Accepted Paper:

Design work in the 'new economy' and the performativity of an open-ended, flexible conception of personhood   

Author:

Andrea Gaspar (CRIA, Centre for Research in Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

Based on my ethnography within a group of designers in Milan, in this paper I will approach the performativity of an open-ended, flexible conception of personhood in design work and its relationships to the ‘new economy’.

Paper long abstract:

Based on my ethnography within a group of designers in Milan, in this paper I will analyse how design work is being reimagined through the figure of 'flexible skills'. Focusing specifically on the use and meaning of the notion of 'flexible skills' as it emerges from the field, I will reveal the ways in which 'flexibility' is performed as an open-ended view of action and subjecthood which ressembles the philosophies of action that we could deploy to the analysis of this pehonomenon, such as actor-network-theory (Latour 2008) - echoes of this philosophy can be found in the open-to-contingency model of design entrepreneurship that is performed by designers. But if flexibility in this context means freedom, autonomy and mobility on the one hand, on the other hand it is a way of dealing with job uncertainty, precariousness and the impossibility of designing a life. I am interested particularly in how the reconfiguration of the designer through this figure of flexibility reveals political tensions between older and newer models of action. In order to reveal this tension, I will bring examples on how improvisation and continuous openness to transformation is sometimes hard to combine with these designers' desire to keep their older, design-centered conceptions of action and creativity.

Panel P081
The unexplored dimensions of work