The Objects, Practices, Experiences, and Networks Special Interest Group (OPENSig) was launched in 2007 and has run several symposia and conference strands since then, most recently at the Design Museum in London in June 2019 to launch Tricky Design: The Ethics of Things. This book, which invites design research and practice to engage with the ethics of both process and purpose, grew out of a series of events sponsored by the SIG.
These include a special strand at the DRS conference 2008 and two successful workshops at Sheffield Hallam University (2007) and Nottingham Trent University (2010), which served to define the group’s interest in broad questions about human-object interactions – focusing on Objects and engaging with social Practices, which involve Experiences with/ of objects in Networks of relationship. Comprising artists and designers and social scientists, the intention of OPENSig is to facilitate engagement with recent work that has emerged in non-design disciplines over recent years, which is relevant to design and in which the term ‘design’ is used. To achieve this, the group’s activities draw together work in design practice, HCI, science and technology studies, art practice, work on material culture in geography, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, art history, design history and the philosophy of technology.
2013 saw the SIG sponsor a symposium ‘Good Things and Bad Things’ at Nottingham Contemporary, out of which developed the concept for an edited collection Tricky Design: The Ethics of Things, which developed through a workshop at the DRS conference at UMEA in 2014 focusing on design’s ethics. The book was published in 2019 by Bloomsbury, and was launched at a two-day symposium at the Design Museum in collaboration with Central St Martins School of Art and Design, which both celebrated some of the essays in the book and pointed towards new multi-stranded research programmes that can keep up with the ethical challenges that emerge from new forms and contexts for design.
OPENSig’s multi-disciplinary mix allows its members to engage with a rich variety of approaches to human-object relationships. The relationship between, for instance, analytical-philosophical and experiential modes of address, framed by an understanding of how objects and technologies play out in everyday life, has the potential to influence a wide range of design.
The intellectual interaction between the SIG and these disciplines will be reciprocal. A strong relationship exists between HCI and STS researchers, drawing in individuals who cross between art and design and sociology and adopt complementary approaches and methods. This allows DRS members to participate in the international debates that draw on these cross-disciplinary relationships.
Future OPENSig activities will be announced on the DRS website. If you would like take part in OPENSig, please contact Professor Tom Fisher.
Fisher, T., & Gamman, L. (Eds.). (2019). Tricky design: The ethics of things. London: Bloomsbury.