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Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard

Intimate design: critical-feminist design practices of intimacy

2017.08.01 | Marie Louise Juul Søndergaard

1. title and short overview of your PhD thesis. The title of my PhD thesis is “Intimate design: critical-feminist design practices of intimacy”. It is situated in interaction design, and more specifically in the field of speculative and critical design (SCD). The PhD thesis aims to contribute to the field of SCD through the lens of intimacy, and by drawing on the theoretical framework of feminist techno science, critical theory and software studies it aims to uncover the general research question: How can we use design to critically examine the role of intimacy in digital culture, and how intimate technologies shape our everyday life? This research question’s aim is twofold. The first aim addresses how intimacy matters in digital culture and how intimate technologies shape our everyday life, and the second aim addresses designerly ways of researching intimacy and creating spaces for discussing something intimate. Through my design experiments I have crossed themes such as menstruation, eroticism, unrecognized diagnosis, and gender and sexuality.

2. the nature of your ‘non-written work'. They explore the possibilities and challenge the notion of intimacy through a critical and feminist design practice. They facilitate spaces, where we can open up, reimagine, design and discuss different possible futures with different intimate technologies. They are computational artefacts, performative interventions, design anthropological studies and codesign workshops.

3. in what way your ‘non-written work' relates to your PhD thesis.  My “non-written-work” (design experiments) focus on a continuum of intimate aspects, ranging from the intimate issues of bodily taboos, such as menstruation and (women’s) sexuality, to a temporal intimacy, that evolves when technologies are adopted, habituated and familiarized in everyday life, and to deeper material-discursive intimate issues, such as cultural aspects of gender and sexuality. Project Description for “Constructive and experimental practice in PhD research”

4. how you integrate or consider integrating your ‘non-written work' into your PhD thesis. My thesis is an article-based dissertation, and since my “non-written-work” has been the starting point of all my articles, the “non-written-work” are integrated throughout my dissertation. I have a chapter in my dissertation that will present my design experiments (“non-written-work”), but I still do not know how this is going to end out; if it will be descriptions of the experiments, only pictures, graphics, schematics or something else. I also consider to do a small exhibition as part of the final dissertation period.

5. which scholarly traditions you base your methodology on. To contribute with an understanding of intimacy in interaction design research, this research takes an interdisciplinary approach by crossing the fields of design, HCI and computational culture/digital aesthetics/art. I base my design methodology on programmatic design research, where my design experiments (“non-written-work”) and design research program mutually shapes each other. Furthermore, my design methodology has a critical and feminist approach.

6. which difficulties you have encountered regarding your ‘non-written work’. I have experienced that the research community have regarded my “non-written-work” as too subjective, informal, not rigorous, and too protagonist-centred. That people have lacked an understanding of how it operates as a piece of research, saying that the research contribution has been too unarticulated. People have also thought the design artefacts lack fidelity and quality, that they are too primitive and lack sophistication in design, thought in materials, form and colour and texture.

 7. what you wish to gain from the workshop. I wish to reflect more on my own design methodology; what challenges I have and how I can work with them during my last year of my PhD research. What are the particular characteristics of my “nonwritten- work” and how can I compare them and show that they each offers a different perspective? How have they also developed my research question? And how can they be seen as particular projects, each giving some knowledge, but also relating to each other and the more general aim of my thesis?

PhD Course