This autumn, I have the pleasure to be teaching at the Digital Leadership masters programme at the Department of Applied IT. The course that I am involved in is the Digital Infrastructure course where we learn about infrastructures as a socio-technical phenomena. The literature ranges from the seminal work by Susan Lee Star, to intriguing text by Brian Larkin in Cultural studies, to more information systems oriented text from Ole Hanseth, as well as insights from the PD-community with texts by Helena Karasti.
After an initial theory-block course participants move into a design-block where they are exploring how digital infrastructures might be designed to improve sustainability in urban environments. This design challenge is run in collaboration with WHITE, one of Swedens most prominent architect agencies.
The design challenge is super open-ended and the students are therefore adopting design thinking and human centered design in order to explore the problem and identify possible solutions, such as increased democracy in local planning processes, urban farming and hyper local food production, digitally adjustable streets, safety solutions in the home-sharing economy, incentive driven road-taxes, and several other great ideas.
Using design thinking in an academic course is not without problems. For example, do we have any studies showing that design thinking and its various practical methods work? Thankfully, we have a great study by Micheli, Wilner, Bhatti, Mura & Beverland showing that design thinking is not unproblematic, there is a lack of evidence of its usefulness, along with a not too solid theoretical foundation. The authors highlights the need for more studies of practice and they indicate that the community of practice perspective could be a good foundation for further explorations.
Micheli, P., Wilner, S. J., Bhatti, S. H., Mura, M., & Beverland, M. B. (2018). Doing Design Thinking: Conceptual Review, Synthesis, and Research Agenda. Journal of Product Innovation Management.