Design Culture Salon 15: How does design address immobilities in our society?

Friday 13 March


Clore 55, British Galleries

While Design Culture Salon 10 looked at the concept of movement in urban culture, this salon focuses on spaces of immobility to reveal some of the inconsistencies and resistances in contemporary design culture. Bodies of the disabled, ill and elderly are difficult to find in design history, while contemporary design is often more eager to engage in idealized forms of engineering the urban mobile citizen. So, how can the enabling capacities of design be improved? What are the challenges and obstacles here? How can they be overcome? What can designers learn from cultural theories and histories of the representation of the body and from a wider reading of disability studies?

Chair: Rob Imrie, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, London

Ana Carden-Coyne, Co-Director of Cultural History of War, University of Manchester and author of Reconstructing the Body
James Grant, Senior Communications Manager, Transport for London
Graham Pullin, Course Director of Interaction Design at the Duncan Jordanstone College of Art, University of Dundee and author of Design Meets Disability
Carmen Papalia, V&A and Adam Reynolds Memorial Resident, in partnership with Shape
Alison Thomson, PhD Candidate, Goldsmiths, London

Professor Rob Imrie (Chair) is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, London. He has a background is in geography, sociology, and planning studies and he has a doctorate in industrial sociology. He was previously Professor of Geography at Kings College London and at Royal Holloway University of London, prior to that.
In 2004, Rob was awarded the ‘Back Award’ by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), in recognition of ‘contributions to research on national and local policies in urban development and local governance’, June 14th. Between 2003 and 2007, Rob was visiting professor, Department of Geography, University of Strathclyde. He has since held visiting professorships in the Urban Research Centre, University of Western Sydney (2008), and the Department of Applied Social Studies, University of Cork (2009). He is a former member of: the Department of Communites and Local Government’s (DCLG) Working Party advising on changes to Part M of the Building Regulations; the DCLG’s Housing Research Network, with responsibility to develop links between housing research and policy; and, the Lifetime Homes Group, Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He is an editorial board member of the ‘Access Journal’.

Dr Ana Carden Coyne is co-Director of the Centre for the Cultural History of War (CCHW) at the University of Manchester, in the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures. She has recently co-curated a centenary WW1 art exhibition for the Manchester Art Gallery, The Sensory War, 1914-2014 (Oct 2014-Feb 2015) engaging over 200,000 visitors. Her latest book The Politics of Wounds: Military Patients and Medical Power in the First World War examines the logistics of transport and medical evacuation through the eyes of patients, the impact of surgical experimentation, the short-lived but intimate social relations of hospital life, and the reintegration of disabled soldiers after the war. In Reconstructing the Body: Classicism, Modernism and the First World War (Oxford University Press, 2009) she examined the impact of war on culture and society as an embodied phenomenon. In Gender and Conflict Since 1914: Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Palgrave, 2012), scholars from the humanities and social sciences consider the impact of war on gender roles in the past and present. She also co-edited a special edition on disability, ‘Enabling the Past’, for the European Review of History (2007). Carden-Coyne is on the steering committee for Disability History Month in Manchester, and has contributed to other international events, the Sydney Festival photography exhibition ‘Exposed’, and the Queer Thinking Day for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The Guardian newspaper published her WW1 commemorative booklet on ‘Wounded Visionaries’.

James Grant has worked for Transport for London since 2009 and has for the past three years led its communications around accessibility and inclusion. James is responsible for TfL’s engagement with older and disabled people’s organisations and is closely involved in accessibility policy development. He works to ensure the organisation’s plans meet the needs of disabled customers and stakeholders and that their voices are heard within major projects and change programmes. James is a champion of innovation and has helped charities and technology firms trial new systems to help people access the transport network, including the recent Wayfindr trial of Bluetooth technology to guide visually impaired people through stations. In 2014 he organised the largest transport accessibility event the UK has held, bringing together 1,500 customers and stakeholders with managers, planners, designers and operational staff from across the Capital’s networks for a conference and exhibition at Excel London.

Graham Pullin is Course Director, Digital Interaction Design, Duncan Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD). His manifesto Design Meets Disability (MIT Press, 2009) argues for more art school–trained designers to be invited into disability-related design, in order to contribute not only their skills but also their sensibilities. Don Norman described it as “a powerful, important book”. He is Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design and Product Design at the University of Dundee, where his research is pioneering more expressive communication for people who cannot speak, through projects such as Six Speaking Chairs and his PhD 17 ways to say yes. He is also exploring radical new materials for prosthetic hands: materials that do not imitate human skin, but are instead chosen for their aesthetic qualities or cultural resonances. Previously, Graham was a studio head at the design consultancy IDEO, leading multidisciplinary teams on projects as diverse as commercial mobile phones for people in their 50s, concept hearing–enabling furniture for the V&A Museum, London, and the critical design project Social Mobiles, exhibited at MoMA.

Carmen Papalia is Adam Reynolds Memorial Designer in Residence, Victoria and Albert Museum. Born in Vancouver, Brittish Columbia in 1981, Carmen Papalia is a Social Practice artist who makes participatory projects  on the topic of access as it relates to public space, the Art institution and visual culture. His work has been featured as part of exhibitions and engagements at: The Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, the Museum of Modern Artt in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the L.A Craft and Folk Art Museum and the CUE Art Foundation among others. Papalia is the recipient of the 2014 Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary and the 2013 Wynn Newhouse Award for artistic merit in contemporary art. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Art & Social Practice from Portland State University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Simon Fraser University. His recent writings can be found in: Stay Solid: A Radical Handbook for Youth (AK Press, 2013), in his Reference Points monograph on the Chicago-based collaborative Temporary Services (Publication Studio, 2013), in the ‘Museum Experience and Blindness’ issue of Disability Studies Quarterly and most recently in the ‘Publics’ issue of Art21.

Alison Thomson is a Designer and PhD Candidate, Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2008 Alison graduated from Interactive Media Design at the University of Dundee where she worked with local community in exploring the meaning of ‘human connectedness’ through design-led research. From here she went on to complete an MA in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art where she first collaborated with Professor Gavin Giovannoni and the Neuroimmunology Group at Queen Mary, University of London. Her practice-based PhD explores how design-research can re-do ‘the patient experience’ considering the multiple realities of Multiple Sclerosis and its ontological politics. A core empirical part of this involves working as a Visiting Researcher with the MS research team at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary, University of London. Through using performative design-led interventions, the research is uncovering the various ontologies of Multiple Sclerosis at play in the outpatient clinic at The Royal London Hospital, in the Neuroimmunology Group at the Blizard Institute and at international scientific conferences. This practice-based research hopes to expand on the potential implications for design research in studying enactments of MS through proposing alternative service interactions.

Free event; All welcome!

Directions to Clore 55 here:


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