Histories and Futures of Research through Design: From Prototypes to Connected Things
This article discusses how the artifact of Research through Design (RtD) is changing due to data technology. The article firstly reviews the character and role of the prototype in RtD traditions informed by practices of skillful crafting and industrial design manufacturing. It then describes the move of RtD to data-enabled practices to offer a conceptualization of artifacts as connected things, that is, decentralized objects that actively collapse the division between design participation, user interaction and the creation and distribution of products and services. By considering connected things as capable of ‘making’ things too, the article positions the changing character and role of the RtD artifact in relation to three key shifts in design practice: (1) the agential shift towards the inclusion of things as partners in design, (2) the temporal shift towards always available opportunities for co-creation, and (3) the infrastructural shift towards unstable forms of value. The article concludes with a discussion on the implications of these changes for how knowledge might be generated, critiqued and shared in future data-enabled RtD practice.
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