We are living in the midst of a digital transformation of society. As digital technologies enhance and in some cases, replace human judgement and activities, what is the role of the designer? What new knowledge and skills does the designer of today and tomorrow need to anticipate and guide this transformation towards desirable outcomes? A new European research project led by TU Delft, Fundamentals of Design Competence for Our Digital Future (or DCODE for short), aims to tackle these very questions through a pioneering research training programme.
This Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) brings together a European consortium of seven higher education institutes (including the University of Umeå and the University of Edinburgh) with Philips Design Innovation and stakeholders from industry, government and civil society. This consortium will train 15 PhD students in design, anthropology, media studies, science and technology studies and computer science, and equip them with the knowledge and skills needed for envisioning, designing and prototyping product service systems that are powered by Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The focus of the research training will be on those steps in design where a digital transformation of society is the effect of sustained and repeated interaction with data-driven product services and the broader systems of algorithmic logic, value and governance in which they get embedded.
To advance the field of design, DCODE demands a postdisciplinary approach and the integration of key research themes from engineering, humanities and social sciences. Small groups of PhD students from different disciplinary backgrounds, known as prototeams, will work in real-world contexts to develop and prototype future design roles and practices, and the scientific knowledge needed to support them.
DCODE saw off competition from more than a thousand other research proposals, scoring exceptionally high in this competitive Excellent Science European scheme with 97.4, and placing the proposal in the relative top 3%. DCODE also sees 13 female researchers in a leading role within the consortium, with a balanced gender representation of 50%-50% and a dedicated mentoring programme for female recruits. Elisa Giaccardi comments: “We couldn’t believe the score! It’s a great reflection of the combined work of researchers from across excellent universities. Now that we’ve secured the funding, I’m really looking forward to getting started on this. It’s such an important topic for designers and could be a major advance for our discipline.”