(Publication) The Rhetoric of Design for Debate: triggering conversation with an “uncanny enough” artefact

Mollon, M., & Gentes, A. (2014). The Rhetoric of Design for Debate: triggering conversation with an “uncanny enough” artefact (pp. 1–13). Presented at the Proceedings of the Design Research Society International Consortium (DRS), Umeå, Sweden.
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More info: http://www.drs2014.org/en/presentations/411/


Design exploration research refers to various interaction design research practices that explore tensions issued from the interplay of science, technology, culture and society. Most of them explicitly trigger discussions and debates in the audience, for instance “critical design”, which raised the interest of members of design research communities. However its generalization suffers from a lack of shareable methodology. This paper aims at clarifying it practically and theoretically.
We claim that these practices trigger people’s reactions using a specific narrative strategy which provoke an “uncanny feeling”. By producing “uncanny enough” artefacts that embed a subtle entanglement of familiarity and unfamiliarity, designers can elicit responses from viewers. First, a review of literature on critical design texts presents the “uncanny balance” as being a recurrent design principle for the creation of these artefacts. We then present an exemplary case study produced by one of the authors, exploring communication technology—called Dog&Bone. Using classical rhetoric, we present a theoretical overview of the project. The outcome consists of a conceptual framework based on the narrative dimension of the uncanny plus the rhetorical dimension (composed of three elements: legitimacy, emotions, argumentation). We conclude that Design is a form of communication between designers and their audience.


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Dog&Bone, The Empathetic Telephone