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Ilka Staudinger


Thema der Dissertation

Material Weight: The Agency of Designed Things in the Context of Corporate Social Responsibility

The aim of my doctoral research is to understand the different roles played by designed things within Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. Designed things can play a largely rhetorical role, or can be active catalysts for change. Using Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as a theoretical lens, I hope to enable a better understanding of the ways that designed things within CSR initiatives contribute to public perception and expectation, as well as to the accomplishment of social and environmental good.

CSR constitutes a murky ethical terrain. It has sometimes been critiqued as distracting from, rather than addressing, the negative externalities generated by established industrial and commercial processes. Initiatives such as the purchase of electric vehicles for a company fleet may seem to deliver marginal good when set against the carbon footprint of the corporation as a whole. However to dismiss CSR in this way misses the complex nature of change, and the potential for apparently insignificant shifts to set in train significant reconfiguration.

My research draws on ANT to understand the role of designed things as agents within CSR. This theoretical approach focuses the research on relationships between things, as opposed to the action of things in isolation.

The theoretical understandings that I arrive at through my engagement with ANT, will inform a series of practice-based design explorations. These experimental approaches to visualisation will contribute to the communication of the complex agency of designed things and to understanding their role in shaping ethical dispositions – i.e., our (individual and corporate) orientation to issues.

My PhD is being conducted as a ‘Joint Doctoral Degree’ with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) as my home university and the University of Wuppertal (BUW) as my partner university. I am supervised by Dr. Susan Stewart from the School of Design at UTS, and Prof. Dr. Brigitte Wolf from the Faculty Design and Art at BUW.

Aktuelle Tätigkeit