In the many months since I submitted my thesis, I think I went through about three plans for this blog. First, I was going to archive it; to keep it as a testament to the 3 years of PhD work, another neat little package to virtually sit alongside my thesis as a tangible outcome of that period of time. I wanted to shelve it, put it in mothballs, and to make it a relic of its time. Second, I thought about coding some kind of visualisation interface to sit over the top of it, as a way of both archiving AND doing something cool with it. That involved thinking about my thesis again though, and even in a roundabout way I wanted to avoid that, and so that option has yet to transpire. Thirdly, well, I don’t really remember.

In the end, each of those plans above is brought to nought with the publication of this post. Here it is again, fresh and alive; current, and now not neatly time-boxed to pre- and post-thesis life. And so, I’ll keep posting here, sometimes sporadically, sometimes not, in the hope that whatever small readership there was is still here.

This is also the first post in a world in which Google Reader doesn’t exist. I remember looking at the meagre statistics of this blog about a year ago, and the vast majority of hits were recorded against the RSS feed. While Google effectively took ownership of and then effectively killed that technology, I hope that people have found alternate ways to keep track of sites that live outside the stacks.

So, in answering the question posed by the title of this post, for this website anyway, I suppose it will carry on in roughly the same manner as always.

As for me, I’ve been working with RMIT’s excellent Digital Ethnography Research Centre on a project that looks at cross-cultural and inter-generational mobile media use within families. It’s based in Melbourne, Shanghai and Tokyo, and is looking at differences across those sites in how families use mobile media to communicate.  I took part in a workshop late last year for that project, where I “met my literature” (well, one of my key references, anyway) and some other great researchers. There are  excellent people involved, and I’m looking forward to taking further part over the next year.

Late last year I also worked on a project with a large software company based here in Melbourne, which was fun and had some great outcomes, and I’m about to embark on another design research project in the finance sector. Each of these is a far cry from national parks.

However, I’ve viewed these projects as opportunities to practice some speculative design work, perhaps the topic I’ve become most interested in over the last year. This happened almost accidentally through writing, but also became evident once i’d began reading about the area and reflecting on my thesis work.

Unknowingly, I had performed some speculative design work in my thesis through the creation of the Habitat and Wayfarer systems. In these, I went to great detail to describe scenarios of use, to sketch out interaction diagrams and actual objects that could, potentially, exist within Parks Victoria to aid in park management. Throughout that design process I was always more interested in the concepts behind them than in actually making a functional prototype. I made sure my examiners knew they were not real systems. In reality, our project wouldn’t have had the time or the resources to build them regardless, but neither the examiners nor the project partners were fussed about not having working technology. It were the concepts that we presented back to the project team, and the ideas embodied in those concepts, that gained real traction, and were where the real work occurred.

I recently finished reading Dunne and Raby’s new book, Speculative Everthing. Considered the doyens of this field, the book was an interesting mish-mass of projects from themselves and others that highlighted an alternative role for design, one where it is used as an imaginative tool, as something that can help imagine alternative ‘normals’ and allow us to engage critically with the future. It acts as a call to action for designers to actively begin working outside the traditional market structures we find ourselves in, and to engage critically with these structures.

Whilst claiming I’m doing design that challenges capitalism whilst working at a bank is a bit rich (ha!), I’m increasingly interested in thinking of the future as a material to be designed with, and as technology as a tool for imagining and engaging with that future. Anybody familiar with this space might also be familiar with the work of studios like Superflux, and the recently ‘pivoted’ Berg, who position(ed) themselves as design consultancies working at the intersection of emerging technologies, people and art. It’s this kind of practice that I hope to learn from and bring into my own work. Critical, reflective, and knowledgable of the technology itself.

With the post-phd bubble burst, I’ll finish this off with a statistic. Since posting my thesis PDF here, it’s been downloaded well over 300 times, a number that frankly astounds me.

If you’re out there, please get in touch!






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