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Free University of Bozen-Bolzano

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Research Cluster: Enable – Design and Art Competences, Material Culture and Human Development


Reference problems

Our societies are undergoing deep transformations already from begin of the 21st century on. They are either driven by an uncontrolled dialectics or by a mixture of good intentions, well thought out plans and careful interventions. Focusing on “megatrends” and “great challenges” is therefore important for any constructive shaping or re-designing approach.

Be it individualization, globalization, digitalization and urbanization or global environmental change (GEC),  uncertainty and risk and the sustainability issue of intra- and intergenerational justice – these much debated topics need to be addressed also scientifically, across all disciplines. Consequently, they can function as well as central reference problems of our research. On this background there are to recognize three tasks:

  1. Reflecting about the meaning of contemporary mega-trends and great challenges for design and art as professional practice, as well as for teaching and learning art and design competences. Mega-trends and great challenges are essential issues that need to be addressed by design and art practice but they are simultaneously the driving forces of the reconfiguration of our working conditions, with shifted contradictions as well as novel opportunities.
  2. Researching about capacities of design and art to intervene in on-going processes of societal change, especially with concern to the dialectics of symbolic and material culture, the mediating role of artifacts and virtual objects, and our opportunities to construct and to shape the “seamless web” of culture and nature.
  3. Experimenting with and developing of methods that are promising either for unfolding design and art competences themselves as well as for applying them in other, not academic, settings. Here, the effective contribution of design and art competences to work upon the aforementioned trends and challenges is dependent last not least to the whole pattern of division of expert labour and social differentiation that is characteristic for modern societies and some of their central contradictions.

Research streams

Sufficient methodological variety is an essential necessity for our research cluster. Therefore, we decided to identify three distinct research streams.

  1. Theoretical research: Reflecting about paradigms and approaches (like the European Knowledge-based Economy and Society) as well as about epistemological and methodological issues (like Constructivism and ANT).
  2. Empirical research: Using descriptive and inquisitive methods on the background of analytic and hermeneutic approaches (mostly qualitative but also quantitative).
  3. Practice oriented research: Working with and about experimental settings, in different learning respectively labouring environments (R&D, innovative practices).

They are intended to give valuable orientation while planning concrete research projects (that could then mix them up, adapt them, and integrate them). They can do so because there are intrinsic links between them and our areas of research. Nevertheless, in principle they count as independent and could stand for themselves.

Research areas

  1. [The enabling role of:] Designerly and Artistic Competences in Organizational Learning, Participation and Transformative Leadership.
  2. [The mediating function of:] Constructed Artifacts and Virtual Objects within the Dialectics of Advancing Symbolical and Material Cultures.
  3. [The catalytic effect within:] The Interplay of Sustainability Strategies and Design Principles as Pragmatic and Aesthetic Ideas.
  4. [The essential nature of:] Creativity within Processes of Teaching and Learning, Community-Building and Human Development.

Coordinator: Andreas Metzner-Szigeth

Team: Antonino BenincasaLetizia Bollini, Gianluca CamilliniGiorgio Camuffo, German Duarte, Andrea Facchetti, Marc Herbst,  Ingrid Kofler, Eva Leitolf, Elisabeth TauberGerda Videsott