Configuring light: ethnographies of professional lighting design
Don Slater (LSE)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographies of professional lighting design practices, the paper focuses specifically on the kinds of social knowledges and assumptions about the social spaces to be lit that inform lighting design.
Paper long abstract:
Drawing on ethnographies of professional lighting design practices, the paper focuses specifically on the kinds of social knowledges and assumptions about the social spaces to be lit that inform lighting design. Lighting professionals know themselves to be intervening in the infrastructure of social life and built form, and know these interventions to be consequential in terms of such things as environmental costs, health and wellbeing, risk and safety, aesthetic form, urban lifestyles and so on. They also know the social knowledges and social 'evidence base' of their practices to be thin, insecure, often based on personal experience and unexamined assumptions. This situation is made more complex by two further features: lighting practices and expertise have a subordinate position in relation to prestige practices such as architecture and urban planning; and the knowledges involved involve sensory, experiential and technical registers (colour, resolution, leakage, etc) that are not easy to articulate or legitimate. In this context, ethnography is used to get at what counts as social knowledge in consequential design processes, how it is generated and used; and to look at the ways in which lighting professionals frame light as an object of social knowledge and practice. Because the ethnographies have provided access to fairly large scale lighting projects (a new residential development of 20,000 inhabitants, a major London art institution, a UNESCO world heritage city), they also provide access to a wide range of issues concerning social knowledge in urban design practices.
Light as material culture, experience and practice