Tracing Design(ed) Authority: A Workshop on Critical Modes of Making (Aug 2010, Denmark)

August 17th, 2010, Aarhus, Denmark
Submission Deadline: June 15, 2010
Workshop at the Designing Interactive Systems Conference
Organizers: Marisa Cohn, Silvia Lindtner, Ann Light, Matt Ratto, Tobie Kerridge

We seek interdisciplinary scholars interested in exploring the ways in which authority is distributed throughout the design process, what kind of authority inheres in design, and also the ways that we design authority into processes and materials. We invite designers and researchers interested in how their interventions have impact to think critically and comparatively about different modes of critical production, to explore the intersection of critical making and thinking, and to attempt to trace forms of authority through the production process.  Rather than merely discuss this concept of design(ed) authority, we will engage in tracing authority through the design process from the crafting of position papers, to our engagements with material making in the workshop itself.

Designerly ways of doing, for Latour, are not revolutionary acts but instead continuous collaborative interventions. He names this mode of designerly authority the “cautious prometheus.” Similarly, Haraway describes the relationships between the scientist and the scientific method, through the figure of the “modest witness,” a position of distancing from the world through tools and instruments, that allows one to speak objectively about the world. These “positions” articulate authority, authority that is constituted through one’s methods, tools, techniques, modes of knowledge and material production, sets of stories about selves and relating to the world and to others.  In our roles as designers, practitioners, researchers, we establish authority in relation to our subjects and materials through our methodological commitments and the roles that we play within our respective institutions, collaborations, and projects.

To Apply

In lieu of submitting a traditional position paper, we ask for you to produce a “position” as a critical reflection on your own modes of working and making technology.  This “position” should address or respond to your own modes of making and also be taken on as a site of critical production. As you craft this “position” think about the kind of authority you inhabit in your practice of technology production and that you articulate through the methodological commitments that you take on.  The “position” that you construct does not need to be a literal description of your methods, the applications you design or test, but rather a critical response to your own position as a designer and researcher.

We intend this exercise to be very open-ended and invite you to be creative and playful with your project. Your “position” can be any combination of text, video, audio, and/or visual artifacts, (e.g. a tangible UI, a hacked piece, a craft, a document, etc). We invite you to share the “position” that you construct via this website, or to bring artifacts with you to the workshop. (You might even consider adopting the “position,” playing out this role at the workshop). Think of this as a way of introducing yourself and your research in a different mode of making. Instead of presenting your work and findings, we are asking you to reflect on your own authoritative position and how it is reciprocally constructed through your methodological commitments. For details about how to craft a position check out the workshop website:

We ask that you document the position in some way that can be shared via this website and to submit a short text (anything between 1 paragraph and 2 pages) to accompany your “position”. The amount of text will depend in part upon the form that your position takes, and how much you want it to speak for itself.

The position along with the accompanying text should respond to the following questions:

  • What are the modes of making, inscription practices, and methodological toolkits that you are committed to or engaged in?
  • How does authority flow through and into these practices and techniques?
  • How do you craft your own authority as part of your mode of making?
  • How does authority manifest within your situation, through the role you have within certain institutions, projects, and commitments?
  • During the workshop we will draw upon these positions as we engage in hands-on material design excercises. Your “positions” will help establish the objects, methods, tools, techniques, and artifacts that will be in play during the workshop.

About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is

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