Challenged Based Learning on ‘Water stress’



Challenged Based Learning: Creating a safe space for students to explore and experiment ideas, theories, and methods to understand their role as ‘designers in the world’. In this way, students would learn that their work is valuable by reviewing, in an ethical way, their impact (small or large) for contributing in solving real life problems. Finding a personal perspective on what kind of role as a designer they want to have can provide invaluable learning experiences by forming intrinsical motivations which are essential for challenged based learning.

In order to stimulate meaningful learning experiences and equip students with design skills and processes, it is important to give them the autonomy to decide which methods and tools will validate and communicate their design decisions. As designers, they must be able to navigate between different processes, methods, and tools, and make informed decisions by breaking down complex real-world problems into smaller steps. Therefore, the teacher’s role is to create a design challenge that has a level of abstraction in order to leave room for students to make choices semi-indepently, supported by coaching. Hence, providing students with a selection of design methods and tools to choose from, allows them the independence to intentionally explore their options and to take ownership of their own learning journey.

Visual Research an Example of Challenged Based Learning: Students enrolled in the Visual Research course, at CMD Applied University of Amsterdam in 2018, developed their design skills by creating an intervention in public space. Students were given the challenge of creating an intervention using a digital interactive object to make visible the often overlooked process of rising water. Through this project, students were able to gain a better understanding of the impact of invisible processes on our environment and the importance of making them visible.

Real life problem: ‘Water Stress’

Areas of ‘water stress’ in 2025 according to the United Nations:

  • Around 700 million people in 43 countries suffer today from water scarcity.
  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
  • With the existing climate change scenario, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa. In addition, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any region.

Flooding is a recurring natural phenomenon in areas such as deltas, coasts and floodplains. While these areas are ‘familiar’ for floodings, as an ‘established expectation of the future’, more and more areas will become prone to floodings. By its nature, the process of rising water is not visible for the human eye, until it rises beyond the normal water levels. Making visible what is yet invisible creates awareness for the impact of the process of rising water.

Design challenge: Develop an intervention in a public space using a digital interactive object to visualize the invisible process of rising water, in such a way that passers-by understand your message about ‘water stress’.

Process Logbook:
Students share and peer review their work in an online logbook.

Working groups of 150 minutes: (1) Explore the topic and your personal perspective, (2) Desk research, (3) Introduction of System Thinking, (4) Methods Lecture on Public Space Design, Visual Language Analysis, and Associative Image Mapping, (5) Framing message (narrative framework), (6) Interaction vocabulary, (7) Scenario design using Visual Grammar (Christian Leborg).

Student Results examples: Visual Research course, CMD, Applied University of Amsterdam, 2018.

Dionne Vester: https://dionnevester1997.wixsite.com/mysite-1

Loc Nguyen: https://pin-da-naus.wixsite.com/visual

Maria Molenaar: mariamolenaar.wordpress.com

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Speculative by Design: criticism and fiction.

“…many oppressive relations result not from people having mistaken ideological beliefs, but from living in material circumstances that provide no alternative.” (Levy-Bryant. Onto-cartography, An ontology of machines and media. Edinburgh University Press. 2007)

When we talk about critical design, we mostly refer to a design method that improves products through a carefully chosen political and ethical attitude. On the other hand, speculative design as a form of critical resistance is concerned with making alternative structures of circumstances in daily life visible, aiming to create radical change. The difference between these two design methods lays in the vision on what design can do: improving products by reflection or offering an alternative perspective on societal issues. The latter vision implies that speculative design must be able to change the existing perception of what is considered ‘normal’ by large groups of people. Hence, creating a political element within design that goes beyond moral arguments in the vein of designing with ‘good intentions’. So how do we assess the political element of the outcome within the speculative design method when we talk about the quality of design?

Only by investigating a societal problem that is worked through over a longer period of time, in a constant loop between experience, interaction and insights from technology (as a product or service), does a measurable political evidence arise. As a result, not the designer but the influence of technology in the domain of social relations, will have to be able to offer new perspectives on political issues. Hence, speculative design needs to be approached from the technology consumed in the contemporary capitalist economy rather than the design process or the designer as creator. And because we can only see in retrospect whether there was a change, the historical origin of design will have to answer the question whether design contributed to a critical resistance during the process of societal change. The question remains whether the method of speculative design can claim its right to change.

Designing? How?

This week I was a guest lecturer at the Maastricht University Zuyd as a 2nd examiner for CMD graduates. A very nice experience! One of the students introduced me to a new form of design: Intervention Design. This method is taught by Theo Ploeg, a lecturer at CMD Zuyd. It occurred to me how many types of design methods I’ve encountered lately. Most of the time I use the term User-Centered Design to describe my design method and my work as a designer. “UCD is putting the user central during every part of the design process”, I explain to people who ask about it. Out of curiosity I made a list of the design methods and approaches that came to mind. It is difficult to indicate the difference between an approach, a process and a method. How you are going to do something and the progress are closely linked within the flexible parts of the design practice. But this is what I came up with:

Design Research: Researching the history of design, media theory, semiotics and the role of the designer.
Research for design: Research tools and techniques for the purpose of better design solutions like prototyping, interviewing, personas, flow models and so on.
Research of design: Concerns the design methods that are being used or can be used.
Research through design: Gaining or constructing new knowledge through designing, building and testing in the environment so that people can experience the design within their daily live. Research through design has a focus on fashion, industrial design and architecture.
Social design: Social design in the broadest sense, addresses a social issue. A carefully selected social and political attitude drives the design process. The methods which are used are also social, actively involving the target group or making the design process a form of co-creation. The goal is to design products that solve a social issue.
Service design: the purpose of service design is to improve the infrastructure with regard to the communication and material components of a service by offering the right customer experiences at the right time. A typical tool used by service design is a ‘customer journey map’. A ‘customer journey map’ describes and visualizes the journey, experience and emotions of the customer based on the moments of interaction with the service. These insights enable service designers to realize an optimal customer experience through various channels.
Evidence based design:
Design movement which emphasizes on credible evidence by supporting every design decision by doing research. Evidence based design is originated from healthcare.
Speculative design
: Speculative design serves two distinct purposes: first to enable to think about the future and second to critique current practices: by Auger in Speculative design: crafting the speculation. (http://ellieharmon.com/wp-content/uploads/02-06-Auger_Design-Fictions.pdf)
Critical Design: “Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life. It is more of an attitude than anything else, a position rather than a method.”: by Dunne & Raby.
Action research: “… is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions.”: by Richard Sagor. Important to add is that action research happens in one given setting, in contrast to research for design.
Educational Design Research: “…a genre of research in which the iterative development of practical solutions to complex educational problems also provides the context for empirical investigations that yield theoretical understanding that can inform the work of others.”: by McKenney and Reeves in Conducting Educational Design Research (2012)
Educational Design Research has two goals according to McKenney:
– positive intervention in the real world of today, or maybe tomorrow
– scientific (theoretical) understanding of these interventions that could inform the works of others who are interested in similar kind of issues outside of the design context. This in contrast to Design-Based Research and Instructional Design.
Design-Based Research: “A systematic but flexible methodology aimed to improve educational practices through iterative analysis, design, development, and implementation, based on collaboration among researchers and practitioners in real-world settings, and leading to contextually-sensitive design principles and theories.”: by Wang and Hannafin in Design-Based Research and technology-enhanced learning environments. (2005) (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/225626676_Design-based_research_and_technology-enhanced_learning_environments)
Instructional Design: “Instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.”: Merrill, Drake, Lacy, Pratt in Reclaiming Instructional Design (http://mdavidmerrill.com/Papers/Reclaiming.PDF)
Participatory Design/Co-Design: A design approach  where all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) are actively involved in the processes and procedures of design to help ensure the result meets their needs.
Persuasive design: Design principles that focus on influencing the decision-making and purchasing behavior of (potential) customers. To accomplish this influence on decision-making several psychological theories on behavioral change are used. For example, from Robert Cialdini (Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University).
Generative design: “Generative design is a design method in which the output – image, sound, architectural models, animation – is generated by a set of rules or an Algorithm, normally by using a computer program. Most generative design is based on parametric modeling. It is a fast method of exploring design possibilities that is used in various design fields such as Art, Architecture, Communication Design, and Product Design.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Intervention design: Goal is to design for the near future: by Theo Ploeg. http://buroneue.net/intervention-design.
intervention-design-presentation-5-4-638
Image: Intervention design by Theo Ploeg

Karin – Filterdesign & University of Applied Science Amsterdam