Networks of Design responds to recent academic interest in the fields of design history, technology and the social sciences in the 'networks' of interactions that inform knowledge formation and design.
Studying networks foregrounds infrastructure, negotiations, processes, strategies of interconnection, and the heterogeneous relationships between people and things.
Within the wider context of post-modernism and post-structuralism we are, it seems, experiencing a paradigm shift in design history and this conference offers an opportunity to address, explore and assess that shift, providing a platform for international debate and exchange.
The interest in networks emerges from actor-network theory (ANT) and the work of, among others, the social theorist Bruno Latour.
While the conference will explore the wider implications of ANT for design history, rather than focus on detailed discussion of ANT (although this may feature in some of the strands), a brief outline of Latour's theory contextualises the conference structure and themes.
A network, in Latour's view, involves a set of negotiations in which both human and non-human actors assume identities according to prevailing strategies of interaction.
The study of networks raises the challenge of understanding processes of mediation as interactions; humans are not the only beings with agency (matter also matters) and networks can include people, social groups, artifacts, devices, entities and ideas.