I recently presented at the international design conference, Digitally Engaged Learning (DEL) at York University in Toronto. This year’s conference theme—the ecological concept of edge effects —was particularly interesting to me because I often work in overlapping, disciplinary spaces and I encourage this methodology in the classroom as well. The full published abstract can be found here, on the conference website.
The work I presented discussed my thoughts on the edge effects of design and technology—a space that embraces concepts of open-source knowledge, accessibility of information, DIY and maker movements, critical making and experimentation, open design, and design for democracy. As a designer who is interested in tinkering with technology and tools as a major part of the design process, this space offers opportunities for learning, adopting, and working across technologies and technological systems. It also provides opportunities to work fluidly between digital and analog methods, across media, to experiment and create unexpected things. But, it also suggests that designers need to contribute back to open-source knowledge communities, sharing and distributing the things that we make and the processes we use to create them.
The methodology that I use in my practice as well as in the classroom is shown below. It begins with a prompt or question of “how.” By asking how, the development of a making experience is implied. The why and what questions are important and must be considered… but they could be defined how it best suits the designer, be it orientated towards social and cultural contexts, towards manufacturing and industry, or towards form and artistic practice. Experimentation is integrated into the process right way, and for a significant amount of time to adjust for researching, learning new tools, and learning by doing. Working with open-source knowledge is introduced to discover technologies, mediums, and tools for developing a making experience. The goal of this part of the process is to come to a unique and unexpected process for making something. After that process is defined, it is executed, documented, and shared with the larger public.
The last step in this method is to share and contribute back to the open-source knowledge community the new processes and artifacts that you have discovered. Inherent in the work is the social and technological impacts of sharing knowledge and making information accessible to others, without this contribution there is little impact beyond your own personal discovery.
 The conference website (2018) describes the edge effects as “an ecological concept that describes biological interactions happening on the boundaries of two overlapping ecosystems. Species from both ecosystems live alongside one another, as well as unique species that aren’t found in either. […] In art and design, working at the ‘edges’ of ideas or practices, often in spaces between disciplines, ways of knowing and bodies of knowledge, can be very fruitful. It can provide new insights, allow us to challenge conventions, and rethink our engagement with the world around us.”