Conversational Artefacts: Critical Design and Exhibition as Tools for Creative Research
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This design-led research explored how critical design and public exhibition can be incorporated into a qualitative creative research method inquiring how people in Auckland City conceptualised community. Past literature has acknowledged the ability of physical objects and creative methods in research to activate different lines of thinking and elicit thoughtful and in-depth responses from participants that may not have arisen through traditional interviewing. Critical design is an approach where outcomes stimulate reflection amongst participants. In this research, this approach was employed to inform the design of critical artefacts – objects that have no utilitarian function but are intended to start conversation. The critical artefacts were then displayed at pop-up exhibitions in public spaces where members of the public were invited to share their thoughts on community through talking about the artefacts. Responses collected as data at each exhibition informed future artefacts, which were exhibited again in an iterative cycle. This research was an example of how design tools such as critical design and exhibition could be shifted into a research space and adapted for qualitative research. Responses to the exhibitions demonstrated the value in using critical artefacts in qualitative research methods to explore complex topics such as community. The artefacts allowed participants to share personal thoughts and experiences in a non-confronting manner and helped navigate conversation about what can be an overwhelming concept.