select research questions:What are the ways we can leverage the history of experience design in corporate settings to reconceptualize and re-situate these practices towards design for social good? What does a design curriculum that’s aimed at restorative justice instead of economic sustainability look like? If wicked designs are, by their very definitions, unsolvable, how do we know we’ve made a difference?
The first decade of my research work was defined by the desire to speak to non-designers about design. Much of this work took place with digital humanities scholars working on wicked problems in design. In the 1960s, Rittel and Webber proposed the idea of wicked problems to challenge the notion that design problems are linear, with the proposed solution following a process of research and investigation. In contrast, they describe a class of social system problems common to designers, which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing. While my commitment to interdisciplinarity hasn’t wavered, my focus has shifted away from research focused on tools for academic scholars, and towards the kind of wickedness that comes from unwavering engagement with social, cultural, and political consciousness. Given our (local, national, and international) social and political climates (for example, the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville; the deadly gender-based attack in Toronto; the groundswells of resistance around the globe; the systemic removal of human rights protections for LGBTTIIQQ, women, and people of colour; and the outcry over the verdict in the Gerald Stanley trial), MRU’s 2025 Strategic Plan and the Indigenous Strategic Plan 2016-2021; and calls from my own discipline to become more critical and engaged, I am currently exploring design’s role in actively and responsibly contributing to Indigenous initiatives; the ways we can implement an ethics of care and reciprocity to mitigate the violence, harm, and precariousness of design; and methods for leveraging corporate systems and knowledge for social good.
One of the interdisciplinary projects that I am actively pursuingaims to investigate GPC-Enabled Place-Based Storytelling. This project examines the affordances of mobile mapping for collaborative place-based storytelling, with the following objectives: (a) build on existing open digital tools to develop a mobile application that would allow collaborative in situannotation of a map of British Columbia; (b) test the efficacy of this application in terms of its affordances for place-based education, and (c) mobilize the understandings gleaned from this work to academic and non-academic audiences through presentations, conferences and workshops.
2019 SSHRC Insight Development Fund. GPS-Enabled Collaborative Place-Based Storytelling. (Co-app). PI Teresa Dobson (UBC). Total requested from SSHRC: $75,000 (applied).