Allen Higgins, University College Dublin
Sydney 2018: Infrastructure and co-design

This making and doing session recreates some of the interaction involved in the development of an App. We use short ‘impro’ sessions to demystify designing in general and software designing in particular. It enacts and reveals what happens behind the scenes. The audience takes part by improvising an unscripted interaction in pairs or threes, progressing through three stages:

  • Problem solving in the conventional mode of design as a formal ‘rational fantasy’
  • Introducing conflict through a set of distinctive, yet relatively ‘safe’, moods or styles
  • Injecting ‘unsafe’ complications with raw emotion, biography, and personality

The design play opens a way for exploring the decisions behind algorithms that then become software. Designs and architectures are built up over time through these social-organisational interactions. We (re)discover that designing is an artful exercise in imagination, anticipation, exposition, negotiation, and gentle power. It is also uncertain, political and power laden; sometimes arbitrary, but always personal – in spite of the fantasy of scientific logic or managerial control that tends to predominate.

The lens of theatre offers insights into design action and organisational creativity; design’s actors no longer mere caricatures of architect, developer, user, customer, or market. Human actors, space and place, a putative audience, the tools, props and Deus ex Machina of technology – all speak to how we situate and embody creative action. With theatre informing designing’s practice and routines, the drama of designing takes on new meaning. It may be acknowledged as playful, experimental, forceful, arbitrary, ethical, and political. This move suggests new understandings of what matters – mood, style of involvement, personal relationship – in design crucibles and beyond.

Please come and play.