Research methods for art and design
Anthropological methods for art and design 1: Preview of my lecture tomorrow

Thinking, anthropology, and design

I am currently reading, Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment by Paul Rabinow (Princeton University Press: 2003).  The book is an indepth meditation on the work of Michel Foucault. Its is useful for me because I have taken Foucault's notion of governmentality as a key theme in my work, but he also puts Foucault in dialogue with John Dewey, with whose theories  I have always resonated.

Dewey, Thinking, and Anthropology

Rabinow describes Dewey's idea of thinking as "...a situated practice of active inquiry whose role and goal is to initiate a movement from a discordant situation to a more harmonious one. " (Rabinow 2003: 17).  This helps to reframe the purpose and objective of Anthropology from the study of humankind to one more about the thinking about humanity. Sidenote: It makes me wonder if AIGA had Dewey in mind when it shifted its mission to design thinking.

The idea of moving from a discordant situation to a more harmonous one is fascinating when you connect this with the Taoist ideas I have been applying of trying to align oneself with the natural world. Humanity not as an object of study (in the past) but rather situations for thinking enbles a much more freeing engagement with the problems of humanity and an orientation of the field of Anthropology as future-oriented and solution proposing.

This is the intersection of anthropology and design. Anthropology offering the tools, the equipment to identify discordant situations and design offering the equipment to propose more harmonious situations, anthropology then helping to refine those proposals in an iterative fashion.


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