Seminar (CareNet): "More-than human aesthetics & Inventive care politics in design"

IN3’s Care and Preparedness in the Network Society (CareNet) research group is pleased to invite you to the Seminar «More-than human aesthetics & Inventive care politics in design» given by Alex Wilkie, Professor of Design, sociologist of Science and Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London and Visiting at CareNet, and Sarah Pennington, Lecturer in Design at Goldsmiths.

The seminar will be held, virtually and in person, on Thursday, July 6 at 10:30 h (CEST) in Room 101 of the Research Hub (Building C).


Research Hub (Building C - Room 101)
Rambla del Poblenou, 154
08018 Barcelona


06/07/2023 10.30h

Organized by

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, IN3's Care and Preparedness in the Network Society (CareNet) research group



This research seminar on aesthetics and care at the intersections of design and STS research features presentations by Alex Wilkie and Sarah Pennington.

Recently, the problematic of the aesthetic has begun to proliferate in unexpected areas of inquiry ignoring the bifurcations and abstractions of modern science. In times of anthropogenic climate crisis and mass extinction on the one hand, and increased dependency on ‘technoscientific’ deliverance on the other, Alfred North Whitehead’s (2004 [1920]) diagnosis of the bifurcation of nature takes on new relevance and urgency. Here, new ways of thinking and doing aesthetics as a more-than human condition of existence opens up the very real and concrete possibility that aesthetic processes and capacities are not the preserve of privileged human actors – such as artists, architects, designers and their audiences or users – nor do they simply concern the beautiful and the sublime. Although philosophers of science, notably Isabelle Stengers and Bruno Latour, have taken up the challenges posed by the bifurcation of nature and its implications for understanding and thinking with scientific practices and knowledge production, less attention has been paid to its corollary for aesthetic practices and processes. Meanwhile, in the face of new cosmological possibilities and cosmopolitics (Stengers 2005) engendered by epochal propositions, such as the Anthropocene (Crutzen 2002), Capitalocene (Moore 2015) or Chthulucene (Haraway 2015), there is a demand for new ways of thinking and feeling, new knowledge and aesthetic practices beyond the bifurcation of nature that engendered modern science and its aesthetic mirror image. In this talk, Alex Wilkie, will discuss more-than human aesthetics, its relation to the move from matters of concern to matters of care and provide conceptual and methodological pointers as to how design and STS scholars might incorporate a generalised aesthetics into their research practices.

Staying with the shift from matters of concern to matters of care, Sarah Pennington will discuss the implications of this move using the outcomes of her recent thesis located in Design-STS. Certain design research practices, including those that Sarah has been involved with historically, have been preoccupied with design that opens-up complex issues, or matters of concern (Latour, 2004). Arguably then, the recent problematisation of concern with matters of care from feminist STS scholars, notably Puig de la Bellacasa (2011, 2017), has implications for such design research practices conceived as issue-gathering, speculative and inventive problem-making (Michael, 2012). At the same time, the question of care in design is almost a given, it is a core assumption, and yet on closer analysis what is understood as care in design is not only diverse, but underdeveloped. In response to this, Sarah will first introduce a typology of five ‘care-politics’ made as a conceptual device to detect different versions of care that instantiate and operate in design practice and its outcomes. Organising different enactments of care also contributes to the debate on what is meant by care (Mol, 2010; Martin et al., 2015). The typology is then applied through a case study of the practical search for a speculative design research device, lost since its deployment in a care home in York, UK. Using empirical material, Sarah argues that a sensibility of matters of care brings about new ways of working with and doing ethics in design practice; and proposes a methodological addition of ‘inventive ethics’ to thicken processes of inventive problem-making in design research.

Sarah Pennington

Lecturer in Design at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her doctoral thesis, ‘Care-politics in Design: Towards an Inventive Feminist Research Practice’, explores how a sensitisation to matters of care in design practice and research might operate in and amongst other versions of care. Sarah’s research interests include more-than human care, speculative practice and the implications of feminist technoscience for practice-based design research, human computer interaction design, as well as inventive and creative methods. From 2000 to 2015 Sarah worked as a researcher in human-computer interaction design with the Interaction Research Studio, and she has been teaching undergraduate and postgraduate design at Goldsmiths since 2015.

Alex Wilkie

Professor of Design and a sociologist of Science and Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His research interests locate various articulations between design, human computer interaction and science and technology studies (STS) where he is exploring more-than human aesthetics, speculative thought and future making practices, studio studies, public engagement with science and technology and inventive methods. His publications include ‘Studio Studies: Operations, Topologies & Displacements’ (Routledge, 2015), ‘Speculative Research: The Lure of Possible Futures’ (Routledge, 2018) and ‘Inventing the Social’ (Mattering Press, 2018). With Melanie Sehgal, he is in the final stages of producing the edited collection ‘More-than Human Aesthetics: Ventures Beyond the Bifurcation of Nature’ (Bristol University Press, forthcoming) and collaborating with Mike Michael on a monograph on Design & STS (Bloomsbury, forthcoming). Alex is also series editor, also with Mike Michael, of Dis-positions: Troubling Methods and Theory in STS, for Bristol University Press.