Philosophical tools in Design Research: From empirical turn to practical turn

Track Chairs​

Wouter Eggink (Leader and Contact)
University of Twente

Steven Dorrestijn
Saxion University of Applied Sciences


Heather Wiltse
Umeå Institute of Design

Stéphane Vial
Université de Nîmes

Liesbeth Stam
University of Leuven

Stefano Gualeni
University of Malta

Jet Gispen

Collaboration between Design Research and Philosophy of technology seems very promising. Design Research can use the frameworks of philosophers to theorize the findings from practice or to make sense of the past, especially since Philosophy of Technology in the current of the so-called empirical turn is more focused on individual technologies and contexts. On the other hand, designing actual things provides a laboratory to test philosophical frameworks in real life. You might say that through design these conceptual frameworks can become ‘applicable’. So, in analogy with the empirical turn in philosophy of technology before, the present search for collaboration with design can be termed a ‘practical turn’.

Philosophy of Technology has a substantial track record in thinking about the impacts of technology and innovations on our daily lives and social behaviours. Combining this conceptual toolkit with design, with its capability of actually changing things, promises a powerful approach to developing critical future-making practices. Our approach to philosophically accompanied design focuses on anticipating possibilities and consequences. As such, it is related to critical design, social design, or persuasive design, but also different in being more reflexive and explorative.

We are seeking papers that either have applied philosophy of technology insights to real world problems and design solutions; or the other way around, papers that have used insights from philosophy of technology to reflect on designs that were actually made. We are also particularly interested in how these efforts might have served to open up other questions and problem spaces that call for further philosophical exploration. The Product Impact Tool and Interactive Virtual Worlds are just two examples of tools aiming to make philosophy practical and design reflexive. What are other examples and approaches? What new kinds of hybrid practical and theoretical approaches should be developed?

Indicative references:

Steven Dorrestijn & Peter-Paul Verbeek (2013) Technology, wellbeing, and freedom: The legacy of utopian design, International Journal of Design, 7(3), pp.45-56

Steven Dorrestijn & Wouter Eggink (2014) Product Impact Tool Workshop; mastering affect and effect in human-product relations.  In: Salamanca et al.(Eds.) Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Design & Emotion; Colors of Care; Bogota, October 6-10; pp. 467-469.

Liesbeth Stam & Wouter Eggink (2014) Why Designers and Philosophers should meet in School.  In: Bohemia et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education; Enschede; 4-5 September.

Peter-Paul Verbeek (2015) Beyond Interaction; a short introduction to mediation theory. Interactions, 22(3), pp.26-31.

Stefano Gualeni (2015) Virtual Worlds as Philosophical Tools - How to Philosophize with a Digital Hammer. Basingstoke (UK): Palgrave Macmillan

Wiltse, Heather, Erik Stolterman, and Johan Redström. 2015. “Wicked Interactions: (On the Necessity of) Reframing the ‘Computer’ in Philosophy and Design.” Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 19 (1). Philosophy Documentation Center: 26–49.

Wouter Eggink

Dr. Ir. Wouter Eggink is a design professional and assistant professor at the University of Twente, especially interested in the relationships between design, technology, and society. He is coordinator of the master programme Human Technology Relations. In his research Eggink approaches human-technology relations both from a Design History perspective and through Design for the Future, supported by Scenario Planning. He has also published extensively on Design Education, and on enhancing Creativity in design through the well-considered application of Visual Essays.

Steven Dorrestijn

Dr. Steven Dorrestijn is a philosopher of technology and senior lecturer/researcher in ethics and technology at Saxion University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands. In his research Dorrestijn contrived a model of effects of technologies on people, and also focused on people’s practices when accommodating new technologies in their lives. This perspective on the role of technologies in people’s everyday practices is a much-needed complement to both the theoretical approaches in ethics and the practical approaches in user-centred design.