Hacking the Research Fabric

Hacking the Research fabric
Designing Spaces for Intimate Dialogue

Published in Insight 2018, National Institute of Design


'Talking about it hurts, but we need to talk about it. It helps to talk.'
Señorita Benita, La Preciosita. 

Design is often misunderstood as a product or innovation driven discipline, and design research needs to be unearthed like many other domains that come under the same umbrella. I’ve been focusing on alternative research techniques, with my practice, to engage in social systems and amalgamate the tangible and intangible aspects of everyday life. For my field research in México, I interrogated the impact of migration and displacement on the women, primarily. With this project, La Fabula de las Faldas, I was looking at employing design and design thinking to develop a medium through which I can indulge in a deeper conversation and get introduced to the nuanced impact of displacement on the smaller towns and communities of México. I wanted to use design to build a connection and learn more about a community that's unfamiliar to me while questioning, how does a migrant’s journey impact the women in their lives?

Journey and relationship mapping are traditional techniques that we recycle from time to time but we hardly critic our processes. With this project, I realised the need to evolve our research methodologies to make them more culturally relevant and significant. Design holds the capability to start the conversation between strangers, in a way where they exchange not just their perspectives but also discover stories that are needed to be shared. Where on one hand we can design a workshop, on the other hand it is important to recognise the significance of the field context, material engagement, and emotion to create a space that is turns a researcher into an observer, an interviewer to a listener, and a stranger to a family member. 

The language and approach of this paper is intentionally personal and used to assert the need of an intimate approach in documenting design methods and research tools. As authors we often highlight the quantitive facet of a research, but lack in understanding and expressing the qualitative aspects of our practice. This paper is an attempt to highlight and define alternate research, along with the significance of ‘learning from the context’.