Pukeberg 2010 (scroll down for text)

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Design thing – from object to issue of concern

During one intensive week forty phd-candidates from the Nordic countries gathered for a summer school at Pukeberg design center in Nybro. Pelle Ehn and Peter Ullmark, from The Swedish Faculty for Design Research and Research Education, organized this event with the theme “The (doing of) Design Things”. The whole week was based around a book manuscript that Pelle Ehn has been a co-writer of.  The book suggests different ways to look at the design practice as a collaborative, socio-material process, a performance were actors and stakeholders with different backgrounds and intentions negotiate, transform and mobilize the final result. The etymology of the word “thing” in English and “ting” in the Nordic languages has a meaning as the ancient meeting place for parliaments or assemblies, where issues of concern were discussed. For example the two monolithic stones on Öland called “Tingstads flisor” that is known to be the oldest place for the medieval “ting” on Öland. This workshop suggested a similar journey, from “ting” as an entity of matter or an object, to a gathering around issues of concern.

The participants formed groups around issues of concern that they worked with during the week, the issues could be concrete like “materials” or sustainability, methodological like “open ended design” or simply “provocative”. Every day started with a seminar about one or more chapters in the book and continued with a workshop that deepened the issue. As seminar and workshop leaders appeared Thomas Binders, Alex Wilkie, Anna Rylander, Otto von Busch, Catharina Gabrielsson and Giulio Iacucci. The final the day eight working groups presented the result in the form of interactive performances, plays or examinations.

During the final debriefing in a large square, a “tingplace”, the participants could freely express their experiences from the week. “Intensive, interesting theme and a good balance between theory and practice, great network”, were the most frequent comments. Tired but filled with impressions we all went back to our work.

Sara Ilstedt


One of the participants, Tau from Danmarks Designskole, below in blue T-shirt said: “The summerschool was really good. It was very fruitful for my own project about design as a critical practice and it also provided me with great networks.”

His collegue, Christine also from Denmarks designskole, at the top in V-neck said: “The theme was very relevant for my work with co-design of workplaces, I felt it was written for me. There are so many approaches to design and it made me realize what kind of designer I am, but it also provoked me. I learned to see thing from different perspectives.”

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(The doing of) Design Things
Pukeberg, Nybro, Sweden, 23.8 – 27.8, 2010

Design deals with things, but what does that suggest? In design practice the things we deal with may be objects, products, artifacts and services, but also assemblages, processes, projects and even parliaments. This diversity also goes for contemporary design thinking, focusing things such as design collaborations as well as prototypes and “matters of concern”. This diversity may be noticed in the etymology of the English word “thing” which reveals a journey from a meaning of an assembly, like the governing assemblies in ancient Nordic and Germanic societies, to a meaning of “an entity of matter”. In short: How are design things being done in contemporary design practice, thinking and theory.

The Nordic Design Research Conference (NORDES) summer school 2010 is addressing such design theory issues conceptually and exploratory in a five-day course for Ph.D students. Each day will have a specific design thing theme (see below), and each theme will be explored both in a reflective seminar and a performative workshop.

The five seminars will be based on themes and chapters in Design Things (A.Telier a.k.a. Thomas Binders, Giorgio di Michelis, Pelle Ehn, Giulio Iacucci, Per Linde and Ina Wagner, forthcoming). Philosophically this seminar material gives a design theoretical framing of design thinking and design practice in the pragmatic tradition of John Dewey, including the thinking by scholars such as Donald Schön, Victor Turner and Jean Lave. There will also be frequent design readings of the science and technology tradition as championed by Bruno Latour, Annemarie Mol, Susan Lee Star and others. (This material will on registration be distributed to all participants.)

The design thing themes for the seminars and workshops are:

Objects and assemblies, practice and reflection
How can we conceptualize what is being designed? How is accessible to designers what is being designed? How do designers mobilize, manage, and transform artifacts and their interpretations?

Parliaments and projects; controversies and publics
How are things made public? What could a “thing philosophy” and “object oriented politics” for design be?

Performance and place
How do designers express and experience design objects? How is design performed and staged? In which space does design take place?

Design and use; participation and infrastructuring
How does design relate to use? How can users participate in design? How can designers participate in use?

Who will participate in the design of the future? Are there new roles for the professional designer to play in design taking place in the everyday and by participating in controversial public things? Are designer the enemies of design?

During the summer school the participants will also be paired in teams that prepare a synopsis for a joint presentation of a “design thing” of their own choice. The participants are encouraged to develop this synopsis into a text for publication after the summer school.

Date and Place

The Summer school will be held from 23.8 to 27.8.2010 at Pukeberg in Nybro, Sweden. Pukeberg is a center for design with a design school, glassworkshops, design archive and museum. www.pukeberg.se
The cost for the summer school is 1800 skr, that includes accommodation, all meals and workshops.
Travelling to Nybro has to be arranged indivually by the participants.
For more information about the program contact: Pelle [dot] Ehn [at] mah [dot] se


Registration for the summer school should be sent to Karin Blombergsson karin [at] md [dot] kth [dot] se. mark the mail “Nordes summer school 2010”

Upon registration participants must submit a position statement of 1-4 pages motivating reason for participation and reflecting upon their PhD thesis orientation in relation to the themes of the summer school. Admittance to the summer school will be based on evaluation of submitted motivations.
Deadline for registration is April 19, 2010, notification of acceptance by May 10.

The summer school is organized by NORDES (the Nordic Design Research Conference) and the Swedish Faculty for Design Research and Research Education.

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Informationsansvarig sushel [at] kth [dot] se (Susanne Helgeson)

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