Workshop 4: Daria Loi, ‘Of Playful Triggers and suitcases – field tales on the joys and dangers of experimental practise’
Daria Loi (Intel Corporation, USA) opened her presentation by thanking the organizers for the invitation and emphasising the fact the she finds the workshop very exciting and intriguing. She continued in stating that her presentation will focus on experiences related to her PhD project, instead of talking about her current work for Intel. Loi proceeded to explain that her PhD thesis was exploring the role of design and designers in organizations and the notion of Playful Triggers was developed as a way to foster collaborative practises before undertaking co-design activities.
Daria Loi stated that at some point in her PhD project she became aware that it was becoming something that did not fit the outlined design categories. Her idea of Playful Triggers was aimed at stimulating a collective, participatory activity that helps people to co-design space and their own organization. Loi explained that it created an ethical dilemma for her, where she was preaching theory without any practical evidence, so she decided to submit a work in a more truthful to her way. Hence, the idea of designing a suitcase, so that the thesis could be what it discusses (collaboration platform), could enable what it promotes (collaborative practise) and could demonstrate in action what Daria Loi has developed (Playful Triggers).
At the workshop Loi was unable to present her suitcase, as due to the weight restrictions she was not able to bring it along. However, she used a plethora of photographs to describe its design and role in detail to the participants. She explained her idea of Playful Triggers as keys to foster collaborative practises and workplaces where people learn, wonder and play. Further, she emphasised the importance of experimenting with ideas, things and metaphors to make one (readers and writer) see things ‘with new eyes’. Loi also referred to experimenting with academia’s structural rigidity in terms of her experiences with getting an approval for this unusual form of thesis submission and some obstacles she faced in terms of referencing unpublished quotes.
Further, Daria Loi spoke about experimenting through making, describing a prolong and complicated process of actually assembling her collaborative platform suitcase. She also mentioned some ways of experimenting with ‘creative process’, experienced while interacting with her experimental object.
Finally, Loi explained the use of the Playful Triggers suitcase beyond her PhD project as helping promote new opportunities for practitioners, challenging academia to question itself, inspiring scholarly and artistic practise, mediating conversations, enabling participation etc.
Firstly, the debate acknowledged that Loi’s project was an unusual one, holding up a mirror to conventional creation of theses. However, it was also pointed out that this only reminds us how extraordinary a written text is. Loi explained that she is not against writing, but the very topic deserves thinking about what is the best medium to express it. Further, she argued that she wanted to challenge the ideas of what text constitutes and create ways for the reader to explore. She has also pointed out that we are so used to the book that we don’t appreciate nuances of other forms of text.
Secondly, some references were made to Nina Wakeford’s presentation as they both talked about discomfort and ethical dilemma caused by working in large corporations. Hence, Loi was asked how do her experimental objects, with conflictual emotions and hope, operate in this context. Daria Loi explained that Intel has contacted her with the job offer, because of her PhD project. Further, she argued that she has applied her suitcase idea to create some collaborative methods of conducting focus groups with young teenagers – using 3-dimensional object to facilitate conversation. Here, her ethical stakes were questioned again, inquiring as to whether she is not just helping Intel to understand consumers so that they can be promoted and sold material goods. Daria Loi, however, responded in stating that it is more valuable for her to see a transformation in the opinions of her workmates regarding her innovative approach than to look at the ‘bigger picture’.
Thirdly, taking PhD as an inquiry involved with searching for the appropriate form, Daria Loi was asked what aspect of the process did give to her the understanding of what the project was about. Loi explained that it was more of a play between what she wanted to say and the act of sketching the actual object – a mixture of thinking about the theory and thinking through metaphors, her role, the readers role, different ideas, moving, shifting the thinking, travelling, etc.
Finally, an important question was debated regarding the PhD format and knowledge. It was argued that Loi’s content cannot be shared because it is fluid. Here, it was agreed that the format of practise-based PhD can affect its content and accessibility in a problematic ways that should be taken into account. Daria Loi argued that her PhD thesis could be published it in its entirety, only through a different mode of delivery.