Notes from the last seminar

The following simple notes are from the last seminar in the School of Design Research where Richard Banks from Microsoft Research Cambridge presented.

1. Unexpectedly, there seem to be quite fewer researchers with design background compared to those from social sciences or engineering. Design PhDs are much rarer. There are some of the graduates from IDE Masters in Microsoft Research where they are expected to take a designerly approach to research. 

2. While they present the outcomes at CHI, there is a tendency for the conference to focus on technological and methodological aspects.  There is a certain limitation to the discussion around the design process i.e. about the artefacts emerged in research, why they were made, etc. RTD (Research Through Design) conference has a more suitable environment for design research where both a presentation and an exhibition take place.

3. There is still an inconsistency in Design PhD in terms of, for example, the criteria they are judged on. Compared to areas where repeatability is guaranteed to some extent such as natural science and engineering, the value and the insight of design research lie in the chaotic, ambiguous, and nonlinear process. This is related to the interview of Dr. Christopher Frayling, the former Rector of RCA, by RTD 2015.


デザイン研究科(School of Design Research)のセミナーでMicrosoft Research CambridgeのRichard Banks氏による講演があった。簡単にメモを残す。

1. Microsoft Researchの中でも、社会科学やエンジニアリングと比べてデザインの背景を持つ人が未だ少数派であることが意外だった。デザインの博士号(Design PhD)を持つ人となれば更に少ない。RCAからはIDE修士を卒業した人が何人か就職していて、デザイナーとしてのアプローチを期待される役職に就いているらしい。 

2. CHI学会に成果を発表することが頻繁にあるが、技術的・方法論的な議論に偏る傾向があるという。研究の中で生まれた人工物そのものや、なぜそれを作る意味があったのかというデザイン過程を十分に議論できないという問題があるそうだ。RTD (Research Through Design) 学会では展示とプレゼンテーションを交えたアプローチが取られており、よりデザインの過程に重きを置いた議論ができている。

3. そもそもデザイン博士は未だ若い領域で、何を以ってして博士号に値するかという基準に一貫性があるわけではない。デザイン研究では、再現可能性が高く保証されている分野(科学や工学)に比べて、より混沌として不明瞭なプロセスの中で生まれる非線形な発見や創造に関する知識が面白いところであり、価値がある。これに関してはRTD学会によるRCAの元学長であるChristopher Frayling氏のインタビューに学ぶところが多い。

royal college of magical muggles

I went to see a cello recital at the Royal College of Music, a neighbour of RCA in South Kensington. The building of RCM faces straight to the Royal Albert Hall. The space in between makes me feel dramatic whenever I walk there, especially in late afternoon.

From time to time I feel like making use of being in London more and dive into to something without thinking much ahead. When I watch the cellist playing, I am inevitably reminded of my experience of playing the contrabass. When he, for example, does arco on the lowest string with an accent, it makes me recall the moment of doing the same action on the contrabass. My mind seems to be somewhat thinking he/she knows how to act like the cellist just because of the comparable shape and scale of the instrument and the akin posture of the player despite there being so much difference in the volume between cellos and contrabasses. Indeed I'm able to more clearly imagine the kinaesthetic sensation when I watch someone playing the contrabass. Interesting how intensely this kind of empathic imagination works even for an amateur player like me.

Another thing I was thinking, or was invited by the music (and the venue) to think, was: whatever kind of objects -music, art, dance, or anything- it is, ideas that are quite unformed in my head start to crystallise vividly during the appreciation of the works. Presumably the senses which cannot be experienced in sitting in front of a desk stimulate the seeds of ideas lying on the bottom of my mind and lift them up to the surface. This sort of ideation seems to work better when the work is not too exciting and interesting to keep my full attention. The similar thing was mentioned by one of my colleagues in Design Research at RCA. He said that he does not see the exhibits in detail but just skims the works and it helps him generate new ideas. Actually the internal exhibition happens very frequently at the RCA, and it takes more than three days if you have a look at all the works seriously in the final show or the Work in Progress show. Something which you know is important yet cannot explain will be collected and make a reaction happen in the mind. 

Once this magical reaction happens, the Shostakovich cello sonata already fades to a BGM-level. All I have to do now is to rush to the studio and try the fresh ideas (or at least just take notes/sketches). Such spark occasionally happens while taking a shower or sitting in a boring meeting or lecture. There seem to be multiple kinds and levels of spark e.g. only a bit of the problem in my research become solved, or a new idea suddenly appears regarding living that I never thought seriously. 

The last and sad fact I must say on this is that writing a blog post seems not the very catalyst to crystallise the magic out. 

Royal College of Magical Muggles

















大学の方はというと、春の休暇の後再びロンドンに戻って一ヶ月と少しが経ったところで、期末試験のようなものが終わった。試験といっても、研究過程を書面とプレゼンで報告するというもの。卒業展示が近づいているのもあって、学内に少しずつ緊張感が満ちていっているのを感じる。多少隔離された博士研究室にいてもそれを感じられるのは、こじんまりした大学だからというのもあるかもしれない。試験後の開放感が残る束の間に、ためていた読み物・造り物をして勘を取り戻そうと思う... の前に、まずは荷造り。