Monday, November 06, 2006

Wonderground: Design Research Society conference, Lisbon

Last week I joined over 250 people attending the Design Research Society's Wonderground conference in Lisbon bringing together researchers working in diverse design disciplines including graphic and product design, architecture, interaction design and the odd engineer. The plenaries were held in the grand Society of Geography built in the mid-19th century. On display were massive statues of the major Portuguese mariners who travelled the world in the 15th century (see Vasco da Gama, to the left), and a large map showing some of their significant journeys, the trails that are so linked to colonization and globalization.

Conferences such as these can be frustrating and stimulating since they involve people at different stages of their professional careers with different levels of knowledge and understanding about their own practices and research and their wider context. So in each presentation you have to focus really hard on both what the presenter is saying and why they are saying it now; I needed a geography, and a history (which we got in a presentation from Nigel Cross), and a sociology and an economy and a politics of design research. What I found valuable about attending was access to a snapshot of design research activity within (mostly) academic contexts to help me situate my own research, within a social science institution. I also liked the vinho verde and the pasteis de nata.

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