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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Postgraduate Course: dLab(2): Design for Technical Change (DESI11106)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis Design Lab (dLab) interrogates the complex challenges and issues contemporary societies face that are technical in nature. Drawing directly from issue-based themes from the RCUK Global Challenges Areas and the UN's Global Goals, each year a particular area is identified for critical examination through design-led interventions, leading to propositions and prototyping of alternative futures interrogating the impact that the relentless pace of technological change and development, in various forms, has on the lives of individuals and their communities of practice.
Course description More big data, delivered even faster; so much electronic waste; robotic factories making traditional work and skills redundant; cars that drive themselves. What is the real influence and impact of new technologies on the future lives of people and communities? As some believe we are approaching a singular consciousness with the machine, and technological progress accelerating at a rate where people and communities struggle to adapt, what is the human cost? A human centred approach to technology (rather than a technology-centred approach to humans) is the heart of dLab(2): Design for Technical Change, where we interrogate and speculate on dystopic, technical futures through design-led methods, communicating new insights and deep understanding regarding the relationship between human needs and our capacity to absorb accelerated technological progress.

In dLab(2): Design for Technical Change, we place speculative and critical practices at the heart of understanding that technologies mediate much of our lives, and by doing so establish sets of technical rules in order to engage the world accordingly. This studio course examines our relationships and interactions under these technical rules, to examine how new rules and technological relationships might be constructed and enacted, leading away from dystopic futures towards new utopias, for better, healthier and more balanced interaction between people and the machines and technology which are continually finding their ways into our lives.

dLab(2) studio themes are drawn directly from the Global Challenges debates - the UN Global Goals and the RCUK Global Challenge areas provide insights into the selected themes. Through coursework teaching design-centred practices through issue-based contexts, you'll learn to analyse the circumstances, synthesize findings in a designerly way, and evaluate, with others, successful pathways leading to preferential change within the identified theme. Speculative and critical practices are at the heart of our approach, to examine how new relationships and interactions can be constructed and enacted, through strategies of intervention, leading to the development and dissemination of future narratives and scenarios communicating to our concerned audience. Communication and reflection are key components of design practice which we foster throughout coursework over the semester.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs The nature of studio courses is such that there is reasonable expectation of materials being consumed and deployed in the development of prototypes, models, and visualisations (including printing). For this course, a reasonable expectation is that students may spend an average of £50, but these costs vary significantly across individual projects and with students' choices of materials involved with project execution.
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 33, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 163 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) This course has 2 components of assessment.

Component 1 (40%): a visual submission with supporting text (1500 words) outlining examination and synthesis of findings to the relevant theme of inquiry, which establishes a future direction for the remainder of the studio coursework. Submitted Week 6

Component 2 (60%) : a final series of visualisations, prototypes, models, or other related work which concretises the student's proposition for change through design, including written text (2000 words) supporting the students' evaluation and reflection of their intended design-led change, and the communicative potential associated with their work. Submitted Week 13.

LOs map to both components of assessment and are equally weighted.
Component 1 contributes to 40% of final grade
Component 2 contributes to 60% of final grade

Feedback In week 6, a group formative feedback event is held where each student delivers a visual presentation to their fellow students and teaching/research staff, summarising their written submission from Component 1, enabling internal examiners to provide audio-captured verbal formative feedback regarding project scope, direction and future engagement leading to deeper understanding of requirements for component 2.

Further formative feedback is regularly provided through the course. This takes a variety of forms, including verbally through group and individual meetings where work and ideas are discussed with both peers and tutor.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. articulate discoveries of novel design-led insights in the technical domain through primary and secondary sources
  2. construct arguments through evidence derived from practices of synthesis, demonstrating their capacity to re-structure insights from existing circumstances leading to proposals for novel technical change
  3. display professional standards of communicating using a range of methods and modalities, including a variety of texts, images and objects, either alone or in combination
  4. reflect on strengths and weaknesses of design-driven project proposals, through comparing and contrasting against other possible outcomes available
Reading List
Heidegger, M., & Lovitt, W. (1982). The question concerning technology, and other essays (First Harper Perennial edition). New York: HarperCollins Publishers
Labov, W. (1972). The Transformation of Experience in Narrative Syntax. In Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English Vernacular (pp. 354-396). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Papanek, V. J. (1985). Design for the real world: human ecology and social change (Second edition, completely revised..). London: Thames and Hudson.
Bleeker, J. (2009). Design Fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction. Online at

Ellul, J. (1965). The technological society. London: Cape.
Liberati, N. (2016). Technology, Phenomenology and the Everyday World: A Phenomenological Analysis on How Technologies Mould Our World. Human Studies, 39(2), 189¿216.
Mavhunga, C. C. (2017). What do science, technology, and innovation mean from Africa? Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
Marcuse, H. (1968). One dimensional man. London: Sphere.
Mocnik, F.-B. and D. Fairbairn (2017). "Maps Telling Stories?" The Cartographic Journal 55(1): 36-57.
Schumacher, E. F. (Ernst F. (1973). Small is beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered. London: Blond and Briggs.

Martin, B., & Hanington, B. M. (2012). Universal methods of design : 100 ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions. Osceola: Rockport Publishers.
Schwartz, P. (1992). The art of the long view: scenario planning: protecting your company against an uncertain future. London: Century Business.
Ramírez, R., & Wilkinson, A. (2016). Strategic Reframing: The Oxford Scenario Planning Approach. Oxford University Press.
Ferronato, P., Ruecker, S., & Scaletsky, C. (2017). The use of intuition during scenario building activities in design projects. The Design Journal, 20(sup1), 4575¿4583.
Sanders, E. B.-N., & Stappers, P. J. (2014). Probes, toolkits and prototypes: three approaches to making in codesigning. CoDesign, 10(1), 5¿14. https://
Fulton Suri, J., & Marsh, M. (2000). Scenario building as an ergonomics method in consumer product design. Applied Ergonomics, 31(2), 151¿157.

Recommended Viewing
James Burke. (n.d.). Connections: An Alternative View of Technology. (EP1 - The Trigger Effect). The Internet Archive (BBC). Retrieved from
Hamer, B., Calmeyer, J., Norström, T., Brynolfsson, R., & Floberg, B. (2004). Kitchen stories (Salmer fra kjøkkenet). London: ICA Projects.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Be open to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking
Be able to identify processes and strategies for learning
Be ready to ask key questions and exercise rational enquiry
Search for, evaluate and use information to develop their knowledge and understanding
Be able to respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts
Be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues
Special Arrangements Course only available to students on MA Design For Change programme
Keywordsdesign,issue-based design,strategic change,critical futures,technical innovation,global challenges
Course organiserDr Arno Verhoeven
Tel: (0131 6)51 5808
Course secretaryMiss Emili Astrom
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