I reflected upon the theoretical framework within design education, with both students and design educators.

The reflection happened during the ‘Crossing Boundaries’ seminar at the Master Eco and Social Design UNIBZ Bolzano. The students named the urgency for designers to be involved in addressing ecological issues in inclusive, transdisciplinary settings with non-designers (‘complementary relational designer’), because a changing planet and society, with growing levels of complexity, can’t be addressed by a single discipline anymore. This requires working on flexible scales, from micro to macro. It involves recognizing the possible scope of design. Design has the capability to link these scales with new contexts by storytelling and finding other (visual) narratives.

The Master students conduct practice-based research, including a project, in a set period of time. The process is an important aspect of this. They recognized this as the most difficult part. How to get in contact with people, how to engage people into their project? How to make their project into something that matters to a community? Designers can contribute to these changing practises by ‘designing’ the process (and not only the outcome). The topic air quality at ‘Stadslab Luchtkwaliteit’ questioned the ‘commonality of purpose’. In order to be able to include the non-experts in the process, it is simply not enough to have a common purpose that only engages with ‘the happy few’. Air quality is a topic that engages with a wide variety of people (everybody breathes). This opens up the co-creation process to more people. So it is important, for example, to understand how exclusively or inclusively the topic engages with ‘the others’. Discussing the design role of designing a process in these transdisciplinary cooperation’s made me aware that it is possible to learn how to design a process but that the complex nature of designing a process makes it difficult to teach this within the framework of design education and rather needs to be learned in the outside world. A lab can facilitate a ‘safe’ ground for students to acquire these skills.

Fuad-Luke showed ongoing work with the ‘Make Yourself..’ project [1]. He explained the complexity of involving non-experts “complementary relational designer’ (Fuad-Luke) into a process and addressed the notion that the process of co-creating provides a rich context. For example, in ‘Make Yourself…’,designers, locals, and migrants co-create fashion, and in the process they exchange values, cultural traditions, and ideas about a sustainable world. This enriches not only the ideas regarding fashion, but also builds ‘social capital’ (glues the society) due to the collaboration between the different cultures.

This research was part of the HOT program, ‘education in labs, communities of practice, and stations’ at the Readership Creating010.

In their educational practice, both Leo Remijn and Peter van Waart (associate professor/researchers Institute Communication, Media and Information Technology; HOT) experienced that students sometimes seem to lack intrinsic motivation. According to them, intrinsic motivation is the core competency required in order to start learning. This raised the question of how the intrinsic motivation could be regained. Leo Remijn noticed that students never seemed to lack this motivation in the maker space ‘Stadslab’[2]. This made me question whether a lab (for example a city lab) can facilitate in regaining (or maintaining) this intrinsic motivation within education. The discussion about intrinsic motivation in the context of this research revealed that, currently, there is a friction between the ‘professional’ (as an expert) and the ‘amateur’ (as having a love), in education. I think it shows the importance of connecting the professional and the Pro-Am (to learn how to be a Pro-Am), because by embracing this, students are better equipped to learn how to maintain intrinsic motivation (and become better professionals).

The HOT session in May 2017 involved ‘monitoring’. In the context of this research, I asked: “– If design students start learning in a city lab, what are the implications for monitoring?”, posing Rancière’s statement that ‘universal teaching’ could be possible as long as there is ‘emancipation’. Marlies Bedeker-Van der Wee (researcher at the University of Applied Science Rotterdam, HOT) reflected on this statement and pointed out that monitoring could be a moment of reflection (peer feedback) and helps to understand the learning process rather than measuring the content. “Do we measure what we value, or do we value what we measure?”(Marlies Bedeker-Van der Wee, 2017) Does ‘learning in a city lab’ imply a different role for the teacher, then, where the teacher is not resource of all the required information, but a coach guiding an individual learning trajectory? Anne Nigten (Lector of Design for Network Ecologies at Creating010) proposed a learning community as a commune of students and teachers, both moving along the boundaries of ‘education’ and ‘the lab’.

This requires drastic changes of the curricula, because it can’t be added to the existing situation, it requires a systematic transition.

Designers for example need to learn how to design a ‘process’ rather then only the ‘product’ (outcome), this has implications for the current methods of ‘monitoring’. And also changes the position of the educator for example; currently the teacher is regarded as ‘the resource’ of information, and monitors if students are able to generate that ‘good outcome’. Van Waart noticed that this is a wicked problem itself. Remijn talked about the possibility for this transition through ‘pilot projects’. Labs could facilitate this experimentation with pilot projects from the outside in.

The HOT discussions made me aware that design education needs to actively engage in facilitating labs as it allows students operating in the fluid boundaries of their profession. Since city labs could provide a canvas for students to maintain intrinsic motivation, it could provide a learning community for both students and educators into the ‘real world’, and a safe ground to experiment with new applications for educational changes.

Reflecting with the students from the Master Eco and Social Design as well as reflecting with educators with the HOT context made me aware of the complexity of implementing the required changes needed for educating these future designers in these new practices. For example the consequences of learning to design a process rather then a product requires a different role for the teacher (as a coach versus a resource of information), learning to design the process requires a different learning context (not within an academic structure but rather in the real world) and it has implications for monitoring a learning trajectory (monitoring as a moment for peer feed back rather then measuring content).

[1] A design research project in Bolzano Italië: Make Yourself… is a series of events focused on co-creating fashion, a ‘makerspace’, and pop-up shop by and for everyone ( designers, locals, visitors, migrants, and refugees). https://modeuncut.com/2016/12/15/seminar-disruptive-fashion-practices/ (accessed June 2017)

[2] Stadslab is a maker space of the University of Applied Science Rotterdam that combines the Fablab, Open Data lab, and a Sensorlab.