Not only as educators, designers and students, but also as individuals context is something that we continually find ourselves within. In fact, contextual fields are where these identities form in the first place. A definitive characteristic of this experience is the steady realization of the contextual nature of institutions, movements, and paradigms. Political, economic, ecological and industrial schemas, assumed closed and contained, perpetually reveal their inherent relational dependencies. Systems of thought and action once relied upon as consistent and predictable, eventually show themselves to be situated and conditional; defined by their contexts.
In the discipline, practice, and education of design, context has become one of the three primary forming forces (program and concept being the other two). However, context still tends to be reduced solely to a fixed physical or temporal setting. This understanding of context limits design students’ operational scope and ultimately diminishes the capacity of design itself. By calling the nature of context into question we can come to understand that it is contingent and mutable and that we have an active role in constructing it. Through this broader understanding of context, we as design educators can construct a more robust, dynamic and operative treatment of context for our students’ education and learning.
The conference will address context from four perspectives:
Pedagogical Context: How do we situate our teaching within a milieu of pedagogical systems?
Design has had many “schools.” Do we continue the legacy of the systems from which we’ve emerged? Do we resist their inertia? How do we formulate our pedagogical agendas…and to what ends?
Context as Content: How do we define and use context in our teaching?
How do we teach our students to identify, analyze and react to context? What features do we draw their attention to and how do we encourage them to respond to their observations? Do we encourage them to treat context as something in, which they participate, or something, which they merely observe and catalogue?
Situational Context: How do we generate flexible and open learning contexts?
Under what terms do we define and delimit the scope, intent, and focus of our projects? Do we treat context as a static background upon which our work rests, or do our operations reciprocally engage their contexts? What is the role of the physical in our definitions of context? How does context participate in the formulation of the design project, and how do student sort among the contradictory and competing contextual pressures?
Aspirational Context: How do we understand the contexts within which we are educating our students? Where do our students come from and where do they think they’re going? How does our understanding of these situations help/force us to focus our teaching? How much do we allow our students to direct their learning and how often do we impose our expertise and experience into their educational pursuits?
Context is always situated in multiple categories at any one time. As such, we ask authors to approach their papers by addressing their topics as an intersection of two or three of the following categories. Paper session will be structured around particular groupings of categories. The categories are:
Modal (Digital/Analog/Hybrid) Context
We hope to spark a rich and robust discussion concerning how we as educators address context in beginning design and how we construct the context in which we teach beginning design.