Women writing design scholarship : reconfiguring academic work in design

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This thesis proposes design scholarship as a term that strategically positions women as central to academic work in (visual communication) design. My use of this term represents a feminist rewriting of the historically gendered relations between design and writing in the university since the increase in women's perticipation in design scholarship in the mid-1980's. The term disrupts gender divisions in academic work and reconfigures the representation of qualitative research as the visual interplay between words, images and design elements. The term design scholarship responds to the question of how are women placed in academic work in design in universities by countering the gendered narratives and restorative histories through which women are represented in the design literature and discourse. The research is future-oriented, and explores possibilities as well as constraits, to ask, what options do women take up in gendered university, and with what effects and what possibilities? The thesis has four methodological components. First, it documents the historical emergence of design scholarship from the perspective of women design academics. It therefore represents the first empirical study about women who work in design in universities. Second, theoretically derived tools analyse the experiences of a small number of women to identify patterns and draw conclusions about the cumulative effect of their work on the trajectory of design scholarship. The analysis offers new terms to describe how women negotiate their scholarly work in design. Third, it contributes a new feminist analytical framing with which to analyse gendering in the university. Finally, it contributes a new methodological approach to analysing qualitative research data and representing this analysis through design methods. The research involved interviews with fifteen women design academics working in nine universities in Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. The data was transcribed, analysed and visually represented in different ways throughout the thesis. Despite the gendered conditions under which they work, it is argued that women are active, legitimate subjects who actively shape knowledge production in design, the effects of which are disseminated to non- design and non-academic audiences. What this reserach seeks to produce is an assemblage of accounts and engagements with the scholarly project of design by women that challenges the existing design literature and discourse and reconfigures design scholarship for the future.
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