Design and the invisible: material conceits as design activism

Design informatics research seminars

The invisible is a constant source of fascination. For centuries, the unseen was considered to have mystical qualities, constituting a force larger than human, capable of shaping destiny — one would go to the oracle in the hope that they would connect to the invisible, and tell us what it fared for our future.

Contemporary notions of ubiquity, however, shift our understanding of the invisible. Rather than a vast, wondrous force, the unseen becomes a material — something to be shaped in producing  experiences, artefacts and spaces. This transubstantiation is not without its complexities. As historical precedents show, manifesting the invisible—making it visible— is a an exercise of power. Belief systems gained and held to power by controlling how the invisible was represented and interacted with. Similarly, the representation and manipulation of invisibility in digital technologies—involving software, data, and infrastructure—enable institutions and individuals to dictate narratives of how these technologies integrate in our daily lives.

In this talk, Luis Hernan will reflect on the role of designers in constructing the materiality of the invisible. He will present some of my design experiments in wireless technologies, and introduce material conceits, a toolbox for design research to contest prevalent narratives of ubiquity.

Luis Hernan is a doctoral researcher at ArchaID, Newcastle University, Luis’ personality is permanently split between that of a creative practitioner and a researcher. Initially trained as an architect, he pursued a master’s degree in Digital Architecture before embarking in his Doctoral research. His practice explores the intersection between design and the invisible. Sometimes, he uses the third person when writing of himself.

Design Informations T room, 1.09 Evolution House, 78 West Port, Edinburgh, EH1