Elastic transformations within the production of knowledge through art and design

Ms. Bettina Bruder (UNSW)
2016 Conference

On the basis of ‘situated knowledges’ (Haraway, 1988), I argue that research and education in art and design may trigger a shift in conventional ways of knowledge production. On the one side, traditional approaches in knowledge making are guided by aspects of economic efficiency, convenience and scientific rationality privileging a certain kind of cultural development that rules out potentials for differently informed advancements. On the other side, the intricacy of current challenges that human kind is facing in the form of ‘wicked problems’ (Rittel and Webber, 1973) requires alternative approaches different than established research agendas ruled by financial, administrative and commercial constraints.
In the light of wicked entanglements and the respective partiality of knowledge, my research aims to foster alternative understandings by providing a toolkit with manipulated measuring devices for the reconfiguration of meaning drawing on the work of Barad (2007). Her inquiry is associated with New Materialism, a material-semiotic approach focussing on physical, situational, implicit and performative qualities. The measuring devices and Tools for Alternative Understandings were developed within my research under the postulate of Elastic Design—a proposed extension of speculative design driven by the principle of elasticity as a thought-provoking strategy acting in a ‘push-pull dynamic’ (Hayles, 2001). This dynamism describes the enabling of alternatives versus the constraining of conceptual spaces within knowledge production. The paper discusses elasticity within design education by means of two exemplatory tools—reconfigured spirit levels and rearranged graph paper. Both devices are used within a pedagogical and constructional context explicating their reconfiguring capacity.


Barad, K. (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and The Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

Haraway, D. (1988) ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,’ Feminist Studies 14, no. 3, pp. 575–599.

Hayles, K. (2001) ‘Desiring Agency: Limiting Metaphors and Enabling Constraints in Dawkins and Deleuze/Guattari,’ SubStance  30, no. 1, pp.144-159.

Rittel, H. and Webber, M. (1973) ‘Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning’ Policy Sciences 4, pp. 155–169.

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About the author



Bettina Bruder studied Communication Design in Germany and received her MFA in Design & Technology at Parsons, School of Design. She worked as lecturer and guest professor at the University for Applied Sciences in Salzburg. Before her PhD candidature at UNSW in Art & Design, she worked as Senior Art Director for a global corporation. This cross-disciplinary experience informs her current art practice. Bruder’s research investigates the potential for change and adaptation within human understanding through the concept of elasticity with the objective to develop critical and sensitive articulations, which are occasioned through practice-based explorations, interventions, artefacts and installations.