Accepted Paper:

Designing bodies in action  


Stephen Neely (Carnegie Mellon University)
Katherine Scott (Carnegie Mellon University)

Paper short abstract:

By exploring practices of manipulating bodies in action, the authors work toward an expanded notion of design as a ubiquitous, dispersed practice— a topic of inquiry that has potential to foster connection between STS and design research.

Paper long abstract:

How are human bodies-in-action designed? Our paper explores practices of manipulating bodies-in-action as an effort to broaden conceptions of design.

Design-led research on human bodies has largely been concerned with the forms and purposes of mainstream professionalized design practice— bodily interactions with the products of design- artifacts, spaces, communications and services. Conceptions of design have also largely been grounded in professionalized versions of design practice, across degrees of expertise and 'amateur' design practices resembling professionalized design.

We work with a conception of design as a ubiquitous, "dispersed practice" applicable to all practices (Schatzki, 1996). This builds from Simon's (1969) "everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones", and theories of practice informing design (Kuijer, 2014). STS researchers have helped to show that designed systems are mere vehicles, "devices" configured in and used for the performance of practices (Suchman, 2007). Devices can include a wider range than convention holds, such as bio-chemical processes, concepts, stories, methods and models (Singleton and Law, 2012).

We consider bodies-in-action as devices by examining a range of practices— somatic and stage-acting methods, free-running, runway model walking— as well as professional design practices incorporating bodily performance. Working from interviews, a case inventory, and workshops with designers and body-based practitioners, we will present archetypes to suggest forms of embodiment design. This is not to establish a typology, but to generate discussion and invite interest in connecting STS and design researchers in considering design as a ubiquitous practice.

Panel T111
Body, Science and Expertise