How New Social Design Captures the Social with Photographs

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School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

New social design defines “the social” rather than material things as its main design object, and builds usually on ethnographic research techniques in capturing the social. Designers use camera in their fieldwork but unlike social scientists, they build their camera practices on a variety of sources, often artistic and journalistic rather than analytic. This paper explores how new social design captures the social with photographs. It shows that the main unit of social action in photography is the design act. Place on the other hand remains a non-analytic feature that conveys the sense of having been there, but does not go deeper into the social. The most analytic constructs in photographs are diagrams and other representations. Discussion links these observations into the professionalization of design and its aesthetic rather than analytic base.

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