PhD Projects Graduates

Dr Gruffudd Hill 

Product Designer : Design. Postanthropcentricism. Artefact Becoming.

Co-supervised with Keble College/Herford College, Oxford University.

Form Follows Formgiving: Attuning to the Entanglement of Everyday Things 

This completed research investigated how the implementation of ‘meshwork’ analyses into the reading of design artefacts might provide a footing for new ways of designing attuned to the relational dimensions of life.

This ‘meshwork’ analyses into the reading of designed artefacts as a way of attuning designers to the ecological entanglement of everyday things, demonstrates how the implementation of such relational understandings into design posits a way to read designed artefacts not in terms of their material and semiotic functions but as traces or referential structures of a broader mesh of relations that comprise the interdependencies of humans, nonhumans, and things. More precisely, it tests the implementation of ‘meshwork’ analyses through the specific reading of some traditional Welsh craft-based artefacts to reveal pre-existing ways of knowing and making (i.e. designing) which, it is argued, do not simply suggest a ‘romantic’ or ‘primitive’ sensibility towards nature but, rather, a deep ecological awareness of the interdependencies of localised living-systems and environments. It is hypothesised that implementing ‘meshwork’ analyses into the reading of designed artefacts more broadly could provide a footing for new ways of designing that do not adhere to its entrenched rationalist industrial tradition but are instead, crucially, attuned to the relational dimensions of life. Framed in this way, such a shift in posture and mindset is proffered as a contribution to the emerging field of Transition Design and its endeavour to transition society towards more sustainable, equitable, and desirable long-term futures.

(Supervisors : Thompson. Woodward. Malafouris.)

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Theo Humphries

Interaction Designer : Design. Humour. Entanglement

Co-supervised with Plymouth University.

How might ideas from humour theory and entanglement theory address how humour is (mis)understood in design?This research project’s contribution to knowledge is a drawing together of ideas from humour theory and entanglement theory in order to demonstrate how derogatory humour, as a response to design, has been historically misperceived. Within this context, the PhD thesis demonstrates how drawing together ideas from such fields provides a designerly understanding of humour that is not framed in terms of derision, but as an indicator of a fracture in the relationship between audience and designed artefact. It is hypothesised that such an understanding will provide a theoretical footing toward a new way of designing for which derisory humour has been reconceptualised as a welcome indicator of innovation. Framed in this way, such a shift in posture and mindset is proffered as a foundational contribution to the nascent field of humour-centred design.

(Supervisors : Thompson. Pepperell. Punt.)

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Laura Barritt

Artist & Teacher : Art. Abstraction. Extended Spaces. Mind.

Implications for pedagogy: understanding how student life-space impacts learning in a complex hyperconnected world

How might contemporary learning theory be re-informed to better account for the continuous transformation of adolescent ‘Life space’ in facilitating learning? 

This research project’s contribution to knowledge is the recovery and recontextualisation of a lost model of perception and cognition, namely Muchow’s ‘The Life Space of the Urban Child’, into contemporary educational theory. Within this context, the PhD thesis demonstrates how Muchow’s phenomenological model of perception and cognition proffers a better understanding of how students learn, by taking into consideration the implications of person-environment relations on cognitive development. It is hypothesised that such a recontextualisation of Muchow’s model could provide a foundation for the development of pedagogy better equipped to support and facilitate learning experiences in the 21st century. Framed in this way, such a recovery and re-contextualisation of Muchow’s ‘Life-Space of the Urban Child’ is proffered as a contribution to the emerging field of posthumanist theory in education. 

(Supervisors : Thompson. Woodward. Popovac)

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Emma Smith

Textiles Designer : Design. Owning. Metatphysics.

In my PhD I want to explore deeper questions of what goes into the condition of contemporary and future in Tum Genus Longa relationships. I want to inquire if when we focus attention onto questions of both sides of the ownership-relationship, what new ideas might emerge that designers can draw upon? The overarching aim of my research will be to draw discourse emerging from new materialism together and to shine fresh light upon the ideas and problems of ownership or possession-endurance for design. How we can we better understand and focus these emerging metaphysical and philosophical ideas forward in a way that is useful for textiles designers?

(Supervisors : Woodward. Thompson.)

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Yalda Borzorg

Artists Ceramicist : Cognition., Material Engagement Theory. Ceramics.

This research project’s contribution to knowledge is an empirically-based characterisation of what I call ‘Temperament’. Within this context, the PhD thesis maps how the character of materials such as clay appear to fluctuate in correspondence with the environment that they are situated in, and reveals how this correspondence appears to follow a relationally consistent pattern over time. It is hypothesised that the empirically-based characterisation of Temperament (i.e. the relational nature/changeable character of materials) may proffer a deeper understanding of the agency of the forces and processes at play when making, especially when considered over longer temporalities than have been examined previously (e.g. Ingold, 2013; Malafouris, 2013). Framed in this way, such an empirically-based characterisation of ‘temperament’ is presented as contribution to the archaeological framework of Material Engagement Theory and related anthropological concepts.

(Supervisor : Woodward. Thompson)

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Nigel Ash

Artist, sculptor & maker

‘Happy Accidents: Towards post-anthropocentric understandings of serendipity.

The research addresses the philosophical separation between human observers and the world which underpins the predominance of intellectual models and ideal outcomes in relation to practical knowledge and enactive processes of ‘making,’ which has led to hylomorphic attitudes in critical histories and commentaries of art, design and craft which prioritise ‘outcomes’ and denigrate material agencies, contingencies and ‘happy accidents’ (Bolt 2004, Ingold 2013, Roochnik 1996). This project puts forward alternative analyses of making processes and engages with morphogenetic theories of creativity (Ingold 2013; Hodder 2012; Malafouris 2013) as a new way to account for the material forces and flows that give rise to instances of unexpected but welcome events in the production of material artefacts. This thesis looks to new materialist and posthumanist theories and diffractive practices which suggest that all material and making processes are embedded and entangled and that interpretations of outcomes in material processes must consider the non-human and human agencies and their intra-actions in those processes, including ‘making.’ In this context, the PhD thesis demonstrates how the injection of morphogenetic theories of creativity into the analysis of making processes offers a way to read such chance happenings not in terms of serendipity or ‘happy accidents’ after the fact/act, but as emergent ‘dances of animacy’ between maker, material, and environment (Ingold, 2013, p. 101) and reorientates ‘the maker,’ ‘the made’ and ‘making’ as ongoing entangled processes which in turn are part of the processes of the world. It is hypothesised that such a revised understanding of ‘making,’ which embraces contingencies and serendipity as inevitable aspects of the process, will provide makers and commentators on making with a better way to consider contingencies and the often-ineffable qualities of materials, and the nature of making as an ongoing, entangled and co-dependent process between humans and non-humans. Framed in this way, this project is proffered as a contribution of diffractive practice/research into the field of making theory and as a contribution to ideas engaging with the reframing of human-nonhuman relations.

(Supervisors : Thompson. Woodward)

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Sanjay Sahota

Product designer and technology theorist

My research explores whether ancient and indigenous technologies might bring new insight to the way in which we design artifacts. It attempts to do this in a way that is more in keeping and in tune with the world around us and less modeled on 19th Century ideas of dominance, ordering, and control. In an investigation of ways in which a number of ancient and indigenous models of technology might be reinterpreted in an extended and decolonized design conversation, the research draws upon contemporary post-anthropocentric ideas around human/non-human relationships; a centering of Arturo Escobar’s idea of the Pluriverse and a drawing from histories of indigenous technologies such as that of Julia Watson.

(Supervisors : Thompson. Woodward)

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Sherin Abbas

Ceramicist and theorist: Initial Project Idea

My research proposition is to create ceramic interrogations of the ‘artificial machine’ (Steigler, 2019) and the ‘biological machine’ (Offray, 1747) informed by ideas drawn from biosemiotics (Hoffmeyer, 2008), teleosemantics (Millikan, 2020) and other ideas drawn from philosophy and theology. It is motivated by the danger identified by Steigler in his proposition that the (re)representation of cognitive dialogues, sustained by artefacts of calculation and their coded reductional symbolic forms of materials, create an ‘algorithmic governmentality’. This in turn promotes false anticipations of reality (protention), through disarranging ‘secondary retentions’ of the mind based on ‘primary retentions’ that are constituted by the biological reality of the natural environment (Steigler, 2018). These contradictory tertiary retentions in the virtuality of the mind afforded by the artefacts that we create (Steigler, 2018) can be reconceptualised as a dangerous act in that we re-imagine the possibilities/probabilities of reality, and therefore, re-create materials into technologies and machines that obey our reshaped model of material reality. 

(Supervisors: Thompson. Mayo. Hussain)

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Karen King

Artist & Vocalist : Initial Project Idea

There once was a great history of ‘tinkerers’, those who lived at the fringe of the sciences and arts; those who were once allowed space to ‘tinker’ with their ideas. These were the ideas that solved the mysteries of flight and fired the industrial revolution. Consequences of pre-anticipatory funding include the dominance of output as product doctrine, predisposed to political and economic drivers, resulting in highly hylomorphic models of art, design, and science. Furthermore, pre-anticipatory funding could be said to have led to a model of science where each field exists at its furthest extent, far beyond any human intellectual Shannon limit; no human alive can grasp even its whole. In the future perhaps only non-human intelligences will be equipped to be ‘scientists. This PhD research will creatively ‘tinker’ with ‘ideas’ and, through a series of artistic ‘experiments’, will create work that, by means of post hoc analysis, will pull ideas and knowledge from the history of the logic of the mind, complexity sciences, and Information theory, reclaiming it from the grasp of AI, to see what can be found there and what lessons can be learned.

(Supervisors : Thompson. Punt. Breen.)

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PhD by Publication

Amelia Huw Morgan

Illustrator : Drawing. Performance.

‘in hope of the participant viewer’ is a PhD research project by publication exploring experimental and phenomenological relationships between the illustrated image and the participant viewer, in reaction and relation to socio-political problems and the unfathomable effort of the human being to become redundant in society beyond passivity of ‘like’ in the everyday life. Modes of thinking including `Brechtian and `Stansinslavskian’ theatre, puppetry and ‘The Soul of the Marionette’ (Gray, 2015), are experimentally deployed in a critical, practice research in which embodied streams of consciousness wonder why we seem forever intent on making ourselves more graceless and senseless than the marionette; both mocked and revered in Heinrich Von Kleist’s essay (1810).

(Supervisors : Thompson. Woodward.)

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Design Futuring Doctoral Graduates

Dr Rachel Eardley 

The unexplored design opportunities of the biomechanical human hand and the role it plays in handheld technology

A completed PhD research project – co-supervised with Bristol University – that sought to understand hand movement as a facet of cognition and how it can be accounted for in HCI research terms, specifically in respect to the design of mobile phones. The research tests ways in which micro-movements of the hand afford a higher level of complexity in sensorimotor action in human – non-human cognitive processes. The research has an impact in terms of understandings for the design and additional potential of small device interaction.

(Supervisors : Thompson. Gill. Roudaut. )

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Dr Andrea Andrea Gogova

Doctoral Researcher Erasmus Exchange in partnership with Tomas Bata University in Zlin.

From Grid to Rhizome – A Rethinking of a Digital Text Layout.

A completed doctoral research project based on two scopes of research. The first area is based on cybertext theory implementation. The (post)digital text layout as an open and complex system that depends on two types of materiality based on the processing mode. The first is the text of programming code, invisible for users, and the second the text structure of visible interfaces as a Transitoire Observable (Bootz, 1999). The second area of research is based on comparing the research of the grid-based structure in architecture and urbanism with graphic design. Both scopes of the arguments lead to the idea of Rhizome (Deleuze and Guattari, 1980) as a model of (post)digital text layout structure. Available at artech2021

(Supervisors : Zervan, Mitášov & Husarova.)

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