The Dewey Organ: making problems and publics

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

The proposed research is a 'co-design' experiment to prototype ways of making problems and publics. The research directly addresses issues central to the funding call and is critical to practice-based researchers, designers and policymakers, namely: what counts as a social 'problem' and what publics do problems bring into being?

Although these disciplines are problem-making practices, it is not easy to generate the problem from which research emerges. Problems and publics are not given or waiting to be found. They also do not come in convenient pairs. They are made. It is a problem to make problems. The proposed research explicitly explores these issues materially, in practice, in place and with an initial pilot public.

The proposal approaches these core concerns by way of two interrelated practice-based research procedures: first,the research aims to construct a problem-making 'machine' with which to render issues tangible, material and debatable in new ways, and second, the research will place the machine in a context where members of publics can interact with, problematize and customize problems and in doing so make their publics known or indicate new publics that arise around new issues..

The machine we aim to build takes its name - 'The Dewey Organ' - from John Dewey's (1927) 'The Public and its Problems' which critically examines civic participation and the relationships between citizens and experts. The Organ is a device for making sound, harmony and dissonance, and of bringing people together. It also speaks of the material body politic, an anatomy of publics.

The research proposal is a collaborative experiment in critical problem and public making. It directly builds on the research team's interdisciplinary expertise in sociology and design (Goldsmiths), and design-led research (DJCAD Dundee) as well as the practitioner expertise of its non-academic partner, Civic Workshop, who critically engage with local socio-political issues.

Planned Impact

The research team will collaborate with non-academic partner Civic Workshop, a London based interdisciplinary organization that runs UK wide public engagement projects. This partnership benefits the proposal in two ways: First, Cassie Robinson, Director of Civic Workshop, who recently hosted a successful Somerset House pop-up exploring citizenship and political issues through design and objects, will use her civic service design experience to collaborate with the research team in building the machine, and second, she will help gain exposure for the Organ to new publics at a social issue event via her professional network.

Impact objectives:

1. Bring together individuals from the AHRC ProtoPublics event to work as an interdisciplinary team
2. Work in collaboration with a non-academic partner, Civic Workshop, and host institution for public event
3. Plan and run two experimental events - Make the Organ (hacking workshop) and Play the Organ (public event)
4. Foster discussion and debate about problems and publics
5. Document events via photos, blogpost, video and twitter to help to generate an audience for the Organ as it emerges and provide fieldnotes for future journal articles and talks.


Target audiences:

- Sociology, design and computing staff/students (approx. 15) interested in public engagement of science, STS and material practices, DiY/hacking and inventive methods

- Specialised and general publics who attend a social-issue public event - such as the 'Adopting Britain' interactive exhibition examining 70 years of British immigration at The SouthBank Centre (17 April - 6 Sept).


Timing plan/ Achieving objectives:

1. Make the Organ
Timing: July
Resources: Involves PI+ CIs + technician + Civic Workshop time, Goldsmiths staff/students, Materials, Goldsmiths location
Success Criteria: Range of materials gathered pre-hacking event. 15 x Soc, Design and Computing staff/students attend co-design workshop. Organ is built and works! Documentation of process in photos, tweets, video to grow public awareness of project.

2. Play the Organ
Timing: Late August
Resources: PI+ CIs + Civic Workshop time, Refreshments, travel and accom for 1 x CI, Transport for Organ and research team, Documentation
Success Criteria: Research team work with partner and host institution to confirm invite to London based social-issue event. Organ is played in public and attracts a diverse interactive public. Team members keep a multi-media record of emerging problems and publics. Documentation - photos, tweets, video - for use in talks, journal articles, future grant applications.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title The Dewey Organ - an interactive problem making machine 
Description The Dewey Organ is a problem-making 'machine' with which to render issues tangible, material and debatable in new ways. It was designed to be placed in a context where members of publics could interact with, problematize and customize problems and in doing so make their publics known or indicate new publics that arise around new issues. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The Dewey Organ was invited to be exhibited/performed at The Imagination Festival in Glasgow, Scotland 4-6 Sept 2016. 
URL http://www.katjungnickel.com/portfolio/dewey-organ/
 
Description The research set out to experimentally prototype ways of making problems and publics. It directly addresses issues central to the funding call and critical to practice-based researchers, designers and policymakers, namely: what counts as a social 'problem' and what publics do problems bring into being? The novelty of the project lay in experimentally co-designing and interacting with an interactive physical 'machine' that provocatively interrogates the making of problems and publics. Co-design is a creative collective practice of knowledge production. This approach evokes recent moves in the social sciences towards methods that both evoke and provoke the social world. In the course of the short project the research team ran a hand-on workshop at Makerversity to explore the potential of this approach and then physically built a machine and performed/presented it at The Imagination Festival in Glasgow.
Exploitation Route There are many ways our findings can be taken forward and put to use. Most immediately there are plans to prepare and submit a larger funding proposal in order the develop these ideas in more depth and with larger audiences.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.katjungnickel.com/portfolio/dewey-organ/
 
Description Invited performance: The Imagination Festival, Glasgow, Scotland 4-6th Sept, 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The research, in the from of a physical interactive machine - The Dewey Organ - was installed in the foyer of the Govanhill Baths, the site of Scotland's 2015 The Imagination Festival. This site was ideal as it was the entry to the main building. The festival consisted of three days of talks, performances, events and workshops around social, cultural and political issues. Attendees interacted with the machine, raising problems and issues that were being discussed in the festival and used the data collected and visualised by the machine to connect with other people's issues and problems. The organisers of the events were pleased by our involved and the levels of interaction and discussion is provoked.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.imaginationfestival.co.uk/#!programme/cxia