8th biannual Nordic Design Research Society (Nordes) conference
Aalto University, Finland
2–4 June 2019

Who cares?

This question is a provocation for design research. What do, or should, we care about in design and design research today? Underpinning the question are issues of culture and agency – who cares, for whom, and how? Taking care, or being cared for, evokes the choice of roles, and processes of interaction, co-creation and even decision-making. Caring, as a verb, emphasizes care as intention, action and labor in relation to others. Care can be understood as concern for that beyond oneself, for others and, thus, human, societal and even material and ecological relations are at stake. The question of care is also a call for questioning relationships, participation and responsibility, democratic and sustainable ways of co-existing. From this expansive societal standpoint, we could even ask who cares about design? And what should we do about it? The 8th biennial Nordes conference poses the question, “Who cares?”, exploring related questions, issues and propositions concerning responsibilities, relationships, ways of doing and directing design today.

The conference takes place at a time of great challenges and transitions in many of our societies. The consequences of climate change are becoming everyday reality for many, and sustainability is increasingly an issue for design institutions to frame and value in relation to other fundamental subjects. Diversity, equality and justice are matters of increasing public (as well as personal and community) attention and concern, and we continue to struggle with how to address this in societal and institutional structures, policies and daily interactions. European and Nordic countries are transforming in socio-economic terms as previous values, economies and systems of social welfare are being restructured and redistributed in various ways.

Nordic countries – and design – have long been on the forefront of addressing social, economic and environmental challenges, including design institutions, education and subjects. These can even be understood to underpin traditional concern and competencies in formgiving, making, materials and craft. More recent and explicit approaches have included human-centered paradigms such as participatory and co-design, inclusive and humanitarian design, and, increasingly, design for sustainability, transitions and social innovation, and design for services and policy. In order to address societal challenges practically, theoretically and ethically, design has engaged with areas of knowledge-making and theory-building from other disciplines, which can also be understood to challenge design more fundamentally. Ecological approaches, for example, may challenge design’s human-centeredness; and other scientific discourses can challenge preoccupation with the material and human-scale of design. At this time of socio-ecological challenges and transitions, it is a good moment for design research to engage with questions from the inside (from our practices, scholarship and institutions) and outside-in (through dialog, interaction and knowledge production with others, including other disciplines).

In the 2019 Nordes conference, we draw inspiration from notions of care as a lens through which to reflect upon and critique as well as potentially to refocus and redirect design and design research. Care might be understood in relation to philosophical lines of inquiry in other disciplines exploring theories, politics and ethics of care. Care might be understood concretely in relation to the ideals and infrastructures of welfare and healthcare systems, or service interactions. Care might be understood personally as a mindset seeking out what is meaningful for people, and for life, and with design as reflective and skilled action concerned with improving things and preferred situations.


Detailed program (SundayMondayTuesday)
Locations: U=Undergraduate Centre, L=Learning Centre, V=Väre

Download the Abstract Book, PDF 2MB

— paper session 1B | Caring bodies and abilities

Full Paper Publication Title: co-ABlity Prectices

Renáta Dezső, Moholy-Nagy University of Art
and Design, Hungary
This paper explores philosophical and strategic possibilities to understand the concept of co-Ability, and generate critical and new insights to our value system in human centred societal challenges. I apply an experimental approach of research through design, analysed from an interpretive point of view to
prove a grounded theory. The paper starts from a prosthesis development presented as a tangible pragmatic procedure. The purpose of the case study is the notion of care through practical design that is marked with concern since the probability of harm
can be incised by pure design decisions. Instead of describing the politics of roles and ethics in a situation characterised by ‘design for care’ inspirations, I use reflection on design practice to understand embodied thoughts concerning relationships and the ways of doing. In the second part of the paper, I proceed with literature review in disability research and parallel design strategies. In the final section – in relation to co-design – I introduce the term of ‘co-Ability’ that is rooted in the critical approach of posthuman disability studies outlined by scholars such as Rosi Braidotti. It serves as a broad umbrella term under which we can reconsider the potentials of various entities
(biological and artificial) enhancing the shared competence rather than dwelling on the oppressive nature of human-centred norms. Overall, I suggest that the dominant normative vision manifesting in societal challenges is in relational matter with multiple body representations.

Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.

— Christopher Morley

Enjoy the morning.

The best way to get better at photography is start by taking your camera everywhere. If you leave your house, your camera leaves with you. The only exception is if you’re planning for a weekend bender — then probably leave it at home. Other than that, always have it slung over your shoulder. It would probably help to get an extra battery to carry in your pocket. I’ve got three batteries. One in my camera, one in my pocket, one in the charger. When it dies, swap them all.

For me, the most important part of improving at photography has been sharing it. Sign up for an Exposure account, or post regularly to Tumblr, or both. Tell people you’re trying to get better at photography. Talk about it. When you talk about it, other people get excited about it. They’ll come on photo walks with you. They’ll pose for portraits. They’ll buy your prints, zines, whatever.

It’s easily the best camera I’ve ever owned. I take care of it as best as I can, but I don’t let taking care of it impact the photography. You’ll get better at each section of what we talked about slowly. And while you do, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it all is and how the habit forms.

NORDES 2019 is the 8th biannual conference
of the Nordic Design Research Society co-hosted
by two Finnish institutions: Aalto University and
University of Lapland.

Nordic Design Research Society

Convened in 2005, the society is an informal network of people interested in design research. NORDES convenes biannual conferences and, on opposite years, biannual summer schools.
The conferences and summer schools are hosted and self-organized on a voluntary basis by Nordic institutions of higher education, and the location of each rotates between the Nordic countries. Interest in hosting such an activity can be made by contacting the NORDES board or by attending the open ‘Commons’ meeting that takes place at each NORDES conference.
In addition, NORDES promotes the publication and dissemination of design research through the NORDES Digital Archive (nordes.org).
Visitors, including non-members of NORDES, can view all previous academic proceedings through the archive inviting engaging and more robust dialogues for design research as well as related fields.