Alicia Smedberg: The Labour of Infrastructuring

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Alicia Smedberg, PhD student in Interaction Design, K3.

The title of the talk is: The Labour of Infrastructuring.

This will be Alicia’s 90 percent PhD seminar. Carl DiSalvo, Associate Professor in Design, Georgia Institute of Technology, will take on the role as discussant.

The seminar will take place on Monday, May 9 at 13.15-15.00. It will be a hybrid seminar. Please either come to room NiB0501 or join online here: https://mau-se.zoom.us/j/64675687916 (this is the zoom link to all K3 seminars this term).

Please notice the time and that the seminar is on a Monday!

Below is an abstract for the seminar. If you would like to have the manuscript for the seminar, please mail Alicia alicia.smedberg@mau.se.

The K3 seminar is held in collaboration with the Collaborative Future-Making Platform

This Ph.D. project is situated within Participatory Design (PD), and inquiries into the well established notion of infrastructuring (Ehn, 2008; Karasti, 2014) within the wider field of Interaction Design. As a design research project relying heavily on practice, the inquiry rests upon a four-year process of iterative field work. The field work has been comprised on observations, engagements and interventions into three projects that bridges the public sector and citizens. The primary concern of the dissertation is to investigate the issues of agency within democratic design experiments (Binder et al., 2015) in the public sector. The issues of agency lies at the core of the PD practice, which has evolved around questions of the inherent power- relations between designers and users in the design process. This thesis departs from the understanding that PD is first and foremost a political project and it is therefore imperative that it is seen within its contemporary social context. It follows that the question of how we do/activate/perform infrastructures is of relevance to PD: these are political interventions often hold a dual nature of empowering and depowering. Understanding infrastructuring as a political action requires that we understand both its constraints and its possibilities, its constructive as well as its destructive power. I will elaborate further on the overlapping theoretical heritage – from STS and Participatory Design – that infrastructuring entails is also present in the thesis’ ontology.

While design has often been seen as an artisan practice, infrastructuring uses much of design’s tools, repertoire and affordances in an ongoing care- and maintenance labour. In particular when tied to public sector work, where the common or collective “good” is and should be a factor, the practice of infrastructuring demands negotiations and compromises on behalf of the many. The artisan designer may produce the most beautiful, most prestigious or the most ingenious solution to a problem, but the collective designer’s priorities must always be to develop situated designs. To make a distinction between artisan design work and collective care work through design this thesis has borrowed the concepts of work and labour from Hannah Arendt’s (1958) writings in political philosophy.

The research has been conducted through programmatic design research where the program acts as a “frame and foundation for carrying out a series of design experiments and interventions” (Brandt, Redström, Eriksen and Binder, 2011., p. 19). A bricolage of methods has been used, reflexively, to drive the program forward, and these have always been informed by an ethics of care. There are three projects that form the basis of this design program: Amiralsstaden (2017-2019); Livskonceptet (2017-2018); The Democracy Ambassadors (2019). These three primary case studies were all situated within public sector work, and conducted alongside Malmö Stad. The design programme has generated two programmatic answers. The first programmatic answer, Affective Infrastructuring, highlights the importance of heeding affect when mobilizing social infrastructures, and represents a gap in previous literature around infrastructuring. The second programmatic answer suggest a method of approaching affective structures: Collaborative Anecdotalization.

References:

ARENDT, H. (1998 [1958]). THE HUMAN CONDITION. CHICAGO, THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS.

BINDER, T.; BRANDT, E.; EHN, P., AND HALSE, J. (2015) DEMOCRATIC DESIGN EXPERIMENTS: BETWEEN PARLIAMENT AND LABORATORY. CODESIGN. VOL. 11 NO 3- 4, PP. 152-165

BRANDT, E., REDSTRÖM, J., ERIKSEN, MA., AND BINDER, T. (2011) THE PERFORM CODESIGN EXPERIMENT – ON WHAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY DO AND THE RELATION BETWEEN PROGRAM AND EXPERIMENT IN RESEARCH THROUGH DESIGN.

EHN, P. (2008) PARTICIPATION IN DESIGN THINGS. PROC. PDC 2008, 92-101.

KARASTI, H. (2014) INFRASTRUCTURING IN PARTICIPATORY DESIGN. IN PROCEEDINGS OF THE 13TH PARTICIPATORY DESIGN CONFERENCE: RESEARCH PAPERS-VOLUME 1 (PP. 141-150).

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