Kairos 22.1


Navigation and rhetoric

This webtext is designed to encourage the reader to explore the learning journey in ways that are evocative of how it unfolded. Through a rhizomatic navigational structure and a potential for multiple reading pathways, the webtext intends to convey a spatial and multimodal rhetoric.

There are two navigational axes, one vertical and one horizontal, that are designed to convey different aspects of the inquiry—they are broadly organized in terms of existing knowledge and in terms of emergent experiential practice, respectively.

A vertical menu on the left is arranged via drop-down entries with sub items. Here one finds more traditional contextual, theoretical, and methodological matters, as well as a conclusion and references.

A horizontal menu along the bottom of the page is designed as a spatial representation of the main phases of the physical expedition learning journey. Readers are invited to navigate the places that the journey moved through geographically, as well as the kinds of learning that emerged as dispositional shifts along the way and in specific locations. These are named as follows:

Place—largely descriptive with contextual media, these are connected to the locative in conceptualising learning spaces and nomadic pedagogy.
Discussion—student and educator reflections from interview dialogue and the documentary video.
Reflection—intertexts covering meta-level reflections and connections with pedagogy framed as nomadic.

The aim of this meta-level element, Reflection, is threefold: 1) to act as a more transitional, liminal, and transversal element, yet, at the same time, 2) to lift up discussion and application of the key concepts and to offer some suggestion as to what might be developed further analytically and pragmatically, and 3) to provide a lateral means of reading and conceptualizing higher order issues of a nomadic pedagogy. These intertexts thus function as a go-between element in this webtext: it is materialized rhetorically because of what has been covered in the other vertical and horizontal layers. This intermediary space serves the purpose of connecting, synthesizing, and also differentiating rhetorical reflections on the locative, speculative, and performative aspects, while at the same time reconsidering conceptually what has been presented as having emerged between events, places, actions, people, and things.

As an experimental webtext, in terms of its rhetorical forms and articulation, the emergent quality of the immersive reading and viewing experience along with the analysis offered is designed to create an enriched research exposition that is locative, speculative, and performative in nature. We hope that its dynamic and multimodal character and spatial rhetoric may motivate other educator-researchers to map their own exploratory journeys into nomadic and design-centered pedagogies.

Orientation and questions

Climate change. Sustainable design. Out-of-studio learning. Transition design. These are some of the terms that we as co-authors take up in this webtext that may be only indirectly familiar to readers, teachers, and researchers working in the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy. Our webtext contributes to a wider research and curriculum change project, which aims at developing a transformational pedagogy for students in a school of design based in the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town, South Africa. The experimental pedagogy project is framed within formal national and political higher educational change processes, which entail a shift from purely vocational approaches to curricular and pedagogical practices, while addressing matters of climate change and designing for sustainable futures. These are just two of the main challenges that we face in developing our design pedagogy through the formative years of an emergent democratic state where current concerns include supporting the needs of a diversity of design education students whose studies ought to prepare them to meet the demands of changing and complex contexts. As priority in this context, the ecological has been lifted up while acknowledging and supporting the commitment to commercial, technical, and cultural emphases of creative work and communication.

Climate change is already having a visible and visceral effect on people’s daily lives in our geographical region, principally through increased desiccation of agricultural land and threats to food production, water systems, and related aquatic life. Designing products, services, systems, and interactions that are appropriate to such contexts are needed—and themselves require designing. Consequently, design education needs to anticipate futures that we can already see and that are likely to be different from the cycles of production and consumption embedded in today’s professional practices.

One of the difficulties common to educational change and to adapting professional education and practice is how to find ways to open out spaces and processes to assist transformation and to foster creativity and criticality at the same time. A major challenge to educators is moving away from known and given boundaries and established procedures and expectations, which requires that we are adaptive, flexible, anticipatory, and aspirational while remaining critical and reflective. In this webtext we present how we faced these challenges through experimentation and inquiry-based learning in a pedagogical journey—geographical and metaphorical—that draws on concepts of learning spaces, disposition, and nomadicity. These we connect to three core concepts or aspects of learning: the locative, speculative, and performative, respectively. We have chosen these three core concepts and their related aspects to help describe and unpack a process of experiential and inquiry based learning (Crichton, 2014; Dewey, 1938).

In taking up these concepts our webtext addresses two interrelated questions:
1) What roles may spaces for learning outside of the studio have in design pedagogy, and 2) how may learning in spaces out in the world bring about design dispositions that are enabling, productive, and relevant to designing for sustainable futures?

Three concepts

We see learning spaces as arenas, conditions, venues, and settings that provide room and opportunities for students to realize their agency and identity through a shared and emergent culture of mediated meaning making (Morrison, 2010). For students of design, the spatial aspects of learning refer traditionally to deadline and solution-driven work that takes place within a campus studio context and is governed by either a hypothetical or real brief that generates phases from conceptualization and research to practical processes of building, testing, and presentation. Recent education research has centered on conceptualizing and studying learning spaces and learning lives beyond the boundaries of the school and the formal curriculum (e.g., Erstad et al., 2016). For us, out-of-studio design learning spaces are what we address as contexts for situated learning that may be understood as locative: Learning occurs in spaces and places.

Disposition refers to stances, positions, and orientations students adopt and adapt in the dynamics of engaging with a transformational learning process over space and time (Sheridan & Rowsell, 2010). We make a broad move from framings of design literacies to exploring notions and practices of shaping designerly learning spaces that set in motion interior self-experience in relation to the outside world of "not me" (Ellsworth, 2005, p. 38). We draw attention to how contextualizing design learning in ways that are appropriate to the issues at stake allows for different types of learning “which might be variable in value as defined by different people,” and acknowledge that this opens up the question of who defines something as learning and the circumstances within which they do so (Erstad, 2014, p. 13). This is what we refer to as dispositions: students and educators alike need to identify, develop, and adopt a variety of views and orientations to their work that enable more sustainable design practices and shared, personally meaningful learning to be realized. Focus on disposition takes us into the dynamics of selected but importantly emergent points of view where students and educators are engaged in developmental, emergent, possible, and less probable directions, hence a focus on the speculative.

Nomadicity concerns a pedagogical kinetics involved in moving beyond given frames for learning, such as studio briefs in design with pre-determined deliverables, into unknown terrains and territories. We qualify these learning landscapes as comprising physical, cultural, and mental domains that may be traversed individually and collectively, motivating design learning and inquiry that reaches toward sustainable professional practices, and artifacts that themselves generate discourses of change and critique. Nomadic learning refers to “disruptions and expansions of the classroom-as-container discourse within educational research” (Leander et al., 2010, p. 329), and positions learning as the “the change incurred when subjects enter into unfamiliar territory, in a process of discovery” (Fendler, 2013, p. 787). Relating to nomadic practices, Rachel Fendler (2013) spoke of the “eventful space” of learning becoming a space of experiential learning in its potential to evoke change, defined by “a double movement, where learning practices are displaced (becoming mobile) and where learning itself is its own form of displacement (i.e., a change in one’s worldview)” (p. 788). It is the engaged activity, or performative enactment, that is in play in this dynamic and potentially transformative approach to design learning.

Artifact & film

Artifact: At the heart of this multimodal webtext on learning spaces and dispositions for sustainable design futures is the mediating design artifact in the form of a fish. Students and staff selected the persona of a Tigerfish, known for its fighting skills across the region, as a cipher for exploring, reading, and writing matters of climate change. Called Fiscilla, this fish is an artifact of mediation (Díaz-Kommonen, 2004) not merely a material product: She embodies students’ own productive design creativity, expression, and shared learning. Her identity develops though dialogical learning and concerns spaces, places, materials, engagement, participation, audiences, and events in different contexts and over time. In this sense her passage across the landscape performatively functions as a mediation “across the scales of time” (Lemke, 2000).

Fiscilla is also, however, a fish out of water: Her displacement and estrangement work to accentuate matters of conflict, need, and urgency concerning sustainable design. In this sense she is an artifact of mediation. Her identity as a human-animal hybrid (Haraway, 2008) allows students and audiences to both project their perceptions and prospects onto and through her persona while at the same time keeping her close to her context.

Here the interface of the fish and the spatial rhetoric of this webtext cross over between sand and water, earth and fire, online images and students’ reflections. Fiscilla serves to artifact, that is to allow us to make material an articulation in physical and virtual form, as an emergent persona and product in and over time and place. Fiscilla is a speculative type of epistemic artifact whose fictive stance and experimental status (Knutz et al., 2013) allow engagement with the material everyday (Marres, 2012) in thinking into and beyond the demands for immediate solutions and toward understanding the dynamic contexts of design as future making (Yelavich & Adams, 2015).

Film: This webtext contains a variety of media types, principally written text (including excerpts from face-to-face interviews), along with contextual photography from a variety of participants, and a documentary educational film made together with a professional team.

The design techniques, means, and multimodal literacies and discourses this project and webtext encompass and operationalize are elaborated under the section on Methodologies. This also refers to details on the making of the film and its relationship to this web-based mediation of the learning process, artifacting, and critical interpretation and analysis.

Title: The Fish and The Desert: Designerly Strategies for Scaling Up Climate Change Approaches in South Africa and Norway

Institutions: CPUT (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town) and AHO (Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway)

Film makers:
Producer: Andrea Grant Broom, Design Project Imagineers, Cape Town
Director: Matthew Rosmarin, Greenhouse, Cape Town
Camera: Tinashe Chikwanda, Film and Video Diploma student, Faculty of Informatics and Design, CPUT
Format: Video
Running time: 24.17 minutes
Year: 2015

Clips used in webtext:

An industrial design student speaks of the lack of resources in the desert and how design for him is "sticking his neck out" to make things work.

Moving the 400kg fish installation is quite a job, which one can’t do alone. Setting off on the journey north.

Students speak of the project as dependent on participation, multidisciplinarity, and knowing who you are designing for.

Lambert's Bay holds special significance for Corbin as growing up there has formed his identity and he looks forward to bringing his new knowledge back into the community on this journey.

Corbin speaks of talking to people in communities as part of identifying real sustainability issues.

Rain in Namibia—unusual and unexpected, the elements play a role in the learning journey.

Consumerism hit home when encountering people who live without the commodities we take for granted.

According to Khanya, carving the gathered stories into the wooden tiles set below the fish made the design process meaningful for her.

Conference delegates interact with the stories embedded in the installation and reflect on the importance of fish and the fishermen who make a living from the sea.