Teaching in ‘Zoomland’: Troublesome knowledge, liminality and the virtual design studio

Dr Beck Davis, School of Art and Design

Effective learner engagement with troublesome knowledge—conceptually difficult knowledge that may seem counter-intuitive, incoherent or even “alien” (Perkins, 1999)—is an important part of the learning experience. A key role of the educator is to tolerate learner confusion (Cousin, 2006), and to create learning environments that can “hold” learners (Winnicott, 1971) through liminal states, while managing troublesome knowledge. Through this presentation, I will argue that ‘Zoomland’—which emerged in response to the shift en masse online—fostered a simultaneously liminal and troublesome environment, disrupting the ways in which knowledge is encountered. I will do this by framing Meyer & Land’s (2005, 2006) account of the value of liminality alongside my own critical reflection of holding learners within an “unknowable” space. Through this reflection I will consider the ways in which instability—caused by the pandemic—amplified the liminal encounter, and; by default, enriched the design studio. Specifically, I will discuss how creative collaboration was impacted, and how in one design studio, we navigated this new terrain. Examples from practice will be shared and new perspectives on the way in which learners experience the virtual design studio will be discussed.

Speaker Bio

Beck teaches design at the School of Art and Design, ANU. Her research focuses on design studies and examining design teams, including how they collaborate and respond to complex problems. This includes the analysis of non-verbal, gestural interactions as well as the use of metaphors and analogies during the creative process. Her expertise centres on teaching design process and methods, and enhancing students’ collaborative and creative potential. In addition to her role at ANU Beck serves on the Board of Directors for the Design Institute of Australia–Australia’s peak industry body for professional design–and contributes to the National Advisory Committee, serving on the DIA NAC Policy, and DIA NAC Education Committees.


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