves as practitioners from within collaboration. It is problematic for co-design to force or contrive collaboration that frames agency as a product of collaboration, presupposing the communities capacity to effect change from within their practice (ibid). This research examines how we might make methods that create a lasting installment of agency from within a community, acknowledging the relational as key to understanding co-designs impact.

Shaping Relationships through the Project (Making Space)

As the shape of ‘Making Space’ emerged, so too did the shape of my relationship with the ILETC program. At the outset of the ILETC, a practice of design thinking was installed to generate creative and collaborative experiences for teacher-participants, in turn informing an initial set of ideas to help guide the ILETC establish a research path. In this way, design thinking was servicing the ILETC program and became subsumed by the research intent that framed the ILETC. As a practice of co-designing unfolded, questions surfaced that informed my research: how do I position my practice in relation to this interdisciplinary program as research?

As the data began to form, I began to look at these outcomes through potential modes of designerly analysis. I began to appreciate that data generated might be examined through a process that emanates the material engagement of the co-creation that generated it. This helped me position my relationship with the data through design, a move that embodied a new sense of purpose.

I approach data with the purpose of positioning my designerly expertise in relation to research. This didn’t feel possible during early ILETC collaborations, where data was read through the framing of the program’s methodologies. As the program progressed, my own research framing emerged: in what way is designing (practice) a positioning agent for the design researcher? And: how might this signal becoming a researcher through doing (practice-led research)?

I feel this exquisite disorientation as a jolt of recognition—my practice has always informed my relationship with the world. The is the positionality a designer creates in relation to the designed. It describes the relational rather than the relationship. And the relational is a state of becoming. This is a state of continuous emergence, and it’s a state, I argue, that design practice doesn’t yet know how to know.

Situating Relationships through Lived Experience

Developing an analytical framework adapted from Participant Observation (Schensul et al., 1999) situates how I join participants and data in this research puzzle. This approach aligns with thinking on how we frame both the design and the design practice as a way of inquiring into the design process and draws attention to how narrative flows in the design process (Lloyd & Oak 2018, Dorst 2015, Paton, B., & Dorst, K. 2011).

Collaborative workshops central to this research inquiry permitted a ‘making-up’ of stories to ‘make-real’ the lived experience of teacher-participants (Grocott, L. and Sosa, R., in Oliver 2018). I followed participant co-researchers joining this process of creating narratives through this sense-making process of story-making and telling. Stories led the research toward a better understanding of the qualities of emergent meaning-making inherent to designing.

Initially, data generated through these workshops came to be understood through a kind of fictional interaction using a language designed to generate meaning. It was born out of the insecurity that as a designer, I didn’t have the conceptual apparatus required to make sense of the material I was generating with the research participants. I was faking it. It occurred to me that rather than deny this infiltration of ‘imposter syndrome’, it might be more productive to embrace it. Through fiction, I find my research reality.

As I adapt the concept of joining my facilitation of co-creative workshops develops through Ingold’s ‘joints’; connecting the lived experience of teachers through creative collaboration. The strategies of a co-design practice—imagining and creating a sense of futures—is manifest in this process. I set activities and co-design experiences that enhance the possibility of interaction between objects, technology, and people, and give participants permission to play with a story of the worlds in which they inhabit.

1.2.7 Disciplinary Shifts

This collaborative research is located within an interdisciplinary program. The relational nature of interdisciplinarity is a significant factor to understanding this research project, and attendant concepts associated with this study—how design practice is shifting from within collaborative research contexts.

In this research design methods are characterised by a collaboration across and between methodological approaches. According to Lury (2018), the value of this kind of interdisciplinary approach to research is in the potential to develop autonomy and accountability of the research outcomes. This practice-led research appreciates that design draws on knowledge from diverse areas. Design is not just a knowledge-intensive activity; it is also a purposeful, social and cognitive activity that is engaged in a dynamic context aimed at changing existing circumstances into preferred ones (Simon 1996, Pahl and Beitz 2007). Design inhabits the possibility of co-evolving with other methodologies. This research posits that in order to move toward this expansion in the research landscape, designers need to articulate the nature of their sense-making expertise.

The invitation to join an interdisciplinary research effort invited the possibility to improve the quality of design practice knowledge by engaging with concepts, tools etc. from other disciplines. However, the experimental nature of this research leads to more of a critical interdisciplinarity—interrogating the research question and developing theory—that aims for a transformation of the discipline (Klein 2015, p18). This study argues that this is consistent with a ‘transformative learning’ paradigm of disoriented practice.

In turn, the interdisciplinary nature of ILETC research presented a potential to make a transdisciplinary knowledge—to shift design-led research toward crafting transformative paradigms of practice. In this study, the notion of the transformative design indicates a turning away from a design approach which gives focus to products or services. This is an extension of the human-centred approach looking toward a society-centred attitude and explicitly focuses on the social dimensions and conditions of designing (Jonas et al 2016, p.9). Design for social transformation engages a process of creative inquiry into new potentialities that can be designed and realised in new forms: organisational, cultural, system or collaborative education. What are design’s potentials, instruments, and contributions to shaping social change? (Ibid.).

What are the important factors allowing this transformation to occur? This reappraisal of designing is indicative of how the shape of design has shifted with the changing nature of how it is practised (Jonas et al. 2016). As design research asks questions about how materiality develops as a learned social process, it, in turn, investigates how designing shapes social relations and cultural knowledge (Rogers & Yee, 2015). American polymath Herbert Simon’s oft-quoted definition of designing as “turning existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon 1996, p. 111) points to the situation rather than the material outcome (product or thing) and his observation was a historical moment when designing became about planning and optimising—a fundamental aspect of practice and human endeavour. In short, he implied: everybody designs (Mazini 2015).

The implications of this shift have been many and varied. Instead of acquiring specialised expertise, designers have simply had to adapt to these broadening contexts (Joost et al. 2016). The scope of what designers are expected to do has necessarily changed in order to tackle issues that had formerly been out of the purview of the discipline; “we are leaving the operational framework traditionally assigned to design and starting to generate and use skills that enable us to operate much more broadly than before” (ibid., p. 136). There have always been debates about what design contributes, how it operates, it’s limits etc., however, this is a fundamental shift from designer as a problem solver or a creative that crafts material outcomes, to an understanding that places values on the transformation we crave, and the stabilisation of social systems (Joost et al. 2016). Creative inquiry, expertly facilitated, has the potential to make known a broad expression of understanding.

1.3 Joining the Practice

This chapter aims to situate designing, theory and attendant ideas through a conceptual review of the literature. This engages a critical approach to clarifying designs role in collaborative change-making. The synthesis of knowledge, corralled through an emergent process, provides knowledge that addresses central concepts associated with this doctoral research. This seeks to elucidate the complex and often multiple meanings and relationships the literature has with this evolving practice (Beckett & O’Toole 2010). Literature throughout this dissertation supports an understanding of attendant concepts, showing new insights along the way (Jesson, Matheson and Lacey, 2011). This process begins in the literature and in the questions that frame the ensuing inquiry. It is through this analysis that a conceptual literature review synthesises areas of knowledge that reveal the research design’s purpose and intent. This approach ensures that a concise understanding of key terms is conceptualised and put to work throughout the process of framing and reframing (Jesson, Matheson & Lacey, 2011).

1.3.1 Design

Shifts in Design Practice

This research, led through a co-design practice, appreciates that design has shifted toward being a medium that activates a ‘social’ rather than ‘solution-making’ expertise in the service of industry (Escobar 2018, p.34). The ongoing promotion of co-designing indicates a shift from design’s role as a service provider, toward being a medium through which we can express social ideas (ibid).

Ingold (Ingold 2011, in Willis 2019) describes the practitioner as a kind of ‘wanderer’ (p.64), searching for the ‘grain of the world’s becoming and shaping the form of their evolving practice to its unfolding purpose (ibid.). Research through designing has shifted focus from objects towards the social; design has seen an evolving ‘dematerialising’. However, it is not yet clear where this idea of the social is located (Kimbell 2009).

“Design must have its own inner coherence, in the ways that science and the humanities do, if it is to be established in comparable intellectual and educational terms. But the world of design has been badly served by its intellectual leaders, who have failed to develop their subject in its own terms” (Cross, 2006, p.6).

This research responds to this persistent critique of Nigel Cross (2006), continuing this work of locating an ‘inner coherence’ so vital in developing the terms we use to describe what design does.

Participatory Design

The Participatory Design (PD) movement started from the standpoint that those most affected by design should have some agency in the design process. In ‘Design Things and Design Thinking: Contemporary Participatory Design Challenges’ (2012), Erling Bjögvinsson, Pelle Ehn and Per-Anders Hillgren contend that design thinking has become a central issue in contemporary design discourse and rhetoric. PD promotes the involvement of non-designers to make designing more sustainable. The movement has had a lasting effect on how design is practised (Mareis 2016). It has contributed significantly to the increasing emphasis on designing for strategy, social innovation, or policy; and this has prompted design to take on new roles supported by the idea that design can play a vital role in making more sustainable and inclusive societies.

Designs social context highlights design-based practices towards collective ends, rather than predominantly commercial or consumer-oriented objectives (Armstrong et al. 2014: 6). A PD process involves different actors and stakeholders working towards outcomes that are not necessarily solution-driven but rather become processual. This work contributes to the quality or shape of the problem space instead of dealing with concrete solutions (Joost et al. 2016, p. 136). A focus on process has evolved design toward services, processes, networks of humans, as the framework for action. In this sense, the notion of innovation becomes much more democratic (Ehn et al.) and has heralded a change in what we consider to be ‘innovation’ (or even ‘design’). It has profoundly affected the way we practice design.

Bjögvinsson et al. (2012) state that; “… a fundamental challenge for designers and the design community is to move from designing “things’’ (objects) to designing Things (socio-material assemblies)” (Bjögvinsson et al. 2012, p.102). This shift to ‘Things’ as social-material assemblies is situated in this research in how the study appreciates co-design as a practice of learning—a social assemblage.

Design Thinking

Carrying on PD’s provocation, a promotion of ‘Design Thinking’ has rapidly appeared alongside a profusion of ‘co-creative’ encounters, leading to a conceptual obfuscation (Tuckwell 2017). The ILETC locates the ‘design thinking’ within the program research agenda to communicate an innovative approach to establishing a research program that engages creative collaboration with participants. Terms like ‘innovation’ and ‘design thinking’ that have grown in popularity as a language that moves from problem-solving to broader or more inclusive definitions of creative practice. It broadens the promise and potential nature of ‘designing’, and it’s evidenced in emerging modes of processual design practices. However, clarification is required as ‘design thinking’ persists on becoming a collaborative practice of creative agency.

The design process is formed through a curious logic that cannot be adequately equated with science or engineering. Science typically focuses on perceiving or revealing ‘facts’ whereas design concerns itself with seeing or realising alternatives that incorporate imagined values. Imagining alternatives is understood as a process of abduction which refers to a kind of reasoning that is different from deduction or induction.“Deduction proves that something must be; Induction shows that something is operative; Abduction merely suggests that something may be.“ (Peirce, C.S., 1903, p. 314). In abductive processes, a designer might start by outlining or experiencing the specifics of the problem whilst simultaneously and perhaps literally imagining ways to approach and frame the situation. Some would argue that abduction is at the very core of design thinking (Dorst, 2011). Abductive thinking is associated with the ways designing iteratively develops problem frames or combinations of results whilst developing potential solutions.
Design thinking, however, remains an evolving construct (Martin, 2009). It is considered to be “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible (Brown, 2008). According to Plattner, Meinel, and Leifer (2015), design thinking involves a human-centred process, works with ambiguity and makes ideas tangible. Design thinking has antecedence in the work of designer Bryan Lawson, who outlines in How Designers Think (1990) an inchoate understanding of thinking associated with design—a prototype of design thinking. Lawson reveals that much of the literature on cognition had, then, a variety of closely related binary divisions between rational and logical processes on the one hand, and intuitive and imaginative processes on the other. Lawson recognises that these two major categories have become known as convergent and divergent production. The convergent task required deductive and interpolative skills to arrive at one identifiably correct answer. Divergent ability, on the other hand, engages an open-ended approach which seeks alternatives where there is no determinate answer. Lawson notes that designing is mostly taken to be a divergent task since, according to the proceeding logic, design rarely leads to one ‘correct’ answer. However, designing involves both convergent and divergent productive thinking, making it challenging to define.

Before Lawson, J. Christopher Jones alludes to ‘design thinking’ in his seminal text ‘Design Methods’ (1970). Jones outlines ‘The Design Process Disintegrated’ noting that design is a three-stage process that involves divergence, transformation, then convergence. Jones notes that:

“... The thinking that designers are accustomed to keeping to themselves has now been externalised so that people (including users), whose knowledge is relevant to designing at the systems level, can put forward their ideas at an early stage and can share in the taking of critical decisions” (Jones 1970, p61).

Jones believed in the importance of explaining the design process so that design cognition can be known and shared with the society it serves.

Designerly Thinking

An alternative way to approach ‘design thinking’ is as ‘designerly’ ways of knowing (Cross, 2006; Kimbell, 2009). Designerly ways of knowing are embedded in practice, in the making and doing that is part of the design process. As alluded to in ‘Designerly Ways of Knowing’ (Cross 2006), designers have the ability both to ‘read’ and ‘write’ in their world of ‘stuff’; that is, they understand what messages objects communicate, and they can create new objects which embody new messages. A capacity to read and write through design is taken into consideration within the interdisciplinary research program that situates this practice-led study. That is, research engaged participants through designing, not only as an instrument or method, but as a response to the broader demands of practice transformation (Barry, Born, & Weszkalnys, 2008).

The strategies of design thinking are fast becoming synonymous with approaches to the sort of generative collaboration that engages creative intelligence (Dorst, 2015). This type of creative work is increasingly recognised as an effective driver of innovation, tackling complex ‘wicked problems’—the types of messy, aggressive, and confounding problems that are ill-defined in cause, character and solution (Rittel & Webber, 1973). Arising from these efforts a practice of co-design has become more defined, emerging as a set of strategies that can put designing into collaborative modes of action. In co-design practices, participants engage, explore and perform evolving practices in their active meshwork of practices. This rehearsal occurs through prototyping new configurations of people and things (Halse 2010), shifting the focus of design toward relations and practices and the networked ground of interwoven knowledge and agency (Vaughan 2017, p. 107).

Co-design builds on traditions of PD and participatory social processes that allocate a collective appreciation of design’s purpose and value. It’s in this sense that all design might be a type of co-design because all design engages with social processes (Steen 2013). I’m adapting Steen’s (2013) use of ‘co-design’ which has been derived from Sanders and Sappers use of the term: “collective creativity as it is applied across the whole span of a design process”(Sanders & Stappers, 2008, p.5-18).

‘Designerly’ Practice Frame

This research project looks to examine practice by reframing how we name design ‘problems’. According to Schön (1983) the ‘problem setting’ is the process in which we name the things to which we will attend and frame the context in which we will attend to them. In other words, designers work in differing modes: selecting aspects of the problem space to which they direct their attention (naming) and then identify areas of the solution space that they choose to explore (framing). To formulate a design problem to be solved, the designer must frame a problematic design situation: set its boundaries, select particular things and relations for attention, and impose on the situation a coherence that guides subsequent moves (Schön 1983).

The notion of a ‘designerly’ mode of inquiry emphasises the importance of practice in knowledge generation (Cross 1982). The importance of practice was valued by John Dewey (1859-1952) who argued that separating thinking from acting is obsolete and that thinking depends on real-life situations (Dewey, 1968). Dewey influenced the work of Cross (2006), who translates his arguments by way of Schön (1930-1997). Schön’s (1983) description of the individuals’ professional practice, focuses on the work by practitioners during their ‘reflection-in-action’ as they attempt to reframe problems, based on reflexive judgment. Cross (2006) extends this to outline research attempts to describe the thought processes of designers in action: their designerly way of knowing (Cross 2006) or design thinking (Rowe 1987).

Design is a systematic search for and acquisition of knowledge related to general human ecology considered from a “designerly way of thinking” (i.e. project-oriented) perspective (Findeli 2008). ‘Designerly Ways of Knowing’ (Cross 2006) has become an epistemological positioning for design. That is, design, understood through this epistemic lens, is crucial to the rigour of design research that traverses different domains of knowledge (Jonas, 2014).

Design Epistemology

In design research, epistemology is partly revealed through the choices that researchers make to inform the world that is being researched (Matthews & Brereton 2015). According to Scharmer and Kaufer (2000), most of the socially and economically relevant knowledge is built outside of the university, a critique that aligns with a designerly approaches to research where knowledge building is generated by non-traditional forms of qualitative research­. Design research, in this way, is situated in practice ecologies. A practice-led, non-traditional approach acknowledges that we face increasingly complex problems as a society, and that research must continue to renew its epistemic core. For design practice-led research, this examines the nature of sense-making as a practice of knowledge generation.

1.3.2 Making-Sense

Abductive Thinking

In a co-design approach, problems, and the frame of problems, are explored, developed and evaluated in a parallel and iterative sense-making process (Kurtz and Snowden, 2003). Sense-making is an action-oriented process that we engage with in order to integrate experiences into an understanding of the world around us (Kolko 2010 “Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis”). Designer Jon Kolko refers to sense-making as the synthesising of designerly breakthroughs—the synthesis of ideas through design (ibid.). Sense-making challenges the assumptions of rational intent often prevalent in categorising organisational frameworks like that of the ILETC program. In a sense-making framework, data precedes the framework—it emerges from the data. Sense-making resists a categorisation model in which the framework precedes the data. In this research design, the former framework of sense-making is enrolled as a fundamental approach to designerly modes of inquiry.

As discussed, abductive reasoning—the logic of what might be—is present in how I ‘attune’ or join the data. Abduction is not a direct reading that evidences what is; instead, it’s a designerly reading of the phenomena that conjures an impression of what might be. In the case of the ILETC, the teachers leave evidence of practice alongside an impression of practice as they engage with co-creation—and put into practice their realisations that occur in these conversations. Abductive thinking, in this context, is a meta-process for analysing integrative creative practices.

Abductive thinking is regarded as a meta-methodological approach. There is a growing interest in the social sciences for foundational meta-practices that can integrate knowledge (Teixeira de Melo 2018). Carefully crafted abductive reasoning can amplify collaborative methods in creative and generative ways. In this sense, abductive reasoning is an inquisitive stance or mindset, characterised by openness, curiosity, exploration, humility and creativity (ibid, p. 91). To this end, abductive reasoning can initiate a research cycle, creating a foundation for the role of deductive or inductive inquiry, making it a meta-method (or meta-practice) for the enactment of complex practices. Abductive logic is the central mechanism of knowledge generation in our everyday life, as well as in design and science (Jonas, 2016). This has been conceptualised in Design Research through notions such as ‘problems of organised complexity’ (Weaver, 1948). Abductive logic is not a traditional or classical means of processing research, but a relatively new method (Reichertz 2010). Carefully crafted abductive reasoning can amplify collaborative methods in creative and generative ways. It is an inquisitive stance or mindset, characterised by openness, curiosity, exploration, humility and creativity (ibid 91).

Teixeira de Melo and colleagues look at the use of abductive reasoning in interdisciplinary focused research where there is a cultivation of open mind frames and a growing expansion of each field through dynamic interactions (Teixeira de Melo 2018, p. 91). According to Kolko, common to these types of dynamic interactions is a “sense of getting it out” to see and form connections (Kolko 2010, “Sensemaking and Framing: A Theoretical Reflection on Perspective in Design Synthesis”). He suggests that sense-making is an inward and personal process, while dynamic synthesis is a more collaborative, outward process. Making sense of data generated by designing, means finding relationships and patterns between data elements and drawing out an external view. As Kolko points out, it is less important to be “accurate” and more important to give some abstract and tangible form to the ideas, thoughts and reflections. When we have achieved this, externalising ideas seem more real and develops into something that can be discussed, embraced or rejected—ideas become part of a more extensive process of synthesis.

Making Sensate

In Doing Sensory Ethnography Sarah Pink (2009) posits that the work of the social scientist in the field as a learning process which is “embodied, emplaced, sensorial and empathetic, rather than occurring simply through a mix of participation and observation” (Pink 2009, p. 65). This, according to Pink, can lead to acute disorientation and that this sensory experience can give researchers access to a new form of knowing (ibid. 2009). In short, this disoriented and embodied form of knowing can be both jarring and revelatory.

The idea is taken up by Virginie Magnat (2016) as productive disorientation, a concept I use with Magnat in describing the work of the designer making sense of the mess of collaborative research practice. Magnat works as an ethnographer-apprentice who learns “to know as others know through embodied practice”, whilst participating “in their worlds, on the terms of their embodied understandings’’ (Pink 2009, in Magnat 2016, p. 180). An embodied researcher performs possibilities (Denzin 1994) as revelations of agency and understating—to create practices that engage in the collaborative formation of meaning through experience. An ‘experimental theatre’ informs the ‘promise of disorientation’ (Magnat 2016) of Eugenio Barba. His performance practice announces the concept of disorientation as a technique through which the performer destabilised the body-mind balance and altered their perception of the world.

Disorientation as method led to the idea of de-conditioning design to dissolve daily behaviours, allowing a re-conditioning to occur. Barba suggests a kind of ‘thinking-in-motion’ that Magnat adapts as ‘productive disorientation’ (p. 181). Thinking-in-motion is an alternative to thinking in language or concepts. Thinking in motion is associated with what Barba considers “creative thought … which proceeds by leaps, employing sudden disorientation which obliges it to reorganise itself in new ways’’ (Barba 1995, p. 88). This type of ‘thinking’ is what Sarah Pink refers to as a sensorial, empathetic way of knowing.

Collaborative Design

A conceptual expansion of designerly ‘making’ leads to entanglements of systems, processes, policies, and people (Grocott 2016). It is within this entanglement that design collaborates with ethnography, systems theory, psychology, etc. These entanglements situate sense-making and positions designerly expertise as a shared epistemology. Co-design invests in the epistemic belief of collective creativity as a collaborative inquiry. It is a practice of sharing designerly knowledge that brings people together to explore, make and bring about change. Steen (2013) argues that co-design is a process of collaborative thinking and joint inquiry where the imagination of a group of diverse people come together to explore and define a problem situation together, and in turn develop and evaluate solutions. It is a process in which participation is an expression of experience, and the discussions that stem from this participation helps to negotiate roles and interests and the mindsets of those participants.

This ‘expression’ can be understood as communication: “The heart of language is not ‘expression’ of something antecedent, much less expression of antecedent thought. It is communication; the establishment of cooperation in an activity in which there are partners, and in which the activity of each is modified and regulated by the partnership” (Dewey, 1962, p. 179). Dewey emphasised how people’s ability and capacity to communicate is how we collectively bring about positive and desirable change. His work is curiously analogous to co-design practices where people coming together to jointly explore and discuss problems, and work together to develop and evaluate possible solutions—something Dewey advocated in his work (Steen, 2013).

Dewey appreciates knowledge as instrumental—he proposed that knowledge must concern the exploration of alternative futures and knowledge must concern the promotion of cooperation and the organisation of positive and effective change. These ideas are found in co-design practice and become key themes in this research work, framed and evaluated through theories of practice and notions of becoming (ibid).

1.3.3 Designing as Speculative Inquiry

This research is orientated through speculative inquiry. Speculation in design has developed practices that engage creatively with the latent possibilities of the present, and works to experiment with methods and processes that enable the becoming of possible futures. Speculative Design has established a unique methodology from within the discipline as a field of speculative practices turning toward visioning technological and aesthetic propositions and outcomes (Dunne & Raby, 2013). A Speculative Design practice challenges the dominant paradigms of functionalist design with often radical propositions to act as a ‘catalyst for social dreaming’ (Dunne & Raby 2013. p. 189).

Preceding Speculative Design, social scientists have examined how communities engage in discursive practices, especially concerning technologies and how we build expectations associated with these developments (Brown, Rappert and Webster 2000, in Lury 2018: 347). Interdisciplinary research scholars have recently been interested in developing speculative research to examine how we understand, explain and theorise processes alongside notions of becoming (Lury 2018, p.348). Scholars such as Wilkie (2017) develop work from constructivist approaches through the work of Stengers (2008, 2015). In a constructivist mode, speculative thought becomes a practice of designing and constructing adequate concepts and ‘devices’ that actively ‘relate knowledge production to the question it tries to answer’ (Stengers 2008, p. 98, in Lury 2018), thus examining how the researcher researched. Research devices become with one another (Lury 2018, p. 348, my emphasis). This doctoral research develops with models of interdisciplinary and speculative research in the social science field to augment modes of ‘becoming’ that I engage in this doctoral study.

Speculative research promotes an experimental approach to research that actively involves an emergence of methods that emanate the situations of possibilities being studied (Lury 2018). This activation builds on the ambiguous as an expression of the experience of learning from research situations. Crucially, speculative research does not aim to validate methods of inquiry—it is a practice of evocation rather than evaluation. In this way, speculative research deviates from the ‘pre-formatted geometry’ (Wilkie et al. 2017, p. 25) of anticipating future scenarios. Instead, it focuses on building capacities that might enable us to pay greater attention to and experiment with processes of becoming. Speculative research, therefore, eschews methods that use statistical or algorithmic metrics to inform future thinking. Cultivating a sense of the possible concerns ‘future thinking’, however, speculative modes use methods that imagine the impossible through creative practices of invention. Cultivating this imagination can lure practices that extend our thinking, knowing, and feeling as we inquire into unforeseen possibilities. In this way, speculation acts as a unique cognitive capacity (Lury, 2018), a sensibility that resists predicting a future that is probable and focuses on seeking or realising the potential of the present—to imagine through a sense of becoming (ibid.).

Speculative research results from collective and collaborative thinking—a process of making possible in order to cultivate a speculative sensibility (Wilkie et al. p. 2017). Creating possibilities and experimenting with them is a collective and transdisciplinary practice. Isabelle Stengers (2015) states we must: ‘Respond to the insistence of a possible that demands to be realised’ (Wilkie 2017, p. 19). As a sense-making process, speculative research actively seeks alternative questions and methods through an experimental and emergent mode. That is, speculative research is looking to re-situate concepts, “to relaunch them again as propositions capable not of poisoning the present but of cultivating a different kind of future” (Wilkie et al. 2017, p. 45).

In this study, I situate speculative practice by grounding it in the experimental projects embedded in the program. Furthermore, speculative methods deliberately provoke the object of the research. Becoming, in this sense, might be conceived of as a specific set of speculative interventions. Wilkie directs us toward a practical approach to more grounded speculative experimentation that seeks to broaden the composition of research through concepts and tools that “are themselves actively involved in the very construction of possibilities that emerge from these situations” (Wilkie 2018, p. 350). Speculative research is a process that is not always clear or transparent even to the practitioner who is also in the act of becoming.

1.3.4 Reclaiming ‘Experiment’

The use of the term ‘experimental’ is widely and variously applied in contemporary research (Wilkie, Savransky, and Rosengarten 2017). For the purposes of this study, this section clarifies the term ‘experiment’, and the value of the experimental, is a reclamation of the word for sites of speculative research (ibid). In this way, I use the term ‘experiment’ with researchers seeking to learn what it takes to inhabit sites of inquiry (Stengers 2008).

Learning through an experimental approach untethers the researcher from the epistemic baggage that comes from empirical sciences (Jellis 2018). That is, this research does not seek to test hypotheses typically associated with ‘experimentation’. Experiments located in this study disrupt this idea by making no explicit distinction between the terms ‘experience’ and ‘experiment’ (Stengers 2008). A reclamation of experimentation considers how the form of the experiment might, in turn, reframe research through design practice. This has led to research work in this study documenting and reflecting on ‘innovative forms of methodological experimentation’ (Dwyer and Davies 2010, p.95).

The use of ‘experimentation’ argues that all research is ongoing participation with the world (Jellis 2018). Jellis recalls an “awkward role of not knowing quite what I was attending to” (Jellis 2018, p.54). Jellis highlights how participation in research involves a diverse range of activities, requiring the researcher to embrace the contingent nature of participatory inquiry. It underscores how participation precedes recognition and that the emergence of awareness is in a state of ongoing participation with the ‘unfolding relation’ of collaboration (Jellis 2018, p.231). This doctoral study engages with an ‘unfolding relation’ as a negotiation of both participation and experimentation. With Jellis, I work to recalibrate ‘participant observation’ through an experimental practice as an active process of attentive participation—a ‘joining’ of the research as a site of learning.

Speculative experimentation articulates the emergence of the possible. This process creates lures that lead to a more attentive practice (Wilkie, Savransky, and Rosengarten 2017). An experimental practice of attentive participation does not look to reveal ‘truths’; instead, it works to ‘re-animate’ research through creative practice. Experiments that ‘fail’ are bodies of a process rather than unwelcome outcomes or ‘findings’. Furthermore, experimentation outlined in this study form methods seeking to shift the energies of collaborative research through practice-led processes. Experimentation disrupts my design practice, shifting what I have come to understand as designing through practice-led analysis that appreciates an expanded role of designer-researcher in relation to states of becoming.

1.3.5 Grounding the Project

This research convenes Project Grounded Research (PGR) as an approach to situating practices within the doctoral study. The program (ILETC) led toward the project (PhD: Making Space) that enabled the research to be realised. PGR was developed by design researcher Alain Findeli (1998) who seeks to anchor practice research through project-led inquiry. PGR proposes the construction of valid and trustworthy knowledge in experiential sites of inquiry (Joost et al. 2016). According to Findeli (2016), our task as design researchers is to ensure that the investigation is rigorous, consistent and valid. The development of rigour emerges as it progresses—we develop our tacit impulses for investigative curiosity through rigorous exploration and experimentation.

Design research, situated through lived experience, enables the testing of ideas and prototypes against the project situation—within the liveliness of an experiential context. Findeli paraphrases John Dewey (1859—1952) observing that design research is to be ‘prophetic’, not just descriptive: “Attentive knowledge of design practice is necessary if one attempts to improve it” (Joost et al. 2016, p.29). What does it mean to give attention to design practice? As my experiments took shape, the attention toward how these experiments were in fact about attention became apparent to me. Experiments within a PGR made possible methods and instruments that distinguished the product of the research from the process of researching; from a fragmented practice toward a sense of the whole. Or as Dewey puts it: “Inquiry is the controlled or directed transformation of an indeterminate situation into … a unified whole” (Dewey, Ratner, and Post 1939. p. 104-05).

A PGR framework aligns with an experimental approach that seeks to produce knowledge through ‘prototyping new possibilities’ (Vaughan, 2017, p.101). Binder and Brandt (2017) cite Schön (1983), who argued that design practice is a unique kind of experimentation that surfaces the possibilities of our imagination in tandem with the problem space or situation. The reflective practitioner is in dialogue with the ‘materials of the design situation’, thus engaging both problem and solution through an iterative framing and re-framing process of discovery. For this research, the ‘materials’ align with a notion of ‘critical making’ and how we might craft new habits, new futures and new ways of being (Grocott 2016).

1.3.6 Situating the Researcher: Narrative Inquiry

Identifying the voice of the researcher in-the-midst of intersecting complexity is situated in this doctoral study through a practice of narrative inquiry. Narrative Inquiry supposes that our understanding of experience comes to us through stories. Studying narratives is a way to join an analysis of our experiences (Riessman, 1990). Stories represent our identities and our social worlds, or as Ken Plummer (2001) puts it: stories are “documents of life”. This practice-led research questions how the ‘reading’ of workshop documentation data as a story might be expressed and communicated through a designerly lens. In turn, practice research generates a speculative inquiry through the narrative of sense-making.

Bochner (2001) laments how the ‘rules’ of social science privilege “rigour over imagination, intellect over feeling, theories over stories, lectures over conversations, abstract ideas over concrete events’’ (p. 134). By emphasising the role of imaginative storytelling, I engage with data corralled by a practice narrative that propels the methodological inquiry. Narrative, in this way, helps to situate methodology:

“Story, in the current idiom, is a portal through which a person enters the world and by which their experience of the world is interpreted and made personally meaningful. Narrative inquiry, the study of experience as story, then, is first and foremost a way of thinking about experience” (Connelly & Clandinin, 2000, p.375).

Expanding on a model of inquiry that builds experience and story in qualitative research, Clandinin and Connelly (2000) developed a model of narrative inquiry influenced by Dewey. For Clandinin and Connelly, Dewey transforms the commonplace term of experience into one that can be understood as a term of inquiry—a term that allows a richer understanding of practice: “For Dewey, experience is both personal and social … People are individuals and need to be understood as such, but they cannot be understood only as individuals. They are always in relation, always in a social context” (Clandinin & Connelly 2000, p. 2). Learning is nested in the individual, the social, the community (and so on) which suggests a continuity of experiences. As a practitioner in this continuum—the now, the past and some imagined future—each of these points has a past experiential base and leads to experiential futures (ibid.). As a method for situating me as the researcher, narrative inquiry reveals new understandings and meaning from experience. It’s a meaning-making process that considers the continuity and wholeness of an individual’s life experience.“Think of the life being expressed not merely as data to be analysed and categorised but as a story to be respected and engaged” (Bochner 2001, 132). Bochner (2001) describes how staying with a story without abstracting through theory can permit reading and reacting from the source of our own felt experience(s). This leads to greater respect for the story and the people telling those stories.

Narrative Inquiry draws attention to the relational; between the researchers’ and participants’ lived experience, and between human and non-human actors. Narrative inquirers are inextricably connected to how the lived experience develops as it unfolds—and cannot redact themselves from these relationships. Lieblich (1998) states: “Part of the narrative inquirer’s doubts come from understanding that they need to write about people, places, and things as becoming rather than being” (Lieblich et al. 1998, p. 144). However, It is challenging to locate a stable definition of narrative in research (ibid). According to SAGE Research Methods (Jupp 2006), Narrative Research is any study that analyses narrative materials (p.3). Narrative materials, presented as research data, can be gathered as stories or observations. In this doctoral study, the narrative materials are generated by the designer-researcher through practice. As a theoretical position, narrative inquiry explores and understands the inner world of individuals through stories about lived experience. Narratives proved us aces to individuals’ identities. It could be argued that personal narratives are people’s identities. Stories in this way present the inner reality to the outside world as the story is an identity. A narrative methodology can reveal and enrich data that conventional methods struggle to obtain. A narrative inquiry is generative, accumulative, and interpretive. As such, it engages methods appropriate for this doctoral study that uses a ‘makerly’ mode of research.

Typically in narrative studies, there is no a priori hypotheses—the study becomes directed as it unfolds—emergent readings of the data and any collected material then leads to the generation of hypotheses (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Research activities that generate data are, in turn, interpretive, and that interpretation is always personal and dynamic (Lieblich et al. 1998). According to Bakhtin (1981), this requires a dialogical ‘listening’ to three voices: the narrator; the theoretical framework which provides the concepts and tools for interpretation; and the reflexive monitoring of the act of reading and interpretation. This last voice is the ‘witness’ of the storytelling, a self-awareness of the decision process that draws knowledge and meaning from the materials. ‘Listening’ is an interactive process—one that engages with the narrative with sensitivity to voice and meaning. Theories are generated through this reading and analysis, which leads to further reading and analysis. This refinement of understanding leads to a parallel formation of methodological identity and theory. “In its most prevalent forms, narrative research does not require replicability of results as a criterion for its evaluation … Thus readers need to rely more on the personal wisdom, skills, and integrity of the researcher” (ibid). This process calls upon the intuition of the designer-researcher. A designerly sense-making is enrolled to service the comprehension and communication of research findings.

The narrative inquirer begins with the experience as expressed in the lives of the individuals studied, including how their stories are told—and this story includes that of the researcher. The autobiographical frame of the researcher is the starting point for the orientation of this research puzzle as narrative inquiry positions the researcher ‘in the midst’ (ibid, p.63); located within time, place, and the personal and social. Being in the midst means being in the middle of a nested set of stories. As an approach to informing new understanding, narrative inquiry occurs in-the-midst of an uncertain set of nested stories—the researchers and the researched. Joining is key to understanding the relational work of narrative inquiry.

1.3.7 ‘Joining’ as Practice

Chapter 3.1 presents ‘joining’ as an emergent practice within the methodological inquiry. This section introduces an outline of joining from within the conventions of Participant Observation (PO). Section 1.3.6 identified this doctoral study approaching participation with the design-researcher ‘in the midst’ of complex social practices. In the midst of this complexity, a narrative inquiry approach has enabled a broader expression and exploration of values, widening understanding both within and without the practice frame (Lloyd & Oak 2018). The narrative emerging from within practice entanglements is identified through Participant Observation (PO). The focus of joining, a method of PO, is given attention as a catalyst for creative exploration.

Schensul, Schensul, and LeCompte (1999) define PO as: “the process of learning through exposure to or involvement in the day-to-day or routine activities of participants in the researcher setting” (p.91 in Kawulich 2005). This definition reveals the value of learning for the participant observer—the PO is situated and ‘exposed’ to the lives of participants in a way that reveals the setting of the research and in turn, makes the research object more tangible. The advantages of using a PO approach lies primarily in the validity and quality of an interpretive understanding (Peterson et al., 2010) lending itself to the nature of this practice-led inquiry. The interpretative perspective gives the collected data a richness that is difficult to access otherwise. Data, in turn, can involve a very detailed personal witness to the lived experience of the participant.

Significantly, research produced through PO is characterised by a personal knowing and understanding. For PO in action, this is referred to via Max Webers (1864 - 1920) concept of verstehen: an empathic understanding of human behaviour. Developing empathy in a participatory design approach is now a well-documented method for designing with, rather than for, communities affected by design (Schuler & Namioka 2017). The use of empathy helps assemble a richer understanding of a ‘user’ or ‘participant’ and has resulted in a variety of approaches for designers seeking to surface deeper qualities through their design process, addressing the impact design has on the social worlds being designed for that has typically been absent in conventional design approaches. It is through verstehen that PO can reach a deeper appreciation of lived knowledge as it emphasises participation and observation through joining. From this conceptual basis, joining becomes a method for making sense of collaborative research through the experiences of the designer and the participants.

PO, in turn, advocates an intentional ‘joining’ the world of others—a particular group or community—in order to better understand the everyday locations, activities, or practices of that group (Peterson et al., 2010). Meaning generated through PO is best understood through an analysis of the sort of observation being used, and the sort of participation being observed. A richer appreciation of the dimensions of participation and observation in PO will lead to more profound revelations of the thematic narratives emerging from the data. In this study, both participation and observation are corralled through the activities of co-creation— a mode of ‘making’ and ‘designerly’ ways of thinking about and through situated problems. According to PO, when the researcher becomes directly involved in the activities, they can better understand the present moment of that site of research (Schmuck, 1997). As a doctoral candidate and the designer of these activities, this is manifest through the facilitation of workshops and experiences that utilise co-creation as the mode of expression and communication. A co-design approach amplifies participant interactions, assisting the researcher in determining who interacts with whom; how participants communicate with one another.

This study posits that the design researcher facilitating collaborative workshops inhabits a speculative ‘joining’ as a critical practice. This affords an opportunity to participate in the sense-making that is vital to the co-design process and outcomes. Furthermore, joining presents the design-researcher with the potential capacity for interrogating the ‘co’ in design through speculative methods of ‘joining’. Joining the teachers through design enabled revelations around practice and pedagogies by permitting a co-creation of pertinent conversations. Observing and facilitating workshops through a practice mode as well as participating in the conversations involved clearly articulating how the designer joins other practices in collaborative research settings.

Developments in social science research consider the role of practice in understanding how ‘doing’ and ‘saying’ can provide a richer understanding of the world. The ‘practice turn’ in the social sciences has directed attention to practice as a social site of research (Bueger & Gadinger 2018, p.2). According to Schatzki:

“The social site is a specific context of human coexistence: the place where, and as part of which, social life inherently occurs … this site-context … is composed of a mesh of orders and practices. Orders are arrangements of entities, whereas practices are organised activities. Human coexistence thus transpires as and amid an elaborate, constantly evolving nexus of arranged things and organised activities” (2002, p. xi).

The ‘mesh of orders and practices’ both forms and transforms the one who practices (Kemmis et al. 2014). This is true of the world where the practice is occurring. The teachers’ ‘development’ is usually determined through the mechanics of ‘professional development’, one that presumes to understand with little knowledge or concern of local context (Kohli et al 2015). co-design practice, it is argued, builds capacity for more meaningful learning through the undetermined, or indeterminate surfacing of mindsets and beliefs. PO becomes an activation of new practices for the co-designer ‘joining’ the world of teacher practice through creative methods.

Joining as Co-Facilitation

In this research project the community is ‘joined’ through the facilitation of co-design. A critical approach is taken to this co-facilitation, framing practice through the tenets of critical theory: “Critical theories aim at emancipation and enlightenment, at making agents aware of hidden coercion, thereby freeing them from that coercion and putting them in a position to determine where their true interests lie.” (Geuss, 1981). In the context of this research, a critical practitioner takes into consideration the impact of ‘joining’ at the site of research activity, expanding what it means to ‘join’ participation. A critical approach draws the practitioner closer to the site of the research activity and the impact of participation.

Thus, I conceptualise the PO-designer observing the ‘stage’ of the researched. This unfolds like a play that is suggested to the actors through their own action and experience, where a plot is revealed through the real lived experience of the actors (Lippmann 1922). Co-design workshops frame a ‘scene of action’ and allocates the material and symbolic quality to the social interactions of participants engaging with the creative prompts. Like all dramatic scenes, there is conflict or tensions on the stage that requires the researchers’ attention. According to Schostak (2010), the projection of the observed world and its inherent boundaries is most obvious when there is a tension or clash between alternative perceptions. This tension is referred to as intertextuality, where multiple points of view regarding actions, events etc. contribute to an intersubjective sense of generalisability and validity observed during field work. Intertextuality develops a sense of connectedness through shared stories and histories, becoming vital data for the PO (Schostak 2010).

Crucially, the PO contributes to these stories through various degrees of participation. The PO develops learning and analysis, taking note of emergent knowledge or theories connected to the world being studied and observed. In that, the PO must give focus to a sense of the common world, the shared reality, brought forward through the intersubjective reality of the lived experience of the participants (Schostak, 2010). If the research reaches a point where PO can represent the intersubjectivity of this constructed world in ways that the participant can recognise that world and their practices—this is considered valid and reliable as knowledge corralled through PO. Making sense of these moves in collaborative workshops looks at both the intentionality of participation and the facilitation of creative collaboration. Data capture locates the thinking, dreaming or deliberate sense-making of all participants, including the facilitator. This might manifest as thinking, touching, sensing—states of mind that give focus to an object or the quality of things or events (Schostak 2010). In the setting of this doctoral research, intentionality was understood through the ways in which participants engaged with the making and material encounters framed by co-design facilitation.

Data analysis focused on observing the ‘talk’ of both human and non-human actors. The convergence of the human and non-human actors within this lived experience can be understood through the notion of an assemblage of creativity (Deleuze and Guattari, 2013). Creativity is a function of an assemblage where participants become capable of creative practice through the nonhuman or ‘more-than-human’ (Braidotii, 2013, in Duff & Sumartojo, 2017). That is the bodies, actors and forces that also participate in the production of creative work. Facilitation, in this scenario, is a force at play that is critical to how the creative practice is enabled and directed. This force can be appreciated through returning to the notion of joining as participant observation joins the community at the site of research in order to facilitate co-generative learning. Facilitation makes PO more than simply a method of data collection—it is a way to live and create with a community and become part of the data itself (Schostak 2010).

The PO-designer facilitates how data is represented, analysed and interpreted. PO data collection requires an active entanglement of the researcher with the participants in the community that is being studied. The designer becomes involved with the community as they engage with a sense-making process. This entanglement of researcher-facilitator/participant is through indeterminate modes of creative engagement that invites a form of participation allowing uncertainty to frame how conversations unfold. Thus, the designer becomes involved in the community of co-design, both facilitating and participating in community discussions—observing a community of learning in action. Joining a community of creative play is a practical step in facilitating or meditating workshop flow. In this study, it is a crucial knowledge space for the designer-researcher looking to deepen understanding at the site of practice-informed research.

1.3.8 Summary: Practice Led Research

Part 1 has introduced the overarching methodology as one that embodies and values a practice-led approach to research. This methodology draws on the concept of ‘joining’ adapted from PO, and builds narratives from practice in a speculative and experimental mode. An intentional approach to deploying multiple methods that integrates my antecedent graphic design expertise into new methods for attuning to people­—an emerging expertise of sensing and analysing data. This part has outlined concepts accompanying these new conceptual paradigms, situating the evolving relationship between the researcher, literature, theory and methodology that is now explored in detail in the proceeding Parts 2 and 3.