post GRC blues.
This GRC had been one of the strongest one I have seen of our work so far. This may sound obvious, with so many students who have matured within the program. I do feel that pang and wish Lisa was here, just to witness how proud she would’ve been.
I’ve noticed meta themes that seem to be hovering above all our various projects.Terri critiqued an aspect of practice-led research that could become a self-referrential ‘hall of mirrors’. When do you stop reflecting? Is the point of reflective practice to obtain certainty? Isn’t that the antithesis to design? These discussions were really interesting to take part in, provoked by Neal’s great presentation. Neal did really well and I was most impressed by his critique of these meta concepts through his own projects.
The other critique that was made by Cameron was the difference between ‘truth’ and ‘honesty’. I think I used to confuse the two, but now I know that to be ‘honest’ is not the only important thing in research. To be ‘honest’ may be good in some way, but it also serves as a loop hole to get away with things, like biases and assumptions. ‘Truth’ though can be pursued through parody, through deceiving, through performance through other means.
Since reading Lisa’s comments, I think I have been able to accept what Luke has demonstrated, and more so envious of what he has achieved. Whilst sitting through the presentations, I couldn’t help feel how boring I thought my research was, and in a weird way, how lonely I felt that I was doing a PhD. It’s an odd feeling because I cannot wish for a better community of peers who are diverse, interesting, provocative, supportive group of people. I don’t dismiss how hard it is to do a Masters, but it did seem like they were able to have much more ‘fun’, to be themselves because the criteria for a Masters seems so different to a PhD. The constant pressure for my work to reveal ‘new knowledge’ has such a serious undertone that I feel like it’s turning into something that’s not ‘me’ anymore…
After the GRCs, Laurene pulled me to the side and said that I am now entering the most hardest part of the process… and though I knew that this was the case, it had been hard enough already that I doubt whether I would honestly get through this stage. Laurene had said that a Masters was to know and understand who you are, but a PhD is to confront who you are… Fuck.
There really ought to be an Alcoholics Annonoymous kind of therapy group for PhD candidates. At this stage, I really doubt what I have to say that is so different to anyone else. But the thing is, everyone else around me thinks that I do, but I don’t see it, or more so, I don’t believe it.
And through all this, what really makes a difference? At a fundamental level, I don’t think my research makes any difference to other design practitioners. Dion keeps warning me not to get too trapped in that academia world, and he visibly looks fed up when I go on and on about something that in reality, doesn’t relate to other designers.
Laurene’s right. I do need a break… or better, I should bloody well stop whinging.
A new title!
Horrah! Trust Daria to put you on the hot spot… she asked me to sum up my PhD in a sentence. So I drew her a diagram with the three words: Communication, Design, and People. And I said it was a messy relationship between those concepts / activities. Hey presto, I have a new title! I’ll see how that sticks for now, but it is SO MUCH better than that gawdawfull one before about ‘human-centred practice’. God, what a turn off that was!
It’s really interesting reading a ‘book’ written and designed by someone else. Its as if you question the thing (in this case, the book and its contents) to see whether it matches the person who you thought you knew. In Luke’s case, it did, and probably much more. I particularly liked the obsessiveness and details into which he would go to, to talk about one thing. This interrogation is very much the Luke I thought I got to know. His overt self-criticism had manifested itself this way in the obsession to tell, guts and all.
What I am most impressed about is his confidence in telling the story of his design research. There’s a lot of bits and pieces, odds and ends that make up the whole. In that chaotic assemblage, his voice does come through very clearly. The practice that he describes in his exegesis is about his personal struggles in giving a difficult birth to a new way of practicing.We (as the audience) had to patiently give him the benefit of the doubt that this would come eventually. Read into the juxtaposed text and images. Be puzzled by odd references to his girlfriend. But this book had the magnetism and a ‘power’ that pulled me to his side, walk beside him for the story to be told. In the end, everything made sense.
But of course, I am biased. I wanted to count how many times he harped on about my ‘problem-solving user-centred design’ research and how much he disagreed with it. And being someone who likes to be liked by those who I like, his disagreement had been a source of concern at times. A bit like a pebble in a shoe. Uncomfortable. But now I realise that he had given me one of the greatest flattery in taking my research so seriously. And in turn, his provocation had assisted my research journey.
Maybe it’s just me. Because of my upbringing in different cultural and geographical locations, I have always been painfully aware of the differences of me and others. So I sought comfort in finding similarities. Even though Luke says how ‘different’ we are, its never been a concern for me. I actually think we have a lot in common, which he acknowledges but doesn’t talk about. In fact, my nature has a lot to do with what my research is about. This ‘being liked by others’ might be a symptom of having had to change schools regularly and making friends quickly. And so, the concern I have of other people in my research is partly because I often find other people fascinating (the more different, the better), and also understanding and knowing someone quickly is a way to see whether you can get along and play together.
I think Luke and my research is essentially about ourselves, but at a very transparent and honest level as humans, and how we manifest that ‘human-ness’ in our practices. Lately, those underlying ‘values’ that we each have is something I have come to recognise. Its not my values, or his / her values, or anyone else’s values that are more important than the other, but its in how we negotiate them. In working with others, we discover the similarities and the way we ‘click’, to finding out the annoying habits of others and ourselves. In working with others, we discover expectations and assumptions that may have not been obvious from the start. Design is about those relationships, that human-stuff that happens in our daily lives all the time. Its there between our boy/girlfriends, families, colleagues, neighbours etc, so why would design be any different?
In his DVR, Luke is painfully and lovingly honest to himself and of others. He mentions how it is a ‘cathartic’ as well as an ‘illuminating’ process undertaking this research. The letters definately were. Even though I found the letter addressed to me with the apologetic generalisations slightly annoying, I think they ring true only because Luke has said them. That sounds strange, but if he thinks I’m doing a ‘problem-solving’ approach to design research, its because I kinda-know where Luke is coming from that I can accept his comments (and probably not so if someone else had said it). I also think that there’s a lot happening between us based on perception. I know from early on that he was ‘disturbed’ by my research project. He hurled comments at me like ‘pouring concrete onto grass’, which I took with mild yet bewildered amusement. He says, ‘my projects were all over the place, unfinished, abandoned, they left a picture of a certain kind of practice in their wake. Whereas yours all build systematically, one project upon another, until you get to some tangible outcome.’ I think that is his perception of how my research had gone. Maybe I appeared to know what I was doing, and maybe I had appeared to have been systematic. This sounds typical of me. People who are not so close tend to misunderstand that I do things ‘well’ all the time, when there is a great deal of mucking about that isn’t visible to others. In comparison to how Luke works, my research probably seemed more ‘formal’. What’s interesting here is not about how ‘truthful’ his accounts are of our research, but it illuminates more about how we had perceived of eachothers’ research, and how much we had influenced eachother.
I think this DVR is an excellent, truthful and engaging outcome of his research. No doubt about that. I think other design researchers would find it helpful to read as an empathetic experience. A lot of what he wrote about, like his disenchantment with industry, his anxieties etc, are I believe, common to many researchers. I also believe it will also encourage design practitioners to undertake research to change their practice, as in the way he had learnt how to provoke himself through design research. Is there a sense of a self fulfilling prophecy here though? Have I missed something? How did Luke become the ‘monster’, or was he one to begin with? Did he become re-engaged in practice through the research, or by becoming a ‘monster’? How do others become one though? If there is a critique to be made, maybe this is it for me. I guess I really wanted Luke to unpack the provocation chapter more, and get to the bones of it. I felt like I was being teased a lot with peripherals rather than being given the ‘meat’ of it.
But in defense of Luke’s research though, I think its a good Masters level of research. As the criteria for a Masters is to ‘be a Master of your practice’, I think (and hope) he will get the tick of approval…