WORKSHOP 8: Boundary objects as mediators between design areas

Design areas, such as research, practice and education, often struggle with a lack of mutual understanding, e.g. due to different agenda and needs. Objects, in the widest sense, are a common topic of interest. Our hypothesis is that exploring different types of objects and seeing how different design areas regard and interpret these objects may facilitate communication between the design areas.

Boundary objects (BOs) connect diverging but overlapping areas of interests. BOs can be categorised as repositories, ideal types, coincident boundaries and standardised forms (Leigh Star et al., 1989: 410-141). The advantage of BOs as mediators between design areas is that BOs are flexible enough to represent the specific needs and constraints of one area, while their use allows for the development and maintenance of coherency across intersecting areas.

The goal of the workshop is to explore if BOs can contribute to improved communication between design areas and if the aforementioned BO categories (or revised or redesigned categories) can facilitate mutual understanding. We will approach the following questions:

  1. What types of BOs do actors in different design areas, such as research, practice and education, suggest?
  2. Are BOs (in reality) means to cross the gaps between design areas, and what categories are most appropriate for that?
  3. What categories are most favourable, easiest to talk about, etc.?
  4. What category is most relevant for which area?
  5. Are four categories sufficient for the discussion, or do we have to develop additional categories?
  6. What are the important relationships between categories, and how do these relationships develop (talk, interaction, co-creation)?
  7. How do we create and manage BOs for further use in design areas?

The workshop is limited to 30-40 participants who sign up before the ‘and who acquire the workshop organisers’ information on BOs and the call to bring two/three relevant objects each from their respective areas.

In the workshop, BOs (e.g. things, articles, concepts, toolkits and models for discussion and interaction) are placed in different category ‘piles’ and discussed/interpreted/used by the participants. Perhaps we will discover that four categories are too few (see question 5), so we will have ‘open’ piles for new BOs categories. The organisers facilitate the discussion/use of the BOs.

The outcomes of the workshop should improve communication and lessen the ‘expertise gap’ between the different design areas.

Timeframe: 3h

Martina Keitsch, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Department of Product Design;
Anders Warell, Lund University, Department of Design Sciences, Sweden
Monika Hestad, University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, UK
Viktor Hiort af Ornäs, Chalmers University of Technology, Department of Product- and Production development, Sweden
Ola Pilerot, Borås University, Swedish School of Library and Information Science; Sweden

Open for registration:  40