"Universal design is a term that was first used in the United States by Ron Mace (1985) although forms of it were quite prevalent in Europe long before. For the purpose of this chapter Universal Design is defined as 'the design of all products and environments to be usable by people of all ages and abilities to the greatest extent possible (Story, 2001, p.10.3). Universal design in recent years has assumed growing importance as a new paradigm that aims at a holistic approach ranging in scale from product design (Balaram, 2001) to architecture (Mace, 1985), and urban design (Steinfield, 2001) on one hand and systems of media (Goldberg, 2001) and information technology (Brewer, 2001) on the other.
Given the popularity, Universal design still remains largely atheoretical i..e. the researchers of Universal design do not explicitly affiliate themselves to any form of theoretical paradigm. One of the reason is perhaps because Universal design is a melting point between cross paradigms. By paradigms I mean basic orientations to theory and research (Newman, 1997, p.62). In this sense Universal design can come under functionalist paradigm (because it caters to utility), pragmatic (because it is instrumental in nature), positivistic (because it strives for universal principles), normative (because it prescribes certain rules) and critical theorist paradigms (because it gives voice to the oppressed).
Conventionally the word universal is synonymous to general and refers to a set of principles that are stable, timeless and value free. In this sense universal design could be interpreted as deriving from a positivist paradigm. However, given its history and perspective, and with the universal design examples I provide, I will demonstrate several instances where the universals do change, are time bound and value laden. In this sense I argue that Universal design follows a critical theory paradigm in its conception and knowledge generation. By conception I mean how universal design came into being as a body of concepts and by knowledge generation I mean how the concepts pervade and are shared by the community of researchers."
(Newton D'Souza, 2004)
D’souza, N.: 2004, Chapter 1: "Is Universal Design a Critical Theory?" Keates, S., Clarkson, J., Langdon, P., Robinson, P. (eds.) Designing a more Inclusive World. Springer - Verlog, pp: 3-10, 5th University of Cambridge, UK.
"dOCUMENTA (13) is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. These are terrains where politics are inseparable from a sensual, energetic, and worldly alliance between current research in various scientific and artistic fields and other knowledges, both ancient and contemporary. dOCUMENTA (13) is driven by a holistic and non–logocentric vision that is skeptical of the persisting belief in economic growth. This vision is shared with, and recognizes, the shapes and practices of knowing of all the animate and inanimate makers of the world, including people. (C. Christov–Bakargiev)"
"Design studies (like design) is a multifarious enterprise. A branch of the humanities, it comprises a wide range of critical perspectives on the meanings and values embodied in objects and places. It examines the forces that design exerts in, and on, the world – forces design sets in motion but does not control. Parsons' Masters in Design Studies program places particular emphasis on four points: the role of the designer and the design studio in redefining the scope of practice in the 21st century; design as an iteration of aesthetic and intellectual histories that continue to inform the present; the social, political and environmental behaviors and consequences of designing objects, places, situations, and systems today; design as the projection of different futures.
Above all, the MA Design Studies program focuses on the development of articulate, critical voices that can speak to these issues. Students will be prepared to write for the academic context, the design community, and the larger public realm. Working in close proximity to MFA studio programs at Parsons, they also have the opportunity to integrate film, video, and other media into their work."
"Senses of Cinema is an online journal devoted to the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema. We believe cinema is an art that can take many forms, from the industrially–produced blockbuster to the hand–crafted experimental work; we also aim to encourage awareness of the histories of such diverse forms. As an Australian–based journal, we have a special commitment to the regular, wide–ranging analysis and critique of Australian cinema, past and present.
Senses of Cinema is primarily concerned with ideas about particular films or bodies of work, but also with the regimes (ideological, economic and so forth) under which films are produced and viewed, and with the more abstract theoretical and philosophical issues raised by film study. As well, we believe that a cinephilic understanding of the moving image provides the necessary basis for a radical critique of other media and of the global 'image culture'."
(Nicola White, Senses of Cinema Inc)
"To McCullough, computer animation, geometric modeling, spatial databases–in general, all forms of media production or design–can be said to be 'crafted' when creators 'use limited software capacities resourcefully, imaginatively, and in compensation for the inadequacies of prepackaged, hard–coded operations' (21).... Again, as Sennett suggests, we 'assert our own individuality' against the prepackaged, predetermined processes and limitations of the tools we're using. Craftsmanship, says aesthetic historian David Pye, is 'workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment [sic], dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works' (45).
'Workmanship engages us with both functional and aesthetic qualities. It conveys a specific relation between form and content, such that the form realizes the content, in a manner that is enriched by the idiosyncrasies of the medium' (McCullough p.203). '[E]ach medium,' McCullough says, 'is distinguished by particular vocabulary, constructions, and modifiers, and these together establish within it a limited but rich set of possibilities' (McCullough p.230). Similarly, each methodology, or each research resource, has its own particular vocabulary, constructions, modifiers, obligations, and limitations. We need to choose our tools with these potentially enriching, and just as potentially debilitating, idiosyncrasies in mind. Do we need advanced software, or will iMovie suffice? Do we need to record an focus group in video–or will the presence of the camera compromise my rapport with my interviewee? Will an audio recording be more appropriate? Do we need to conduct primary interviews if others have already documented extensive interviews with these same subjects? Do we need to conduct extensive, long–term field–work–or can we accomplish everything in a short, well–planned research trip? How do I match my problem or project to the most appropriate tool?"
(Shannon Mattern, Words in Space)
Malcolm McCullough, Abstracting Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996).