Systems of Exchange and Action Research
I am beginning a PhD in urban planning with a focus on digital technology. I am interested in possibly using a participatory design or action research approach. First I discuss my potential PhD project. Second, I discuss the approach that I propose taking towards the project. Third, I discuss what I hope to gain from this PhD course.
In 2016, I designed and led an app development project for sharing extra food between households. Meanwhile, I have started a PhD in Urban Planning with a professor interested in smart cities and urban labs. My co-advisor is researching the shared economy and its relationship to non capitalist economic alternatives. Göteborg has called itself the sharing city, showing a commitment to developing opportunities to share resources at a city-wide level. I imagine that this might be a supportive environment and conditions for exploring technology-focused solutions to reduced consumption, but I need to learn how to talk about action research in a way that legitimizes its research value. I recognize myself and my concerns in the article by Dunne and Seago .
For my PhD project, I am interested in the way that technical solutions are being used to create post capitalist imaginaries. I am interested in exploring what this new wave of technical optimism could mean. Practically, I could continue to develop my own app project, help with another wellestablished group’s project or projects, or observe using traditional ethnographic and social science methods the way in which activists, NGOs and businesses develop these tools and products. I could also use a combination of these research methods. For instance, Shana Agid at the Participatory Design Conference in 2016 challenged the idea of the designer as the leader of the project. He positioned himself as one member of an activist group who would eventually use his experience to publish research articles .
Theoretically, I intend to use Gibson-Graham’s research as an underpinning. Gibson-Graham are economic geographers who worked to make visible and further develop non capitalist feminist economic practices . They suggest that post capitalist practices of exchange are more common than apparent and recommend experimenting and creating these systems. They also use an action research approach.Thus, I am approaching the project from an environmental studies and economic geography perspective.
Through this workshop, I am interested in understanding: first, how I write a proposal for a practicebased project. I am not wedded to design as a practice-based theory. I am also interested in exploring and understanding action research as a possible source of theoretical background, so I appreciate the Brandt and Binder article comparing different practice-based PhD theses . Moreover, I am interested in understanding and differentiating the ways that practice-based researchers identify their results. Where in their process do they look for results? What do they analyze most closely? In the design of the artifact, project or process? In the making of this thing? In the response to the thing? What type of information comes out of action and design research? Can this kind of research be critical ?
 Seago, A. and Dunne, A. (1999). New Methodologies in Art and Design Research: The Object as Discourse. Design Issues, 15(2), p.11.  Agid, S. (2016). '…IT’S YOUR PROJECT, BUT IT’S NOT NECESSARILY YOUR WORK…’: INFRASTRUCTURING, SITUATEDNESS, AND DESIGNING RELATIONAL PRACTICE,. In: Participatory Design Conference. [online] Aarhus: Participatory Design Conference. Available at: ojs.ruc.dk/index.php/pdc/article/view/5458 [Accessed 1 Aug. 2017].  Gibson-Graham, J. (2006). The end of capitalism (as we knew it). 1st ed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.  Brandt, E. and Binder, T. (2007). Experimental Design Research: Genealogy - Intervention - Argument. Hong Kong: International Association of Societies of Design Research.  Agid, S. and Olander, S. (2017). What is your Critical Approach? Design Power and Proximity. In: Design + Power. [online] Oslo: NorDes. Available at: www.nordes.org/nordes2017/ programme/index.html [Accessed 1 Aug. 2017].