Engagement by Design: Engagement Through Design — A Proposal
PhD part 09:
1 December 2018
This is an overview about my research proposal. Its purpose is to give anyone attending my presentation a general sense of my area beforehand (or a reminder after) about my project.
It's a cut down version of a full proposal that I'll share after receiving feedback. As this project could easily exist within a multitude of different disciplines (and is being approached as a consciouslyproject), the purpose is to frame where it ‘lives’ and what it is setting out to do, but also what it isn't.
What's the area of research?
The focus of this project is within the sphere of.
What's my research question?
*or strategy and delivery be used to improve public engagement with science and technology (PEST) development and outcomes*?
What's my perspective for approaching the research?
- I am a designer
- This means I have a particular way of looking at things that is outside science, and outside social science (the ‘third culture’
- I’ll draw from research through design ( ; ), design reflexivity ( ; ), critical design and practices broadly grouped as human-centred design or design thinking
- This will involve a broad range of design methods from areas including Human Computer interaction (HCI) and other practices
- I will ‘borrow’ or adapt methods and approaches from other fields where necessary.
What have you found so far?
I have undertaken a literature review, and some semi-structured interviews with recognised science communicators in Aotearoa New Zealand. I have noted:
- Engagement (or ) is a term that gets used a lot. It is all through / documents, and is used extensively by the science communication community. But, it’s not clear that there’s a standardised or uniform understanding of what ‘engagement’ entails, or how it relates to other terms like science communication and outreach (this covers my findings on science communication's nomenclature history)
- There is a gap between the theory of science communication (from , , social sciences) and the practice (‘the doing’ in terms of development of strategy and the interface with audiences/participants/public(s))
- Anecdotally, planning for engagement is done ‘on a hunch’ at the organisational level, and at the individual scientist-communicator level. Reflection (and measurement of success or impact) also tends to be ad hoc.
Which leads me to question, does (as a user-centred approach to problem-solving) offer an opportunity to do engagement better, both strategically and practically? And specifically, can a design process add clarity about 1, 2 and 3 within a hands-on project using as a case study?
How might that be structured?
Organisational case studies
My case study subjects will be inter-institutional, cross-disciplinary research networks/organisations that have ‘public engagement’ explicitly stated as an objective or performance measure:
- The Deep South Challenge
- MacDiarmid Institute (tbc)
- (Other CoREs / National Science Challenges?)
There have been studies before (such as but this will give a specifically Aotearoa New Zealand perspective.
This will take the form of a semi-structured qualitative study incorporating some elements of surveys/semi-structured interviews/workshops and subsequent thematic analysis.
Individual case studies
My individual case studies will look at practitioners approaching science communication from different angles. These people are recognised experts, and the purpose is to analyse both their perspectives on 1, 2 and 3 above, and to see what their approaches offer. My ideal subjects (as yet unconfirmed) include:
- Siouxsie Wiles (previous Prime Minister’s Science Communication prizewinner)
- Maya Horst (Science Communication scholar who has utilised design as a tool)
- Natalie Jeremijenko (Artist and engineer whose work primarily explores the interface between society, the environment and technology)
- Others tbc
Design-based development and delivery of engagement strategy with Te Pūnaha Matatini
Te Pūnaha Matatini are a working in the area of Complex Systems and Networks. I will embed within their engagement committee to develop an understanding of engagement perspectives (as per 1), then and test tools to help them understand the positioning of their engagement (downstream, upstream), and their audiences.
Initial work with the engagement committee suggests Te Pūnaha Matatini investigators value increasing science literacy over communicating their actual research. This may be, in part, due to the theory-practice disconnect.
Within this embedded project, I will address the need for a ‘communication of the science of science communication’ through a design process to develop and test suitable interventions.
Informed by the individual case studies and literature review, I will also consider how disruptive, approaches can be used as a provocation to challenge assumptions about public engagement.
This stream sits alongside A, B and C as a seperate, secondary process. In a personal,
What are the anticipated outcomes?
- Analyse inter-institutional, cross-disciplinary research networks/organisations, clarifying the parallels with or differences to other locales in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand
- Analyse approaches utilised by a group of practitioners utilising different PEST strategies to both document, categorise and inform interventions
- Propose and test new methods of defining and developing PEST strategies within this kind of organisation, using design (in many guises) as a guiding principle, including ways to communicate theory to practitioners
- Open source any materials as a design-led toolkit
Addendum: 12 December 2018
I have just done my presentation! It went well. I have a few questions to work through, but I literally just got out so I need time to digest :-) Please do tweet me or email me any feedback!
So the committee signed off my proposal! If you're interested, it's here :-)