The following themes outline my approach to defining and applying the methods in this “Kit of Process”. Using these approaches helps me to establish a way of looking, and thus shapes the course of my research. They are part of the critical framework in which I make research. And it is within this framework that I will use the methods from the kit.
My approach to design research is oriented by my understanding of education. One of the fundamental beliefs I have in education is that learning is a creative and dialogical exchange of ideas within a dynamic reality. And this resonates with how I will go about making design education research.
Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator and philosopher, writes:
“Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-students with student-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but the one who is himself [or herself] taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.”
(Freire, 1970, p.80)
“In problem posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.”
(Freire, 1970, p.83)
With this in mind, I understand the methods and processes as a way to form a dialogue between research and practice. I found it useful to map some of the traditional dichotomies between research and practice, and through the methods in this took kit I attempt to make connections between the two disciplines.
The way in which we value, receive, and interpret knowledge has been constructed through systems such as schools and academic institutions. Peter McLaren writes that:
“Critical pedagogy asks how and why knowledge gets constructed the way it does, and how and why some constructions of reality are legitimated and celebrated by the dominant culture while others are clearly not.”
(McLaren, 2009, p.63)
Certain forms of knowledge are valued beyond others. For example, information as text is valued in a different way to information as movement; sight is valued differently to touch.
I approach these methods with awareness that I am making research within an academic system that organises and celebrates knowledge according to the dominant culture. I hope to explore a spectrum of knowledge and information in my research practice, as best I can within this system.
3. Standpoint Feminism
Standpoint theory is based on the premise that perception is shaped by social and political experience. I approach design research with an understanding that knowledge is shaped by social and political experience. And within the context of my research this would include both that of dominant discourse and culture, and my own social and political framework within that culture.
“Feminist standpoint emerges both out of the contradiction between the systematically differing structure of male and female life activity in western cultures. It expresses female experience at a particular time and place, located within a particular set of social relations”
(Harstock, 1998, p.124)
Standpoint theory is a way to approach feminism within a wider social and political context, and this perspective is helpful in understanding the literature, institutions, and systems that I am researching or researching within.
With the above approaches in mind (research is a dynamic dialogue, knowledge comes in many forms, and is constructed through social and political experience) I approach design research with an viewpoint that through the process of research, knowledge is created. Again, this is an idea that stems from an education perspective. Paulo Freire argues that through diological education knowledge is created, and give the name “praxis” to action and reflection in practice. He writes:
“As we attempt to analyse dialogue as a human phenomenon, we discover something which is the essence of dialogue itself: the word. But the word is more that just an instrument with makes dialogue possible; accordingly, we must seek its constitutive elements. Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one sacrificed –even in part- the other immediately suffers. There is not true word that is not at the same time praxis. Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world”
(Freire, 1970, p.87)