Article suggestion for Design Education scholars

| November 9, 2010

For those interested in the study of design education I would like to introduce a provocative article by the Anthropologist Webb Keane. Drawing on semiotic theory and work from material culture studies Keane outlines a theoretical framework for considering how “new clothing makes possible or inhibits new practices, habits, and intentions…” and “… invites new projects” (Keane 2006: 193). Central to this argument are “semiotic ideologies,” which he defines as “assumptions about what … signs are and how they should function” (2005: 191). While his discussion of these ideas can be challenging to read, I found them worth the effort. Especially in light of my own interests, which focus on the socialization of design knowledge and skill-sets. For me Keane’s ideas opened up new ways of thinking about and describing design processes and their impact on social life. Moreover, this article helped me articulate in different ways why ethnographic studies of design institutions—especially educational sites—are paramount for understanding how different forms of expertise emerge and circulate. Such a perspective—when framed comparatively—may serve as a conduit for cross-disciplinary conversations about the cultural production of design forms, theories of expertise, and a host of other topics pertinent to the field of education.

Note: for the ambitious reader I suggest also reading the Introduction to: E. Hallam and T. Ingold (2007). Creativity and Cultural Improvisation. Oxford: Berg Publishers.

Keane, Webb (2006). Signs are Not the Garb of Meaning: On the Social Analysis of Material Things. In Materiality. Miller, D. (ed). Pp. 182-205. Duke University Press.