Playful Interactions: Reflections on research-led teaching in emerging design fields

Debbie Maxwell, Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York


Whilst research-led teaching is often touted as a desirable approach for higher education, implementing it can be challenging. This paper will present
reflections and lessons learned from teaching a final year undergraduate module in a new sub-discipline of design, broadly termed Critical Design. The intertwined fields of Critical Design, Design Fictions, and Speculative Design
have arisen in the last 10 years in response to capitalist approaches to product (and wider) design, and offer provocations in response to societal challenges in a bid to “problem find” rather than “problem solve”. These aligned fields are situated in the spaces between design, art, and Human Computer Interaction (HCI). The newness of the field and its multidisciplinary origins means not
only that it is moving fast, but that it is being pulled in several directions at once. This state of flux and uncertainly is arguably mirrored by the environment and employment contexts that our students will be graduating into.

The Critical Design module engaged students with disciplinary ambiguities and arguments, drawing on their existing degree experience with technology, design, and critical thinking to make sense of the topic. This talk will explore how the discussions that took place around the course extended beyond the conventional classroom into field visits, playful engagement through materials and digital making, and the construction of a studio space that supported students’ ownership of their learning, blurring the boundaries between lecturer and students

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