This workshop will bring together and explore the principles and practices of design future and speculative design applied to the context of biotechnology and synthetic biology.
There is significant ecological pressure and economic and social value in radically transforming many industries to be more sustainable. From architecture, materials, energy, communication, transport, waste management, food, and more, the possibilities of a future bioeconomy are repeatedly forecast to be disruptive and revolutionary. However, such a revolution cannot be fully explored by tech-centric developments in science and engineering alone.
This workshop will provide the students with an introduction to rapidly emerging biotechnologies while simultaneously teaching them to engage in design thinking. In a highly practice-based learning environment, students will work both individually and collaboratively on activities that will directly engage them in the course's core teachings, which will be reflected in a single assessment requirement.
- Develop a critical awareness of biodesign in the context of technological progress, ecological sophistication, and user experience.
- Develop skills in interdisciplinary thinking and research.
- Develop skills in speculative design founded on genuine trends in synthetic biology and biotechnology.
- Develop awareness around conventional techno-centric futuring and confidence to challenge this creatively.
- Undertake advanced reflective practice and understand the importance of this.
- Gain exposure to contemporary biodesign today, both in academia and industry.
Day 1 Sessions
Intro to Biodesign
This one-hour session will run as an online live lecture followed by a class discussion via the Teams online chat. This session will meet SLOs 1, 2. This session will provide:
- An introduction to the critical vocabulary of biodesign
- An understanding of 'products versus systems' and user experience
- An introduction to the field of synthetic biology
What is Good and Bad Biodesign?
This forty-five-minute session will run as an online activity in which students will be introduced to existing contemporary biodesign work. Students will vote on their preferences for the different works presented and justify their choices, prompting critical thinking and confidence to participate in later group work. This session will meet SLOs 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. This session will provide:
- An understanding of speculative design versus false assumptions
- An understanding of the importance of iteration and user experience
- Exposure to what other students and practitioners are doing in this space
- An opportunity to critically engage in design future
******15 min break*****
Speed Book Club
This one-hour session will run as an online activity, in which students will be divided into groups. Students will select one item off the recommended reading list and explore it together using Miro's collaborative online tool. Instructors will move between the Teams group calls to facilitate the activity. This session will meet SLOs 1, 2, 4, 5. This session will provide:
- An opportunity for deeper engagement with relevant material and consultation with experts through this process
- An opportunity to engage in active (instead of passive) learning
- An opportunity to present their learning to the class
Day 2 Sessions
Intro to Design Thinking
This one-hour session will run as an online live lecture, followed by a class discussion via online chat. This session will meet SLOs 1, 2, 6. This session will provide:
- An understanding of the theory of design thinking
- Tools for developing a design philosophy for facing systems thinking and complex problems
- An understanding of what design can do for the development of disruptive technologies
Rapid Biodesign Project
This two-hour session will run as an online activity, in which students will be divided into groups. Students will work through a guided exercise in Miro, in which they are presented with a (bio)design problem to improve through iteration. Students will be guided to set up their breaks throughout the session. Instructors will move between the group calls to facilitate progress through the activity and answer questions. Instructors will assess this activity at the end of the course. This session will meet SLOs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This session will provide:
- An opportunity to practice design thinking
- An opportunity to critically reflect on existing biodesign work
- A chance to practice empathy in design
- Access to feedback to enrich and solidify learning
Bait and Switching
This one-hour session will run as an online live lecture in a Microsoft Teams call, followed by a class discussion via online chat. This session will meet SLOs 1, 3, 4, 6. This session will provide:
- An introduction to 'drop-in replacements'
- An opportunity to engage in critical thinking
- An introduction to multi-level biodesign through TEK: traditional ecological knowledge
New Territories – New Methods
This two-hour session will run as an online activity, in which students will be divided into groups. Students will work through a guided exercise in Miro. They will have the opportunity to use dramaturgy tools to engage in diagesis to iterate their assessment and make final improvements to it. Students will be guided to set up their breaks throughout the session. Instructors will move between the group calls to facilitate progress through the activity and answer questions. This session will meet SLOs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. This session will provide:
- An opportunity to explore diagesis in speculative design
- A chance to practice user experience centered design
- Access to instructor feedback to enrich and solidify learning
- A chance to improve their first attempt at the assessment
On Day 2, students will be introduced to the assessment and guided through the design process to attempt it as a group. Students will be given an existing biodesign and will be expected to use the tools and knowledge delivered to improve the design's fundamental flaws or gaps. Students will be encouraged to loosely restrict their creativity and are encouraged to move away from the original biodesign significantly were appropriate. On Day 3, students will be provided with additional knowledge to iterate this design further, allowing them to gain feedback from the instructors and the chance to implement it. The assessment will be submitted as a written component (800-1000 words). It should include references to the course readings and an oral part, recorded as a 5-7-minute Teams presentation and submitted in .mp4 format.
- Clear and meaningful use of references relevant to the course content
- Well written and structured written component that is of academic caliber and contains a reflective quality
- Demonstrated ability to use the tools learned to iterate the biodesign in an original way
- Engaging and well summarised oral presentation that demonstrates diagesis
- A capability to critically contextualize the biodesign regarding user experience and ecological sophistication
Jestin George is an interdisciplinary biotechnology researcher and educator at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and is a freelance artist. Jestin’s research has spanned plants, mammalian cells, and microalgal biotech systems across universities in South Africa, the UK, and Australia. Her recently submitted Ph.D. thesis explores genetic engineering approaches for realizing the microalga, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, for synthetic biology and biotech applications. In 2018, Jestin was a member of the executive committee of Synthetic Biology Australasia and worked towards advancing communication within the synthetic biology community. In 2019, Jestin pioneered the first Biodesign Challenge course at UTS, introducing undergraduate design students to the world of biotechnology. She has delivered guest lectures at universities, including The Cooper Union School of Art in New York. Her collaborative work with artists and designers continues to explore, imagine, and critique biotechnological futures. Jestin is an active member of the synthetic biology community in Australia, contributing to delivering the first Australian-based synthetic biology student competition in 2020.
Mark Liu is a fashion and textile designer focused on advancing fashion design by applying scientific principles to traditional techniques. His Ph.D. research developed the new field of "Non-Euclidean Fashion Patternmaking". Mark is an acknowledged pioneer in Zero-Waste Fashion design in London's sustainable fashion movement, which resulted from his master's research in Textiles Futures at Central Saint Martins College. Mark ran a Zero-Waste Fashion label for several years and has exhibited in Estethica at London Fashion Week for many seasons. The Ethical Fashion Forum awarded his fashion label the Innovation Award. His work bridging the gap between fashion and science has been showcased at the London Science Museum. Mark's commissions have taken him worldwide, including representing the British Council in a sustainable fashion show in New Delhi and creating collections for the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art in Korea. His work has been exhibited in museums in the UK, US, China, India, Korea, Amsterdam, and Denmark and has been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, books, publications, and blogs.
Nahum McLean is a design Ph.D. student at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), a freelance designer and maker. Nahum's research is practice-based and focuses on using readily available ingredients and processes. Nahum seeks to answer the question: how can sustainable materials be developed in preparation for a range of possible futures? Nahum has worked for some of the leading Australian fashion houses as a drape based designer and patternmaker. His knowledge of materiality, fabric handle, and drape has equipped him to evaluate sustainable materials and imagine potential uses for these materials.
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