What the Victorians do for us – part two

The Stop HS2 campaign website recently revisited an interview with the Secretary of State for Transport where she drew on a Victorian heritage of ‘boldness’  to justify the need for a new High Speed Railway. I was considering this in general terms as a kind of design precedent in my last post but the StopHS2 campaign were also thinking about it as an invitation to make technological comparisons between the eighteenth, nineteenth and twenty-first centuries. Continue reading

What the Victorians do for us

The design process can be described in many ways. And the way that a designer gets from A to B can be traced along many routes. This we can read about with John Chris Jones or Kees Dorst and we can imagine what goes on under the bonnet with Nigel Cross or Bryan Lawson.

If we want to think about how a politician gets from A to B, and this is part of the gist of my work, there’s no shortage of speeches, interviews and media reports in the archived debate where that route is described either directly or through whichever commentator is on hand to help out. Continue reading

Artistic endeavours revisited

The connection between art and the academy and the conundrum of how to make research more creative continues to flit around my desk like an insistent butterfly. It looks like it would be very pretty if only it would sit still for long enough.

Fine artists seem to have a lot of latitude in their practice. It wouldn’t do to put a restraining pin through the middle but it doesn’t hurt to take a bit of a closer look. Last time I looked at this I managed to turn it on it’s head: how to make my previous artworks more academic. It’s a good starting point.

Continue reading

A methodological interlude

Here I attempt to make sense of a methodological quandary that occurs where studies of the design process meet studies of debates as a design process. I started this train of thought in response to feedback from DRS2014.

Debate and design
The direct study of the design process attempts, among other things, to contribute to a better understanding of how design is done by observing that process in action. The object of study is the designer or the design meeting and can be approached by analysis of e.g. think aloud protocols, responses to interview questions or of videos and transcripts from observation of design meetings. The way that the protocol is generated, the veracity of the interviewers responses or the way that the design meeting has been constructed or observed raises some methodological challenges.

Continue reading

In conference: the Design Research Society, 2014

I had the pleasure last month to present a paper at the Design Research Society Conference in Umea in Sweden. Full papers were double blind reviewed prior to acceptance and so I had high hopes that the event would be of excellent quality and that I would be able to do mine justice. With beer at £8 a pint I was at least confident that a hangover wouldn’t get in the way. It was a little odd that my supervisor’s other paper hadn’t been accepted.

Continue reading

Easy algebra: When does HS2 – HS1 = HS3?

In his recent review of the HS2 project Sir David Higgins advocated the removal of the proposed North London Rail link between HS2 and HS1 on the grounds that it would provide a relatively poor return (removing the need for a one stop tube journey) on an apparently unreasonably large proportion (£700m) of the total budget (£42.6bn) .
(Therefore HS2 – HS1 = £41.9bn)

Today, according to the HM Treasury website in the kind of pre-emptive news strike that has now become the norm, George Osborne will propose a third high speed railway for Britain. Depending on who you ask this “keynote speech” or “pre-election waffle” is either a reflection on the success of his government’s long term economic planning or an attempt to deflect attention from a reported six point deficit in the latest polls. The new line, already being referred to as HS3 would link Manchester and Leeds across the Pennines.

I’m not wanting to speculate on the intention of the speech and without knowing who the audience was (apart from all of us) it’s also difficult to speculate on which particular lock his keynotes were meant to open. But the event of the speech is interesting in its own right.

Continue reading

Artistic endeavour and academic research

Academics are interested in the dissemination of research outcomes – it’s one of the measures that is used to assess their (institutional) income. And social scientists (probably all academics but I’ve been hanging out with the Geographers) are increasingly interested in creating visual artefacts as a method of dissemination. They’re also interested in the analysis of visual artefacts as a method. The presence of the same words in the two previous sentences allowed me to, quite lazily, conflate these two concepts whereas, somewhere along one of my many roads to many Damascii, I came to realise that obviously the two concepts are almost the opposite of each other.

Continue reading

HS2: the infrastructure of infrastructure debate

Notwithstanding my successful resurrection from memory of the GREP function in my text editor (see Datafest-2013 for details) and the glorious time savings this produces considering the number of links generated (yes I think it was 1432) it was nevertheless time to have a word with myself. This fiddling with data around the margins of the study must stop!

But before then here is a temporary resting place to catch my breath before getting back into the parliamentary (af)fray.

Continue reading


It’s creeping towards the summer and this is festival time. I’ve only been to one music festival of note and that was Latitude in 2010. I failed to pick up a programme in advance and so spent some time during the weekend without sufficient data to decide which of the many stages to go to. I find if you’re not careful this can lead to smoking too many cigarettes and drinking too much beer while listening to Nick Cave being Grinderman. To avoid that here in HS2 land I’ve been putting together a programme of Hansard activity – I wanted to get a feel for how much debate had taken place about this high speed railway.

Continue reading