Visualising Actors as Infrastructures in Design - blurring design and use times

Abstract: 

When we design technology, we never only design an artefact or a system, but we design a Thing that is constituted in its socio-material and temporal setting. In this talk, my starting point is a philosophical line of thinking that I argue is particularly useful in drawing our attention to this embeddedness. Theories such as Actor-Network Theory (ANT), Agential Realism and Postphenomenology have at their heart a relational ontology that bring human and non-human actors (i.e. people and things) together and orient our analysis towards tracing their interwoven associations. Grounded in examples from my design work I will discuss how such actor-networks can become powerful tools to visualise socio-material relations into which we design technologies. I argue that such a network perspective can actively support the infrastructuring of technology, scoping what we need to be designing. Furthermore, accepting that these actor-networks are not static, but change over time, allows us to trace the temporal aspects of our design practice. While designers, materials and participants might be at the core of an actor network during design-time, the system and its users may be the dominating actors at use-time. This temporal fluidity allows us, to effectively think about what is required to sustain PD efforts after the designers have left. It may further help us to understand better how to design for design-in-use, blurring the boundaries between design and use-time, extending the notion of participation beyond us facilitating it.