Author Archives: designerlyways

Research Questions

Questions I am investigating in my dissertation:

  1. How do girls, through their artifact making and designerly practices, story themselves and contribute to technology culture (i.e., what kinds of stories do girls make and tell about girlhood in-interaction-with/against technology)?
  2. What are the impacts and effects of adopting designerly roles (i.e., game designer, media producer, robotics engineer) in terms of developing girls’ ability, confidence, interest, and participation in technology?

Learning : : Thinkering : : Mattering @ 101 Technology Fun—
Girls Designing Games, Media, Robots, Selves & Culture

(working abstract, your feedback is most welcome)

Recent advances in digital media and technology have led to breakthroughs in communication, education, entertainment, health, and learning. Today’s girls, the most avid technology users of any generation, now have widespread access to the most ubiquitous productivity tools in human history. With unprecedented opportunities to live better lives and realize their fullest potential, it is an exciting time for girls to be alive! And yet, despite all the liberating possibilities, many girls are distancing themselves from technology fields, careers, symbolism, and ideologies. Academic and industry research from the past thirty years documents that females continue to be under-represented in technology-related studies and professions, especially the industries that design and develop new technological innovations. How might we empower girls with the confidence, literacies, and tools that are necessary to benefit from and fully participate in advancing our increasingly mediated and technologically dependent society?

My dissertation begins with the premise that engaging girls with hands-on, heads-on, hearts-on, and feet-on experiences as designers and researchers of technology can be personally and culturally transformative in pro-feminist, pro-social, and empowering ways, rather than simply reproducing existing gender and generational roles. 29 co-researchers (girls ages 9-13) and I work closely with UBC faculty, graduate students, and teacher candidates at 101 Technology Fun, a series of intensive research camps offering designerly learning experiences in gaming, media, and robotics for middle school girls. Utilizing creative and participatory approaches to data collection, including design thinking challenges, iLife diaries, and ME documentaries, my study examines: How do girls story themselves through their artifact making and designerly practices? How are diverse cultural constructions of technology adopted, rejected, and remade by girls? What are the impacts and effects of adopting designerly roles in terms of developing girls’ agency, capability, interest, and participation in technology? Analysis of co-researchers’ artifacts, designerly practices, and research reflections are integrated with theoretical and empirical understandings to contribute a working portrait of how contemporary girlhood is constructed in-interaction-with/against technology and stories. Highlighting the need for girls’ voices to be recognized and given influence in educational research, this study exposes some of the gendered risks and opportunities, generational barriers, technical ingenuity, and transformative learning that girls articulate and reflect upon as they design and share artifacts and stories. Findings call for increasing girls’ agency and capability to participate as the designers and innovators of technology such that they can experience or effect more equitable and sustainable technology futures.


De/Constructing + Re/learning Media

There was a child went forth every day
And the first object he looked upon and received
with wonder or pity or love or dread
that object he became…

And these become of him or her that peruses them now
(Walt Whitman, 1855)

Popular media plays a persuasive role in our everyday lives as we make sense of our identities and the media constructed world in and around us. Consider how much of your view of reality is based upon “pre-constructed” media messages that have attitudes, interpretations and conclusions already built in. How do mainstream media affect the ways you see yourself (and others)? How do media advertising convey (explicitly or implicitly) ideological messages about the nature of the “good life”, family values, friendship, citizenship, gender roles, sexual attitudes, body image, sustainability and consumption?

All media are constructions. Media do not simply reflect external reality, rather, they present carefully crafted constructions from which we negotiate meaning and build our picture of reality. It is no secret that we are highly manipulated, gendered, socialized and commercialized by the media— we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. Understanding persuasive and ubiquitous media is vital for participating in our shared world(s), however we spend precious little time analyzing the influencing media messages that we are bombarded with each and every media-saturated day.

As today’s youth are exposed to more mediated messages in one day than their great grandparents were exposed to in an estimated year, how do we educate global citizens and future innovators to be confidently prepared for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life— and not merely conformists or voracious consumers?  True death equals a generation living by unquestioned rules and attitudes, an unthinking generation who produce more and more people who do the same…

Here are a few handpicked ads to deconstruct. Note: they reflect the zeitgeist of the early 1900’s and were not designed with irony or humor.

Douche with Lysol or you will be so utterly repulsive down there that your husband will lose all sexual interest in you and your marriage will fall apart and it will all be your smelly disgusting fault!

Cocaine was sold over the counter and commonly found in products like toothache drops, dandruff remedies and medicinal substances. See how happy your children will play together if you treat them tococaine candies!

And if your dear ones have a cough, cold or any other disease of the throat and lungs, do not worry as a good dose of heroin will save the day! From 1898 through to 1910, heroin was marketed as a cough suppressant by trusted companies like Bayer, alongside the company’s other new product, Aspirin.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrupcontained 65 mg of morphine per fluid ounce for teething children.

“More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarettes,” so of course you should too!

Dr. Batty’s Asthma Cigarettes claimed to provide temporary relief of everything from asthma to colds, canker sores and bad breath, although “not recommended for children under 6.”

Status of Females in IT



Worlding was first popularized by Heidegger in Being and Time (1927). He turned the noun (world) into the active verb (worlding), a gerundive and generative process of world making, world becoming and (as he puts it) world “bringing-near.” For Heidegger, worlding is always meaning giving and already ongoing (i.e. never not worlding); worlding is how we experience a world as familiar; worlding is a determination of Dasein’s being (wherein the world belongs to Daseins’s existential constitution); worlding offers measurable standards of being (both authentic and inauthentic); and worlding is an ongoing process of the thinging world.

In Heidegger’s work, wordling is a difficult negotiation without a tidy definition. Its multifarious and assembling character does not just continue or not end – it is deliberately unmade, a bringing-to-truth that is a disclosing into its own of the “nearest of all nearing that nears” (i.e., there will always be more worlding to take account of). There is not an essentialist, fundamentally superior or universal understanding of worlding that is wholly attainable (i.e., there will always be diverse perspectives and ever more primordial possibilities to consider). Worlding is always already a complex and dynamic assemblage of ever-renewing realities, sensations and perceptions through which we must constantly work our way through to hold open “the Open of the world” (Heidegger, 1971,“The Origin of the Work of Art,” p.45).

Heidegger’s (1971) worlding and thinging are inextricably intertwined for without things that thing, there is no worlding – the thinging of the thing is the worlding of the world: “The world presences by worlding. That means: the world’s worlding cannot be explained by anything else nor can it be fathomed through anything else. This impossibility does not lie in the inability of our human thinking to explain and fathom in this way. Rather, the inexplicable and unfathomable character of the world’s worlding lies in this, that causes and grounds remain unsuitable for the world’s worlding. As soon as human cognition here calls for an explanation, it fails to transcend the world’s nature, and falls short of it” (The Thing, p.179-80).

Importantly, Heidegger stresses that worlding is not of our own making, but rather a matter of responsiveness to particular things: “If we let the thing be present in its thinging from out of the worlding world, then we are thinking of the thing as thing. Taking thought in this way, we let ourselves be concerned by the thing’s worlding being. Thinking in this way, we are called by the thing as the thing. In the strict sense of the German word bedingt, we are the be-thinged, the conditioned ones” (The Thing, p.181).

Heidegger’s (1971) “worlding of the world” is always already revealed within the mirror-play of “the fourfold as One” (das Geviert) wherein the four mirrors of earth, heaven, divinity, and mortality are everywhere reflecting the presence of each other, happening together, enfolded as a unified fourfold-whole: “By a primal oneness, the four – earth and sky, divinities and mortals –belong together in one” (Building Dwelling Thinking, p.149). As such, worlding is a dynamic interplay of referential responsiveness to the immensely dense “fourfold as One” network of associations, in which someone or something has a multitude of possibilities, locations or places to continue to be what it always already is (i.e., its worldliness).

Eighty years after Being and Time, worlding has evolved from its Heideggerian origin in “Dasein’s being” towards a new horizon of “ontological Design” (Fry, 1999); from the tangible “thinging of things” (Heidegger, 1971) to the intangible “televisualizing” (Fry, 1999) and “synthetic reality gaming” (Castronova, 2007).  Wordling has been appropriated many times over, signifying: economic ontology (Thrift, 2008); imperialist processes and the colonial inscription of textuality (Spivak, 1985, 1990); everyday feminist international politics (Pettman, 1996); violences of heteropatriarchy and heteronormativity (Fadem, 2005); proprioception, kinesthesia and touch (Manning, 2007); geopolitical classifications of first, second, third and fourth worlds (OWNO, 2010); first, second and third waves of societal transformation (Toffler, 1980; Doerr, 2010); globalization (de Beer, 2004); global warring (Fry, 1999); prayer (Detweiler, 1995); secularization (Miller, 2009); enfleshment of God in the world (Hemming, 1998); right reciprocity between nature, humans and more-than-humans (Kohak, 1984; Abram, 1996); the socio-biological complexity of human extinction (Costa, 2010); situated practices of cultural studies (Wilson & Connery, 2007); enculturation of true craftsmanship (Risatti, 2007); the aesthetic realization of visual-musical works in new media culture (Rickert & Salvo, 2006); connecting beings together through online social networks (Tech Crunch Network, 2010); design-driven transformation of everyday life by everyday people (Berger, 2008); doing good design for sustainability and social justice (Berman, 2009); growth, development and change by design thinking (Brown, 2009); and designerly ways of teaching and learning (Rusnak, 2010).

Ways of Worlding

My working definition for designerly ways of “worlding” in how we learn connotes an immersive process of deeply embedding design methodology into teaching and learning environments —whereby creativity and design thinking are means of empowerment and transformation— to synergistically connect learners, technologies, ideas and opportunities together to make informed change; to nurture students’ natural desire to design and innovate; and to build sustainable learning futures that have meaning and quality of life for all.

“Learners” are understood as systems thinkers assembling what assembles a world (HWL, 2010); “designerly ways” as how designers think, act, play, be, feel and work; and “worlding” as mindful participation in unfolding worlds within worlds —where world refers to the natural, social, material, virtual or spiritual world, or lifeworld—  necessarily recognizing the interdependence of humanity with the more-than-human worlds that we are in and part of (Abram, 1996). Hence, “designerly ways of worlding” denotes learning through design (of things, events, solutions, communities, identities, futures, etc.) within a supportive community of practice and a range of meaningful contexts in which learners have productive agency to co-create the worlds in and around them (i.e., their design thinking and designerly ways matter) —with intent for developing a sustainable citizenship that joins learning to living in right reciprocal relationships to the worlds of others (and things).

Designerly ways of worlding prepares learners to become “world builders” or leaders of change who take initiative to solve complex problems (including education, health, quality of life, and environment) using design thinking in- interaction- with -technology- and- stories. Learners are actively engaged, individually and collectively, in a design cycle of questioning, investigating, prototyping, evaluating and refining —an iterative feedback loop from which new knowledge grows out of, resolves, and creates design challenges.

Encouraging experimentation, sensible risk taking and moderate uncertainty (as in the process of design) offers potential for: (1) “unshackling the conditioning forces” (Arendt, 1958) that prevent learners from seeing beyond the status quo; (2) practicing a worldy criticism that doubts and challenges what is taken for granted; and (3) developing better informed and more meaningful relationships between selves, others and things.

Designerly ways of worlding in how we learn deeply integrates:
knowing (with doubt and discernment)
as doing
(by experimentation and invention)
as being
(creating and questioning)
as having
(awareness and foresight)
as emoting (openness and sensitivity to difference)
as playing (with freedom and imagination)
as essential to inspire renewal of wonder, possibility and responsibility.

Go Font Yourself #2

One of my #1 websites to visit for designerly inspiration is:

Here are a few of my favourite typography art works!

Beauty by mrgraphicsguy

Far away from myself
Beauty is hard to discover
It’s a lie.

gun by mou5e
Education is the most powerful weapon

Got a Light by DesertViper

En Masse by clockblock

Don’t worry. You will be alright. I am here to help you. Everything will be ok. We will get through this. I will never leave you. Don’t give up. I am here for you always. You are not alone. I will protect you. I understand you…

The Raven by swordfishll

The complete text of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem.

What Lies Within by um0p3pisdn

Emerson’s: “What lies before us, and what lies behind us, is nothing compared to what lies within us.”

I Speak Alone by Gordorca

As soon as I open my mouth to speak of any of this…
… My words just crumble as they leave me… Never ever to reach you…

Il faut croire!


According to John D. Caputo, the secret’s secrecy is that no one knows and we are never going to know, which is not due to failure on our part as it is not even a matter of knowing. There is no Absolute Truth and we are NOT born into this world “hard-wired to Being Itself, or Truth Itself, or the Good Itself… and when we open our mouths, it is we who speak, not something Bigger and Better than we.” Dr. Caputo takes a non-hierarchical philosophical stance where the so called know-it-alls are not distinguished from the unknowns to conclude (without concluding) that, “We do not know who we are – that is who we are!”

The Absolute Secret keeps knowledge safely secreted away. Not only does not-knowing keep us safe, our lives are impassioned by the passion of not-knowing. Because we simply do not know, it keeps the door open for that which we don’t see coming or couldn’t possibly predict in the future. Not-knowing fuels our desire to know… not-knowing keeps hope alive as hope… and not-knowing keeps faith safe from knowledge. Security of knowledge is a great threat to faith: instead of seeing through the eyes of faith, the faithful begin to see things period (this is a danger of religious fundamentalism).

Caputo’s More Radical Hermeneutics (2000) is one of my most cherished texts. Caputo uses deconstruction, repetition, The Absolute Secret, and his own mischievousness to hound and harass hermeneutics, thereby uncovering: “prankster hermeneutics,” “parisian hermeneutics,” “yankee hermeneutics,” “devilish hermeneutics,” and “holy hermeneutics!” He describes his more radical hermeneutics as “a kind of intellectual fire department that arrives on the scene to douse the flames of essentialism wherever they flare up and threaten to consume us.” Essentialists are anyone who claim to be in on The Secret.

In There is No One Narcissism (1995), Derridia also spins The Secret into a non-knowing:

“It is not a non-knowing installed in the form of , “I don’t want to know.” I am all for knowledge [laughter]… So, this non-knowing… it is not the limit… of a knowledge, the limit in the progression of a knowledge. It is, in some way, a structural non-knowing, which is heterogeneous, foreign to knowledge. It’s not just the unknown that could be know and that I give up trying to know. It is something in relation to which knowledge is out of the question. And when I specify that it is a non-knowing and not a secret, I mean that when a text appears to be crypted, it is not at all in order to calculate or to intrigue or to bar access to something that I know that others must not know; it is more ancient, more originary experience, if you will, of the secret.”

Je ne sais pas. Il faut croire!

Go Font Yourself!

Designerly Assignment #1: Go font yourself!

Take typographical elements (such as the words of a story or a favourite quotation) and bring them to life using “Artext” to reinforce and emphasize the meaning-making potential of your images. For example:


Check out this Pepsi TV ad using mainly typographic elements with animation, warm colors and upbeat music – connecting feel-good and energizing messages with the brand’s new logo replacing the letter “O.”

WhatTheFont for iPhone is a must have app for all my fellow typophiles (type geeks & obsessive font lovers). Get out your iPhone, snap a photo sample of the type in question (from a magazine, poster, web, etc), and the font will be identified in seconds. So far, I’ve found this app to be quick and fairly accurate. I recommend spending a couple minutes in Photoshop to lighten or remove the background noise and increase the contrast. What are you waiting for: get off my blog and go What The Font!

Chicken Philosophers


PLATO: For the greater good.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross roads.

CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK: To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

JERRY SEINFELD: Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn’t anyone ever think to ask, “What the heck was this chicken doing walking around all over the place, anyway?”

FREUD: The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

EINSTEIN: Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

KARL MARX: It was an historical inevitability.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.

LOUIS FARRAKHAN: The road, you see, represents the black man. The chicken ‘crossed’ the black man in order to trample him and keep him down.

FOX MULDER: You saw it cross the road with your own eyes. How many more chickens have to cross the road before you believe it?

BILL CLINTON: The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did NOT cross the road.

MACHIAVELLI: The point is that the chicken crossed the road. Who cares why? The end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was.

BILL GATES: I have just released the new Chicken Office 2012, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your chequebook.

OLIVER STONE: The question is not, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Rather, it is, “Who was crossing the road at the same time, whom we overlooked in our haste to observe the chicken crossing?”

DARWIN: Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically disposed to cross roads.

LAWYER: Our firm has recently handled a number of cases involving chicken crossings and would recommend you obtain independent legal advice.

BUDDHA: Asking this question denies your own chicken nature.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON: The chicken did not cross the road .. it transcended it.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die. In the rain.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: It was an instinctive manoeuvre, the chicken obviously didn’t see the road until he had already started to cross.

COLONEL SANDERS: I missed one?

101 Technology Fun

101 Technology Fun
Design Research Camp for girls in grades 6 & 7
July 18-22; July 25-29

>> make robotic pets using Lego Mindstorms NXT and Pico Cricket
>> design computer games, websites and virtual worlds
>> be a technology co-researcher in a UBC study
>> edit and animate your own mini-movies

We welcome all girls in grades 6 or 7. Please note that space is very limited. Registration is complimentary. A nutritious lunch, snacks, and outdoor adventures will be provided daily. Location: UBC Education Building. Program: 9:00-3:30 (with supervision available until 5pm).


101 Technology Fun is part of the UBC Research Project: HOW WE LEARN (Technology Across the Lifespan). The program is made possible with the enthusiastic support of Graduate Students and Teacher Candidates in the Faculty of Education.

If you are interested in a volunteer position, whether it be instruction, curriculum design, photography, videography, or what have you, please contact PJ Rusnak. Thanks!