Conference Schedule

Networks of Design responds to recent academic interest in the fields of design history, technology and the social sciences in the ‘networks’ of interactions that inform knowledge formation and design. Studying networks foregrounds infrastructure, negotiations, processes, strategies of interconnection, and the heterogeneous relationships between people and things.

Within the wider context of post-modernism and post-structuralism we are, it seems, experiencing a paradigm shift in design history and this conference offers an opportunity to address, explore and assess that shift, providing a platform for international debate and exchange.

The interest in networks emerges from actor-network theory (ANT) and the work of, among others, the social theorist Bruno Latour. While the conference will explore the wider implications of ANT for design history, rather than focus on detailed discussion of ANT (although this may feature in some of the strands), a brief outline of Latour’s theory contextualises the conference structure and themes. A network, in Latour’s view, involves a set of negotiations in which both human and non-human actors assume identities according to prevailing strategies of interaction. The study of networks raises the challenge of understanding processes of mediation as interactions; humans are not the only beings with agency (matter also matters) and networks can include people, social groups, artifacts, devices, entities and ideas.

The concept of networks, with its expanded notion of mediation and agency and its emphasis on infrastructure, accords with shifts in design history away from a discipline that studies prescribed objects, individuals and processes (the modernist canon of design) to investigate wider concerns about mass consumption, mediation, identity, material culture and the meaning of things. Networks of Design will encourage a more collaborative and inter-connected approach to design (lateral as opposed to hierarchical) allowing a variety of ‘takes’ upon an already versatile discipline to be formulated.

The possibilities that network theory opens up are timely for the study of design and its histories. Networks of Design will explore and expand on networks within design, which inform design history, opening up other fields of enquiry and allowing exciting inter-disciplinary connections to be made.

All proposals for papers will be double-blind peer reviewed. The conference convener is in disucssion with Brownwalker Press regarding the publication of the conference proceedings:

Additionally, selected papers will appear in a special issue of the Journal of Design History on Networks of Design.

Thematic Strands
Papers will be organised around five broad themes:

> Networks of Texts including images, documents & databases
> Networks of Ideas
including theories, disciplines & concepts (among them ANT)
> Networks of Technology including mechanical & virtual technologies
> Networks of Things including material & technological artefacts
> Networks of People including collectives & individuals

The themes will be composed of a number of sub-strands that may include panels on particular aspects of networks of sustainability, the media, gender, consumerism, 'race,' globalisation, communication, leisure, tourism, the exotic, actor network theory, theory and practice, metaphor, memory, cross-cultural networks, inter-disciplinary networks (art, craft, architecture, design, science), professional networks, networks of practice, narrative, or dissemination.