IN PURSUIT OF MEANINGFUL INSIGHT; COVID REMOTE COLLABORATION AND DESIGN AS PROVOCATION
Editor: Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik; Buck, Lyndon
Author: Magee, Paul; Woodcock, Andree; Gut, Katarzyna; Saunders, Janet; Atkinson, Peter; Bridgman, Jacquie
Institution: Coventry University, United Kingdom
Section: Educating Designers and Engineers for a Sustainable Future in Design and Engineering Education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2021.15
The contact and immediacy of formal and informal participatory methods (get-togethers, group discussion, post-it note club, and informal chat) creates personal insight, emotion, distress and joy; with contact allowing us to embrace difficult concepts and challenge pre-conceived ideas from within safe spaces. Since the onset of the pandemic, life has been different. Opportunities to engage in codesign have been restricted. We have adapted and stretched systems to support design activities, e.g. surveys have been sent via facebook, images scraped off the internet to understand culture, teleconferencing systems (such as teams, zoom, web-ex, mural) used to support discussions and share design concepts. During this time, many of the perceived barriers to technology usage have been overcome (as witnessed by the increased take up of technology by older age groups). Indeed, many have led to greater empathy among work colleagues as more insights have been gained into personal lives – we have inadvertently shared more of ourselves. However, lockdown has seen a significant drop in the willingness/capacity of people from vulnerable groups to engage ‘spontaneously’ with design activities. From a design perspective, there has been a reduction of footfall in living labs, closure of informal meeting places, and lack of funding for support groups accompanied by an understandable unwillingness of gatekeepers to provide access to members. Looking forward to the post pandemic, it is hypothesized that a paradigm shift has occurred in working practices, with location independent working finally becoming a reality across a wide range of industries, including education. The challenge for the design community is how to recreate the closeness, informality and immediacy of face to face meetings to discuss design ideas in a virtual setting so that design outcomes that are empathic, meaningful and effective. The H2020 funded TInnGO project provides an ongoing case study. TInnGO project seeks to engage with multiple partners, in 10 national hubs across the EU, to demonstrate how design can be used to develop gender and diversity sensitive smart mobility solutions. As part of this, each hub was supposed to generate specific design challenges, based on their work with local citizens. From these, undergraduate students develop design concepts under the guidance of their lecturers using cocreation methods. Current challenges relate to ergonomics of bus stop seating (German and Italian hubs), design of e-scooters (UK hub), removing barriers to use of buses by older people (French hub) and a covid – safe metro interior (Spanish hub). This paper addresses the challenges the team has faced in working during March – December 2020, the period of rolling lockdowns across all countries. We will discuss the insights/barriers we have had in design at a distance in relation to 1) communication with non-designers, 2) extent to which IT solutions can accommodate design activities, 3) creating empathy, 4) design skills gap, 5) recording of design discussions and 6) use of design to encourage deeper thinking and engagement, and their implications for design education.