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Moments, memories, meanings: a narrative documentary lives experience in social design education
Chisin, Alettia Vorster
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The aim of the research is to explore design education and designing as social practice; working with and for others to inform a more sustainable and meaningful future. Ways in which the lived experience of participants in the discipline of design, in the culturally diverse university and community contexts can be harnessed for social benefit, are interrogated. Themes are explored around the value of different world views and forms of knowing in design education to inform design research, in order to extend the knowledge paradigm to include lived experience not only as site of knowledge formation, but also of wisdom acquisition. The thesis presents an amalgamation of professional practice, creative practice and narrative set in qualitative research methods appropriate to the designer and artist who desire to work with lived experience in the academic context. Lived experience informs all we do and each educational event and encounter ought to be appraised and responded to in a contextually sensitive way. An important aspect flowing from this amalgamation is the recognition and analysis of the coexisting relationships of the roles inhering in the educator and the student. In order to immerse oneself in research and teaching, all aspects of the process have to be lived and filtered through the senses. This implies resisting abstractions by grounding research, teaching, design and making in the experience of the moment. The original contribution of this research then, is the synthesis of design, art and narrative writing that accompanied in a parallel line, the academic writing process to culminate in this design folio — a testament to grounding the research project in practice. Pedagogical approaches and lived experience embodied as recontextualised expressions in design teaching, supervision and creative practice, are presented in the folio. The boundaries of qualitative methods were tested with narrative and life writing, autoethnography, poetry, studio observations, extensive journalling, drawing, photography and printmaking processes. The results showed that a phenomenology of the senses in creative work, and locating the designer in her or his biography, is where original and imaginative design resides. Social and cultural aspects are some of the foundation stones of design education and ought to be informants of the creative process until the finish. Furthermore, authentic openness is required in supervision and teaching to facilitate deep listening, interpretation, intuition and “in-seeing” in educational encounters. Finally, being an active creative practitioner in design teaching is as important if not more important than content knowledge in that discipline, since the active practitioner “becomes” the Other through the collective dimension of design work.