Barbara Adams

United States
PhD in Design, Wesleyan University

Barbara Adams is the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Design at the Center for Pedagogical Innovation at Wesleyan University where she teaches in the Science in Society Program and at the Center for the Study of Public Life. Her interdisciplinary research looks at how knowledge is produced and political action is initiated through art and design projects. She received her PhD in Sociology from the New School for Social Research (NSSR) where her doctoral research was supported by a fellowship from the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography, and Social Thought (GIDEST).

Her current book project is focused on creative and poetic forms of social research and considers how art and design might redirect sociological thinking. She is also working on a manuscript that examines the politics of helping in socially engaged art and design projects. Her publications include the book “Design as Future-Making” and the essay “Centers of Experience: Bodies and Objects in Today’s Museums” in Experience Design. Barbara is co-editor in chief of the journal Design and Culture and an ethnographic researcher at the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab (DESIS Lab).

Keynote: Friday, June 14, 9:15
‘Services are the soft infrastructure of society’

The motivations for practicing service design almost certainly involve the desire to understand the complexity of human situations and to develop capabilities to change existing conditions into preferred ones. Services can be characterised by care just as easily as they can be marked by exploitation. The performances of both service providers and the users of these services generate interactive and relational experiences that connect people to one another and to the world and its artificial infrastructure.

Service designers actively engage these social worlds and, in doing so, are tasked with addressing political, environmental, cultural, and economic challenges. With these issues in mind, Lara Penin will share with you foundational service design principles using project examples from her book ‘An Introduction to Service-Designing the Invisible’ and will situate service design as a reflexive and caring practice that is well-equipped to address complex social situations.

Lara Penin will be joined by Barbara and together, they will offer a reflection on competencies that can support you in exploring and leveraging the central and critical role of front-line service sector labourers through experimentation with methods that foster deep learning and ethical practices.