The 45th City: Visualizing and Experiencing Fake News

Jonathan Hanahan
Assistant Professor, Communication Design
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Washington University in St. Louis

Fake news is a problem created by designers. It is a problem of aesthetics, not simply content or substance. Attempts to clarify the way information from any source is rendered in the walled gardens of our social media platforms—where reportedly 62% of American adults get news information—have homogenized the visual representation of all content, reliable or not.

This presentation discusses an ongoing research project—titled The 45th City—which investigates the role that design plays in the current fake news epidemic, epitomized by the recent election of the 45th President of the United States. The project explores speculative ways of visualizing both reliable and unreliable news websites through the physicalization of code into 3D artifacts. It inquires on a real world implication of the legitimization of such entities and encourages audiences to occupy, investigate, and contemplate their relationship to digital infrastructure beyond the thin veneer of their devices.

This series of large scale 3D artifacts along with corresponding digital renderings will be on view at The Luminary in St. Louis, MO in September 2017 and the pinkcomma gallery in Boston, MA in early 2018.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 4.1: San Jose State on Saturday, Sept 30, 2017.

Developing Agency in Art and Design

Mitch Goldstein
Assistant Professor
School of Design 
Rochester Institute of Technology

As the bar for entry to art and design becomes lower, it is easier than ever for anyone to call themselves a “creative.” One way to separate ourselves from the dilettantes is by creating a sense of agency as makers and thinkers — understanding who we are, how and why we act within our chosen fields, and what our criticisms of art and design are. Art and design school is an intense experience, where students are exposed to dramatic shifts in social, environmental, and intellectual contexts. Educators must help our students navigate these new realities, while also assisting in their development into future artists and designers. We must educate our students to move past trends and superficial technical acumen, into a more inquisitive, exploratory, and critical approach to creative practice. Developing agency informs how a student can approach creative inquiry, and how they can process and manifest work within their creative practice. This presentation will examine projects, outcomes, and critical frameworks used to teach agency.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.0: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) on Saturday, Sept 24, 2016.

Design Criticism in Search of a Platform

Dr. Gaia Scagnetti
Assistant Professor
Graduate Communication Design
Pratt Institute

By definition criticism presents negative connotations. In philosophical terms, criticism is not an action but a method of systematic analysis of a written, oral and visual discourse. It involves merit recognition and it means a methodical practice of doubt. Design criticism has had a short life story and never reached the popularity of Architecture or Art criticism, Film or Literary criticism. Probing design work is perceived as a threat, especially in a time when liking is the expected way of supporting peers both within and outside of social networks. To like and express appreciation for the work of others is a consolidated strategy to get noticed and welcomed in a community of practice, especially among the young generation.

Support is rarely shown through critical encouragement and is mostly communicated through unconditional recommendations; endorsement is seen as a currency to be exchanged regardless of the intrinsic value of a certain production. The problem gets exacerbated by the platforms we use to contribute to disciplinary conversations: symposia, conferences, talks are now always recorded and publicly streamed. This public exposure does not support attempts to make critical analyses; streaming is an opportunity for advertising others or yourself, your connections and your relevancy. Public speeches are opportunities to create connections the so called shoutout to other projects, friends or celebrities. In a time where positivity is the currency nobody wants to practice doubt.

We can consider the process of criticism to be equivalent to making strategic decisions it is a part of how we govern ourselves. Strategies are rarely discussed out in the public, but within a dedicated environment where the social rules of conduct are made explicit and intentions are shared. Similarly, design criticism should be fostered and cultivated within purposebuilt platforms. Design criticism needs a home more than ever. Analysing, considering or dissecting design discourse is a contribution to the politics of truth and criticism is the art of not being governed quite so much.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.1: Pratt Institute, Graduate Communications Design on Saturday, October 24, 2015.