I will here comment on the paper “Critical Design and Critical Theory: The Challenge of Designing for Provocation”. I think the authors nicely present a way of taking design research out of the labs. As well as conceptual and provocative art did find stage starting from the last century in art galleries and museums, critical and provocative design needs to find his own as well. If the former forced people to move out of their ordinary context, to disengage with it by beginning a new contemplative experience, the latter brings the criticism and provocativeness within the everyday life. What I think it indeed makes the approach there presented valuable is the contextualization part, bringing designs to the homes of people, not taking people from their homes to exhibitions. Provocativeness of the design concept, strong relationship with the users and flexibility of the process altogether sound to be an effective guideline for conducting such a type of field research. The only risk which in my opinion should have been discussed more thoroughly is summarized in the following sentence, taken from the “Breakthroughs” chapter: “Provocation can be socially uncomfortable and subjects may not expect to be provoked when consenting to participate in a study.” Do people really want to be provoked in their everyday routines? Would they feel threatened?
Now my question is the following: do non-academics really want to participate in academic research? How much are people willing to be involved in these types of field trial? The way I look at it, also referring to my personal experience prior to the University is that if I want to “reason” and “critique” anything which is currently happening in my life, in my human-human or human-machine interaction, I am not sure I would be willing to be analyzed within my private context. I would just rather go to an exhibition, do the brain activity I am capable of doing and then get back to my routine, maybe not even applying any of the learned lesson.
The complexity of these field trials emerges then when we combine the different interest and involvement level of the two “critical” subjects. On the one hand, the researcher/designer who aims at finding answers or direction to a set of focus points, while on the other hand the user, who being critical as well on the topic presented, will be reflecting upon it, willing or not. When the user is not willing, or disturbed by that activity, the field trial turns into a bad nightmare..
I wanted to be provocative, just to stay in the topic.