Art + Design Visitors Series: Jennifer Roberts-Smith, "Performative Relationality in Design Research"

Thu - 10.29.2020 - 5:30 PM

The argument has been made that prototyping always has a performative element. It has also been said that an interesting approach to the design of human-computer interfaces is to think of them as a form of theatre. These are both useful perspectives to take. However, the relationship between performance and design research presents a much richer area for exploration. In community-driven projects, for example, performativity can help a research process respond to emerging relationships among collaborators. In this talk, I will discuss how “performative relationality” has been emerging as a new design research method in Theatre for Relationality and Design for Peace. In these two projects, the design research experience has itself been prototypical and iterative, prioritizing equality of relationship among research participants though the process of producing reusable knowledge. “Performative relationality” draws on pre-established research protocols as needed, but its emergent, “grounded” approach to research experience design makes existing methods responsive to the changing contingencies of complex collaborative projects.

Dr. Jennifer Roberts-Smith (Associate Professor, Theatre and Performance, University of Waterloo) is an award-winning artist-researcher, whose collaborative, transdisciplinary work explores performance, digital media, history, education, and social justice. She has been instrumental in securing the place of performance-informed scholarship in the digital humanities,  including through the design of virtual historical reconstructions, pedagogical games, and justice-oriented digital pedagogical environments. JRS is currently a co-director of the qCollaborative (the critical feminist design research lab housed in the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute), as well as the SSHRC-funded Theatre for Relationality and Design for Peace projects. She is also creative director and virtual reality development cluster lead for the Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation (DOHR) project. Recent publications have focused methods for design research that deepen interdisciplinary understanding (Prototyping Across the Disciplines, forthcoming in 2020) and take a relational approach (“Relational Presence”, JITP 2020, “Theatre for Relationality: a Relational Approach to Design Research”, forthcoming in 2021). Her work has been supported by SSHRC, MITACS, the Canada Council for the Arts, the government of Ontario, and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

School of Art + Design Visitors Committee