Projects Publication date: 2021-01-11

Designing with fluid assemblages

Things are not what they used to be. And design cannot be what it used to be if it is to work with them responsibly.

Text: Heather Wiltse

Paolo Camerin in the interaction lab working on his project 'Mine'.

Image:Jens Persson

Contemporary digital things are more like fluid assemblages than stable objects. They are composed of a variety of components and connections, including resources provided by various platforms and other kinds of infrastructure. They change over time and in response to activities and other inputs they are configured to register. And in doing this they collect data that they feed back into the networks of which they are a part, and to other actors that extract different kinds of value from those networks and data generated by end users' use.

This course challenged students in the Interaction Design MFA programme at Umeå Institute of Design to work with fluid assemblages: to assemble responsive things from a variety of components, to build on top of existing platforms, and to care for multiple users and types of use. While these types of things are often developed through progressive optimization in relation to certain metrics (and there can certainly be a place for that), this course asked students to bring their sharpest design skills and sensibilities to bear - especially a concern for meaningful wholes, and care for human experience and integrity.

This course series took place within the frame of the 'Interaction Concept' course in the second year of the IxD MFA programme, in connection to the research project Design Philosophy for Things That Change funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation.

For a detailed description of the course and the student projects, visit the Fluid Assemblages website on Medium