In all honesty, I was apprehensive to begin this study group. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how it applied to my course subject having never studied anything similar before. However, I was looking forward to opening up to a new way of thinking and hopefully, developing some new thoughts and ideas over the coming weeks.
Having attended the first weeks study group, it is fair to say that despite having some understanding on the topics discussed, my confusion remained in terms of how I could relate some of these new ways of thinking back to my subject practice of product design. I developed an understanding for both Naturalistic and Animistic views and found the Eleanor Hawkins case study particularly interesting especially now having a better understanding of analysing the case from both perspectives. I could now appreciate and understand the case study from both sides of the story. The case study and first study session of this module definitely opened my eyes to a broader approach of the world – to think deeper beyond what obviously lies in front of the eye or what you’ve personally been brought up to perceive within your own culture. Things don’t always appear just as they are and, equally, what appears as something to one person, may not appear as the same thing to another – this is something to be remembered and respected when taking viewpoints particularly as an outsider. It is not as simple and straight forward as it may initially seem as there are many factors that play a role in this understanding and interpretation of the world for example, cultural, environmental and historical. This got me thinking about how the products I design and how that if they are not considered carefully in their design, could be interpreted wrongly by the users depending on their cultural backgrounds and beliefs – what looks like a product with a certain function to one person, may look like a product with a completely different meaning or function to another. I should carry this understanding over into my practice and take consideration of it into my work whether it be subtly or purposefully done. Despite still being a little confused, I trusted Martyn when he suggested things may not initially make sense but to stick at it. So, I was looking forward to developing and unfolding my understandings and ideas.
The second week introduced a theory that I could definitely gel with better, an ecological theory of nature that merged elements of the technological age/naturalistic approach and the animistic theories to suggest that actually, everything is interconnected in a mesh to develop an ecological awareness that lies in the middle. I feel as if this is the theory that describes my own perspective best.
This week included a group task – As a group of three (two product designers and one artist designer maker) we decided it best that we split to carry out our own research into the White Painted Trees of Kefalonia o begin with and then re-join to share our findings and discuss the direction in which the research may take us. I enjoyed the sporadic approach to this task and the fact that there was no right or wrong – any meshwork could be relevant if you made it. I found it particularly interesting to see the different dynamics within the study group and how that different subject practices seemed to take different view points and have better understandings within some views than others. For example, as a product designer, I feel that the naturalistic and/or ecological approaches are certainly easier relatable and understandable however, I could see that the animistic approach was grasped far easier by some of the more art based subjects such as fine art and artist designer maker. I really enjoyed listening to the different groups presentations and trying to understand how everyone had got to such different points for their presentations, it really intrigued me.
I think the third week was the turning point for me in really understanding and getting to grips with the study groups’ focus – particularly after reading the extract from ‘Sustainable by Design’ by Stuart Walker, everything seemed to click and piece together. I was able to appreciate and understand the text from no longer only my previous perspective, from an undergrad Product Designers point of view, but, now from all three animistic, naturalistic and ecological perspectives too. It was as if I was reading the text with a whole new light and from that, able to begin deciding where my personal perspective and views sat between the three. Although maybe at the beginning, I couldn’t get my head around perhaps some of the animistic views and theories for example, although it’s still likely that I won’t ever believe in this way, I can now understand and appreciate this way of thinking and am able to embed this within my thought process when analysing a text or an object. I think this will definitely show in my future subject work too as it’ll be something I’ll consider when designing in comparison to before, when it was quite self-centred in terms of my thought process’.
After finally beginning to get my head around things in the third week, I began considering topics to concentrate my critical writing on. I was able to generate ideas and map out what they might include and where they may lie in terms of the theories they use – however, still lied slightly confused about where to begin and what direction to head in despite finding the critical writing workshop useful. Even if my first attempt at this critical piece of writing hasn’t been the simplest or easiest to go about or, the most successful, I feel as if I have been successful in moulding my way of understanding and thinking over the course of this study group – something very valuable in itself I believe.
Despite gaining a good overall understanding over the course of this study group, and having enjoyed discovering and learning about new theories far more than expected, I have really struggled with writing the final piece of critical writing. I can’t pinpoint why exactly this is, whether it’s because I need further assistance with designing and mapping a title/question and the structure to follow or whether I’m out of practice and need further assistance and tutorial time when it comes to the techniques and methods of critical writing for example, being able to identify relevant and appropriate sources for analysing and using and then the ability to embed these sourced within my work and be able to reference them correctly. I think it’s the latter point that is my biggest issue and I understand that this will only develop with time, research and practice. This is something I aim to do in going forward, to spend more time picking up these skills and paying attention in learning how to apply them well.