Design Anthropology: Objects, Landscapes, Cities

This course will examine the intersections between design and anthropology. In recent years, there has been a movement in anthropology toward a focus on objects, while design and planning have been moving toward the understanding of objects as part of a greater milieu. This seminar explores this common ethnographic ground.The course is about both the anthropology of design, and the design of anthropology. For designers, the goals will be to learn thick ethnographic observation and description; applying theoretical concepts in making connections between ethnographic data; and moving from ethnography to an understanding of how context informs design, as well as asking why we design in the ways that we do. Anthropologists will be challenged to think about different forms of ethnographic fieldwork by collaborating with non-anthropologists and working toward a collective ethnography; using visual information to represent ethnographic information and insights; and applying anthropological skills to the study of objects, materiality, and design processes.We will read classic texts as well as contemporary readings in anthropology, architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design. The seminars will be filled with different components and tasks, typically including lectures and synopses of the weekly topic; presenting and discussing ethnographic data; sharing thinking on individual projects; and discussing assigned readings.Where possible, the synergy between anthropologists and designers will be cultivated to maximise exchange between disciplines. Ideally, the class will be evenly split between FAS and GSD. Students will be expected to engage in two projects over the course of the semester. The first is a weekly assignment, which forms part of a larger collective ethnographic work. The second will be an individual project, which should result in a design proposal that emerges from the common ethnography. While the first project is primarily observational, the second is design oriented.