PhD Arts presentation Anja Groten 19 June 2020

Notes for Yunjoo:

10 min
Introduction to give a bit of context to the text I sent around and also share some landmarks of my research

In my 3rd year in the programme, joined shortly after Judith and Maya
My background is in design
An educator and run a design master course at the Sandberg Instituut, in Amsterdam

[show pics H&D]

My research specifically centers around my work with the collective called hackers & designers..
H&D organise coding and design workshops
H&D aims or claims to create an environment of horizontality – where learning is perceived as mutual exchange and distinctions between the one who shares and the one who receives knowledge – users and makers are blurred.
The idea is to forget about the pressures of designing functioning and precious things.
Participants usually come with an open question, something unresolved, something they want to start exploring.
It is this environment in which I investigate the conditions and implications of working with ‘others’ – including other human beings but also others as in - technical objects.
1st concept that I am working with: Technical objects are concrete things that are not yet anything. They do however always take part in, and therefore relate to processes and situations of design that I am interested in in my research .
So my motivation for joining the PhD Arts program was - really to find out what it is I am doing … being involved as an organiser and designer in all kind ´s of collaborative structures I felt a strong urge to investigate and clarify what it is that I value in collectivity, and in self-initiation as a designer .. why is it important to me to create my own conditions for the work I am doing… being my own commissioner in a sense ….
[show: black]
At first the notion of a pluralist approach to design was quite important in my research – and still is to a certain extend. I am looking for counter affirmative design approaches and have been leaning before mostly on theories of pluralism as proposed by Chantal Mouffe and as translated to the field of Design by scholars such as Carl DiSalvo, Ramia Mazé and Tad Hirsch, who all advocate an approach to design that privileges difference
The work of those writers has been helpful for my research as it grants space for analysis of processes of design (rather than final results or products of design) and call attention to the importance of incorporating different — maybe oppositional positions in those processes.
These pluralist perspectives have offered me means to resist universalising and utilitarian notions in design
The notion of friction was for a long time quite central to my research : and it took me a bit to understand that it is not the promise of a frictional design practice, or friction as a design method that interests me but it is a kind of frictional lens through which I discern situations I immerse myself in I write about…
Reading the work of Karen Barad, John Dewey, Anna Tsing and Ian Hacking helps me to gain a more nuanced understanding of “being together in difference” and complicates my understanding of positionally in design beyond adversarial and contestational approaches to design such as proposed by di salvo and tad Hirsch.
Another important moment was when I started journaling in the first year .. writing down mundane situations from my experience - mostly at H&D, — these kind of anecdotal practice reviews help me to find an angle and voice, and to really problematize my work
It started with remembering and describing different workshop situations, the organization around those workshop situations, and the workshop format as such.
When I say workshop I refers to a site and situation that hosts groups of like-minded people to meet and work intensively on a specific technological topic in a defined timeframe. My interest in organising workshops comes from my desire to encounter different approaches compared to how I practice design, and specifically inquire into how these differences are relevant to my own understanding of design practice.
[show messy video] Every situation I refer to in my research is a messy situation – intermingling and diffusing knowledge, expertise, skills and experience of people working in totally different fields.
The question of: "What is the specificity of this messy practice – my resistance of adhering to standards in my work: disciplines, formats, media, skills,
lies at the core of my research.
[show research question]
So my central question is: What happens after the dilution of design?
And I have been working with three notions that help me to structure this mess: sociality, informality and technical objects
offer a framework / or grammar of sorts – that allows me to structure the dissolving of design, and allows me for addressing fundamental questions such as: Are we still designing? If we are not, how do we define and defend our practices? And if we are, don’t we need to expand our understanding of design and the ways we articulate it?”. I therefore want to understand how situations during which practices become hybrids, and disciplines, expertise, and skills blend into each other – and dilute, negotiate the notions of sociality, informality and technical objects… without assuming 'design’ as a given…
[Image: outcome of the Johnny Golding exercise / spreadsheet]
Where I am now:
* After a chapter about Workshopization I am now writing a text about Platformization and platforming which I had sent you last week

10 min —

Intermission: showing some pictures of a physical platform that we broke down on Monday
Physical platform… a physical translation of the hosting practice of H&D … in collaboration with Thomas Rustemeyer
I shared with you a text, is about the relationship of platforming and organizing and looks at instances within the work of the collective H&D in which platforms (technical and non technical) were imagined, planned, designed and used.
I am now working on a translation of parts of that text into a form of how-to-manual …
a concise, informative piece of writing that instructs the reader on how to perform a task
by giving step by step instructions… (wiki how : how to write a how to guide)
I am interested in the format of the how-to as it is a practical way to convey information about an active process.
And the how to also has been quite presence in the practice of H&D
[add and wiki, and printed]
Would like to somehow expand on the format and embed it more into my writing
The manual I am proposing here should be addressing the question: Do you want to design our platform?
While there is much to unfold in the proposed question, I hope this how-to manual would lead to a collecting and structuring of tactics – and another way to turn platform the noun into platforming a verb.
For now I called it:
How to platform – An unreliable how-to manual

—> Step 1: Composing the We
And I will lead you to the steps … it is 6 steps at the moment
Who is the ‘we'… who is involved
and do they know?
Another important question is:
is there a we at all… is there already a form of organisation in place? Or does the platform aspire to ‘magically' create an organization, or become an organization by itself
try to make explicit who will contributes, how much, when? And for how long?
Also dont forget to ask: what is the agency of the different contributors, who gets to decide what and who is included and excluded?
[what is being designed? what does the designer do] -> designing a community

—> Step 2: Stepping out
[you/our + platform]
Platforms structure (existing) and anticipate (imagined) organizational work.
In order to translate the work and workings of a collective into a platform, you will have to bring to the fore the collectives essential characteristics at first.
If you are part of the collective yourself, it can be challenging to gain the distance that allows you to recognize the specificities of the collective constellation and its organizational functioning.
Ask: What past events might be indicative for the ways the collective is being organized. How did the collective start? What were key moments, crucial turning points, achievements and setbacks? How were they dealt with?
Make an overview/inventory of attributes that shape your organization, by mapping the way the organization shares, aggregates and archives information.
Involve an outsider: Another way of taking distance is to involve someone who is not part of the collective. Someone with an outsider perspective might be able to formulate questions and point at specificities that seem unremarkable whilst inside or very close to the collective.

—> Step 3: Dealing with platform confusion
The platform has become a default term, and is often used interchangeably with notions such as networks and media – but also figuratively.
The request for platform design therefore asks for further questioning.
Create common understanding of what we mean when say platform.
---> Imagining different platform scenarios it is helpful to question ambition, ownership, efficiency

Platte Form - flat scape
Platformization, platform pop? phenomenon of the platform? or platform + organization? Platframe: Pseudo-platforms. Rebranding or repackaging existing platforms to represent your identity. Example: a webpage containing streaming, writing and chat tools and determining conditions for using them so. (for instance login, timeframes, archiving) Hiding or framing options / guiding navigation

Ask: Why is this a platform, and not a website?
Ask: Are there other platforms that do what you would like your platform to do. If yes, why not using these existing platforms?
Ask: Why do you need a platform at all?
[what is being designed? what does the designer do] -> creating a platform imagination
—> Step 4: Testing structures and relations
Platforms are technical infrastructures that are designed for interaction,
The interactive aspect therefore should not be left to the end
Testing ambitions and expectations towards the platform and each other
Here it will become apparent whether previous steps were lined out realistically / composition of the we / the fabric of the organisation, and sorting the platform confusion
Everyone needs to test
Don’t let aesthetics get in the way
Step 5: Letting go
Its a moment of acceptance that the platform will live its own life
Its live, online, on air… its launched
Its a letting go of imagining what it could be and accepting what it is

Step 6: Negotiating Unreliabilty
This is another moment of realisation whether or not previous taken steps (for instance composing the we) and the expectations created in those steps are holding up…
While we might have thought of the platform as something we ‘create’, own, and control -- new relations and dependancies will become apparent.. in its continuation… think about browser updates, servers, changing habits, and changing involvements of those considered the ‘we’ of the platform
Tactics / to keep in mind:
As an organisation – a platform too – is constantly in the making… Platforming is a continuous process and will keep being demanding
Previous steps can thus be taken into consideration again and again .. thus should be seen not as a linear timeline but more as a scaffolding that can be accessed from different directions
Another thing to keep in mind, the moment when platforms do not function might the moment of display of their character, and their relations and involmentsnts with the organization.
All of the sudden their instrumentality is disguised as something that can neither be controlled nor anticipated. The notion of collectivity and participation as inclusive modes are called into question.