POSITIONING PRACTICE discusses new models for postgraduate design research and rethinks the pedagogical conception of graphic design within the academic field. Introducing wide-ranging research workshops, Positioning Practice considers…
POSITIONING PRACTICE discusses new models for postgraduate design research and rethinks the pedagogical conception of graphic design within the academic field. Introducing wide-ranging research workshops, Positioning Practice considers how the intentionality, methodology and theoretical framing offered by this learning and teaching model can provide examples of practice operating as research.
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This second issue of Positioning Practice presents (Re)distributed Media: Leakage – a set of four collaborative workshops devised by the MA Graphic Media Design (MAGMD) course, that took place at London College of Communication from January-March 2018 and later extended to formulate a weekend long public programme for the Hope to Nope: Graphics & Politics 2008-2018 exhibition at the Design Museum, London (June 2018).
How do we navigate increasingly polluted information-scapes? Who are the gate-keepers of news, opinion, policy and why? How can we challenge the distribution of information from positions of power? These questions and many more emerged from a very present concern about the manner in which information is designed and distributed through media platforms and technologies for an increasingly contingent public. In particular, we were interested in how design research could be operational in articulating insights about the governance, provenance and authority of information. We wondered how we could employ or develop research methodologies to discern, authenticate or to simply make sense of issues.
Our aim with the workshop model was to extend design research as an investigative and critical practice. We chose to depart from and inquire into moments of leakage. A leak announces itself as an interruption. It cuts through the noise. It has the capacity to move information across thresholds and through barriers. Such moments of rupture allow us to learn about the dynamics and mechanics of power. The course reimagined the MAGMD studio as four collaborative research hubs – each approaching concerns of leakage from distinct starting points and through specific research methodologies guided by guest tutors Audrey Samson and Francisco Gallardo (FRAUD), Ruben Pater, Marwan Kaabour and David Benqué. Each of our guests were invited to work with a learning and teaching model based on reciprocity — to use this as a moment to collectively investigate, to further their own and one another’s knowledge, through the procedures of practice.
Drawing upon a shared background in computational culture, critical technical practices, post-colonial and critical feminism, performance, design and space system engineering, FRAUD’s workshop, Landscape Leakage, set out to map forms of financial, environmental and political leakage. FRAUD put forward a proposition for design-as-conflict: a framework to think with that presents strategies of design-led inquiry to reveal coercive and operational modes of conflict. Unlike conflict resolution seeking methods, they viewed conflict as a desirable, productive force.
David Benqué’s workshop, Seeing like a diagram, called for an exploration of the graph as a site for critical investigation and speculative imagination. He referred to contemporary methods employed in journalism that use graphs and diagrams to negotiate increasingly complex and vast data-sets. Crucially, the graphs were not to be seen as an end in themselves but a grounding for critical practice and discursive research, with the aim to unpack, comment on, or propose alternatives to existing systems and narratives.
The Politics of Jargon / The Jargon of Politics, led by Marwan Kaabour, called for a close reading of the significance of language in political discourse. Sifting through the complex landscape of political rhetoric across platforms, the participants explored the way language (verbal and visual) is used by politicians to shape the narrative and define the context around today’s pressing issues. In an era of fake news, how has political language been designed to manipulate and capture our consent?
Visiting from the Netherlands, Ruben Pater’s workshop, Digging up Dirt, called for an examination of our own backyards in London as potential disaster sites affected by land contamination, pollution hazards, floods, fires and more. Working on-site and within localities, with reference to open source data-sets, the participants, operating as citizen journalists, devised and distributed hyper-local disaster risk reports through mapping design.
The propositions that emerged from the four collaborative research hubs are divergent in their intentions, forms and visuality, each acknowledging the contextual nuances they are working within or towards. What binds them, however, is how they signal what is means to resist smoothness and to move past the easy read. We note a drive to divert the dominant narratives away from that which we systematically encounter, through in-depth and critical exchange with their fellow participants, the guest tutors and various publics. We see what it means to embrace the ruptures, to step into the blindspots and to work towards practices of inclusion, interruption, resistance and action.
Text by Paul Bailey and Tony Credland
With thanks to Sumitra Upham and Bernard Hay, Design Museum London, Nicky Ryan and David Sims, London College of Communication, UAL