Design Journal - The Context of Critical Design: Exhibits, Social Media and Auction Houses

After a year or two (in review etc) the paper I wrote with former colleagues at Northumbria was published in the Volume 18, Number 1 of The Design Journal - one of the leading academic Design Journals.

The paper looks at my work with video and the potential for designers to use Youtube to foster a debate beyond the primary audience of the work, the abstract is below.

 

Critical design and design for debate seek to critique contemporary society through the production of provocative artefacts that cause the viewer to reflect on current trends, assumptions and values. But such designs are typically displayed in relatively elitist contexts – art galleries, conference halls and academic publications. Many designers are now making short films of their work and posting them to sites like Vimeo and YouTube. This paper considers such sites as potential spaces for widening the context of critical design. It describes responses on YouTube to three videos of designs by Freddie Yauner. The Fastest Clock in the World is a clock that gives time to a millionth of a second, The Highest Popping Toaster in the World uses a compressed gas-powered mechanism to fire toast at the ceiling, Signs of Life appears to be a fire exit sign until the stick figure running for the door begins to yawn, stretch and wander out of shot to take a break. A film of each was posted to YouTube and the comments were analysed to consider the extent to which social media can be used to extend and promote the kinds of debate that critical design seeks to create. The paper outlines a method for analysing YouTube data which draws on site statistics, content analysis, grounded theory and critical theory. Viewing figures and comments indicate that such social media do have the potential to enlarge the audience for critical design although engagement may be relatively superficial. The paper argues that while critical design artefacts critique consumer society this does not prevent them from themselves becoming desirable objects to be consumed. It suggests that the context of critical design must be expanded if it is to escape this deadlock.