Florian Conradi and Michelle Christensen are a design and research collective based in Berlin. Combining their backgrounds in political-, conflict-, gender-sociology and design in the form of critical practice, writing and teaching, they attempt to formulate the spaces in between these realms. Their work is an endeavour in to exploring the politics of objects, material-sociology, and practice-based theory.
They work on project base with institutions from the fields of social/political advocacy, critical media, design and academia.
Michelle Christensen – Michelle studied political sociology at Roskilde University (B.A.), conflict studies at Utrecht University (M.A.), gender studies at the University of Amsterdam (M.Sc.), and integrated design at the Köln International School of Design in Cologne (M.A.). She wrote her Ph.D. at the UdK Berlin in the field of design research. Michelle has worked at the Crisis Department of Amnesty International USA, was a Humanity in Action Fellow, and a Congressional Fellow in the United States Congress in Washington DC. She has taught courses in conflict analysis, gender studies and design methods at universities in the Netherlands and Germany, most recently as a visiting professor at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau.
Currently, she is a visiting professor at the Technische Universität Berlin / Einstein Center Digital Future, as well as heading a research group on critical making at the UdK Berlin / Weizenbaum Institute together with Florian Conradi. Since 2015, she is a member of the Board of International Research in Design (BIRD) at Birkhäuser, and since 2014, she is a board member of the German Society for Design Theory and Research (DGTF).
Florian Conradi – Florian studied communication design at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz and at the Art Department of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. He went on to complete an M.F.A. in Design at the Sandberg Institute (Gerrit Rietveld Academie) in Amsterdam, an M.A. in integrated design at the Köln International School of Design in Cologne, and wrote his Ph.D. in the field of Design Research at the UdK Berlin. Since 2008 he has been initiating sociopolitical design projects with institutions in the field of critical media and political advocacy, carrying out field research in Europe, as well as in the Middle East, East and West Africa.
He has taught critical approaches to design and design methods at amongst other places the Köln International School of Design, the UdK Berlin, and as a visiting professor at the international Master program in Integrated Design at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau. Currently, he is a visiting professor at the Einstein Center Digital Future / Technische Universität Berlin, as well as heading a research group on critical making at the UdK Berlin / Weizenbaum Institute together with Michelle Christensen.
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Talk 'Open Labs: Inter- and Transdisciplinary Spaces of Research', Science Talks #ResearchAcrossBorders, Annual Meeting 2020, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Berlin
– 06/2020 Article 'Ontological Crisis' (Krise des Seins) published in Form Magazine No. 288, edition on 'Crisis and Design'
– 05/2020 Co-hosting symposium 'African_Makers_Against_COVID-19', a collaboration between Africa Open Science and Hardware, Berlin University of the Arts and Technical University Berlin
Studio class 'Politics of Machines', Institute of History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Literature, Technische Universität Berlin
Book published 'Politics of Things: A Critical Approach through Design', Birkhäuser, Basel
Panel 'Algorithms and the reproduction of social inequality – is artificial intelligence sexist?', Embassy of France, Berlin
Hosting symposium 'Trans/Feminist Hacking - Spaces, Communities and Practices', Einstein Center Digital Future, Berlin
Hosting symposium 'Open Materials – Crystals, Communities, Concerns', Berlin Open Lab,
Berlin University of the Arts
Talk 'Algorithmic Aristocracy, Biased Biometrics and Compromised Code – Design as a Tactic of Re/Activism', German Society for Design Theory and Research / Kunsthochschule Kassel
Keynote 'Gender, Bias and Technology – on Hacking Back' at iphiGenia International Gender Design Award 2019, Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln (MAKK)
Talk 'Design as Critical Inquiry – Performativity, Politics and Practice' at 'New Experimental Research in Design (NERD)', Academy of Art and Design Basel (FNHW)
Studio class 'Critical Making – Politics of Things', Technische Universität Berlin
Talk 'Making Critical Tech – Design Activism and AI’ at 'Diffracting AI and Robotics: Decolonial and Feminist Perspectives', Goethe University, Frankfurt
Talk 'Design Re/Activism – Queering AI', at 'Artificial Intelligence: The Prejudice of the Learning Machine', Futurium, Berlin
Methods seminar 'AI Systems Que(e)ry',
Berlin University of the Arts
Panel + Workshop 'Rouge Research – Composing the Critical Class' at 'Hurra Hurra – Festival on Design Education in the 21st Century', Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle
Moderating panel 'Bionics Labs, Robot Bees, and Cyborgs' at the International Literature Festival Berlin (ilb'19), HAU, Berlin
Talk 'DIY/DIT Development – New Spaces, Modes and Materials' at International Conference on Sustainable Development 2019, Rome
Talk 'The Dis/Order of Things' at 'Digital Things', Grimme Research College, University of Cologne
Talk 'Open So(u)rcery: DIY Counterapparatus', Politics of the Machine Conference (POM), Lebanese International University, Beirut
Moderating panel 'New Philosophies: Paradigm Shifts in a Machine-intelligent World', Future Affairs – Resetting Global Power Politics, Federal Foreign Office, Berlin
Talk ‘Speculative Actuality – Critical Making as a tactic to hack the now’ at panel 'Designing Tomorrows – Science Fiction as a Method', re:publica 2019, Berlin
– 02/2019 - 05/2019
Exhibition 'Not my Thing – Gender in Design' at Museum Ulm, HfG-Archive Ulm
Workshop 'Making Makerspaces' at Office of Research, Innovation and Development, University of Ghana, Accra
Talk 'Open Labs', GIZ Office Lomé, Togo
– 10/2018 - 01/2019
Studio class 'Politics of Design', Masters of Integrated Design (MAID), Department of Design, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences (Dessau)
Roundtable 'Open Source Mobility', Open Source Lab, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI)
Jury member, iphiGenia International Gender Design Award 2018, iGDN and Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln (MAKK).
Co-moderating conference ‘New Experimental Research in Design (NERD)’ at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hildesheim (HAWK), with the Board of International Research in Design (BIRD)
Panel ‘On Gender and Design’, SDN Research Summit ‘Beyond Change: Questioning the Role of Design in times of Global Transformations’, FHNW Academy of Art and Design Basel
Talk ’Gender Equality Through Design: On Maker Culture and Open Labs’, United Nations Global Forum on Business for Gender Equality, Santiago de Chile
Semester course ‘Methodology and Design’, Integrated Design, Department of Design, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences (Dessau)
Chapter ‘What we design, designs us back’ published in Brandes, U. ’Gender Design – Rambles between Theory and Research’. Birkhäuser, Basel
Article 'Open-source cyborgs and DIY data’ published in ‘Gender. Journal for Gender, Culture and Society’, special issue on Gender and Design (3/17)
Initiating interdisciplinary format ’Pairing Research Talks’, Einstein Center Digital Future, launched during the Science Week 2017.
Jury member, iphiGenia Gender Design Award 2017 (iGDA), Category ‘Revolution’, Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln/MAKK.
Co-moderating conference ‘New Experimental Research in Design (NERD)’ at Braunschweig University of Art (HBK), with the Board of International Research in Design (BIRD)
Workshop 'Democratization of Technology – Democratization of Gender’ at ‘Gender and Design in Action: Interdisciplinary perspectives and technological interactions’, TU Chemnitz
‘Transgression, Transformers, Transnormal’ essay published in ‘fast fwd: too slow?’, buchlabor, Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Methods seminar 'Democracy of Things',
Berlin University of the Arts
Co-edited book ‘Design as Research: Positions, Arguments, Perspectives’, with Joost, Bredies, Unteidig. Birkhäuser, Basel
Methods seminar 'Borderline Objects',
Berlin University of the Arts
Co-Hosting Conference ‘Reassembling Relationships: People, Systems, Things’, DGTF, University of Applied Sciences Potsdam
Methods seminar ‘Design and Conflict’, Berlin University of the Arts
Exhibition of ‘Confused, Irregular and Incorrect’, through the international Gender Design Network (iGDN), Hannover University of Applied Sciences
Colloquium ‘Science-Fact / Science-Fiction’, Design Research Lab, UdK Berlin
Exhibition + Panel Discussion ‘Rethink. Gender, Design & Media’, Designtransfer, Berlin University of the Arts
Presentation ‘When Objects turn Subjects: Forms of Protest’, Postgraduales Forum (PGF), UdK Berlin
Talk ‘Re-Think, Re-See, Re-Assemble: Intentional Uncertainty in Design Research’, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Tel-Aviv
Workshop ‘Mapping Matter/s’, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Tel-Aviv Extension
Exhibition of ‘Confused, Irregular and Incorrect’ through the iGDN, DesignExport Hamburg
Methods seminar ‘The Politics of Objects’, Berlin University of the Arts
Workshop ‘De/Stabilization’ at symposium ‘Community Now? The Politics of Participatory Design‘, Jewish Museum Berlin, UdK Berlin
Colloquium ‘Transgression, Transformers, Transnormal’, Design Research Lab, UdK Berlin
Panel Discussion ‘International Gender Design Network Conference’, Köln International School of Design
Presentation ’Uncertainty as a Resource in Design Research’, Unconference Design Research, German Society for Design Theory and Research, Konstanz University of Applied Sciences
Exhibition of ‘Confused, Irregular and Incorrect’ through the iGDN, School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Colloquium ‘Camp vs. City: Perspectives on Provisional Urbanity’. Design Research Lab, UdK Berlin
Research Tool + Application ‘De-Routing App.’ developed with the Design Research Lab, UdK Berlin
Workshop ‘De-Routing: A Serendipitous Approach to Discovery’, Berlin University of the Arts
Colloquium ‘On Ambiguity in Design: Inherent Paradoxes and Intentional Uncertainty’ Design Research Lab, UdK Berlin
When Objects turn Subjects: Forms of Protest – A practice-based exploration in to the politics of 'things' in the socio-materiality of everyday life, as systems and artifacts move far beyond
what can be understood based on the object-subject divide. The project investigated and practiced alternative conceptions of authorship and social power-plays in human-artefact relationships / Carried out in the framework of a Ph.D. at the Berlin University of the Arts.
Serendipitous Systems – Designing un/guiding-systems such as the De-Routing probe, De-Routing App., and the Mapping Matter/s probe, creating generative systems that lead to spaces which not us, nor the system, can foresee. The explorative methods evolved unanticipated observations in urban spaces, from black holes and cultural voids, to social thresholds and gendered spaces. Known spaces were perceived anew as alternate sites, as strange serendipitous social encounters unfolded / For the project ‘Community Now? Conflict, Interventions, New Publics’, a collaboration between the Design Research Lab Berlin, the Bezalel Academy for Art and Design Jerusalem and the German Society for Design Theory and Research (2013-2015).
Confused, Ir/regular and In/correct – De-gendering everyday life – the letters in the font ‘Confused.ttf’ cannot decide what letter to be as they each share their body with a fellow letter establishing unintentional multiplicity in content. Adding the option of ‘Irregular’ to the traditional options of ‘Regular’, ‘Bold’ etc. in a number of the most used fonts enables a slightly uncomfortable diversity in usually very secure typographies, and hence, the content that they hold. And the ‘In/correct’ file autocorrects a library of words whilst typing distorting gendered-meaning in the process of its construction / Developed in the context of the International Gender Design Network (iGDN), exhibited at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, DesignExport Hamburg, and the Designtransfer in Berlin (2014).
Participatory Policy – Creating formats for citizen opinions in the bottom-up development of a ‘participatory policy-statement’ for the near future of the Digital Society in Germany. Through analogue-digital formats, citizens were encouraged to share their visions and critics of the digitalisation of politics, and of their everyday lives / For the Social Democratic Party of Germany (2014).
Stateless Plug-in – Developing a browser extension that intervenes in digital territory, transforming the issue of stateless people into a multifaceted digital mapping of existing knowledge and information on the Internet. The plug-in generates an unpredicted non-linear and dynamic storyline through browsing, allowing space for unanticipated thoughts and connections. It intervenes by beseeching the users attention through the infiltration of their usual browsing behaviour / Developed for Firefox, Safari and Chrome, funded by the Dutch Mediafonds. Presented at ‘Media Squares, on New Forms of Protests and their Media’ at De Balie, Amsterdam, and featured by amongst others turbulence.org blog 'networked performance', and tacticalmediafiles.net (2010-2011).
Theorizing Design / Designing Theory – Materialising critical theories – transforming Michel Foucault’s Interrelational Power in to a table, Judith Butler’s Gender Performativity in to chairs, Écriture féminine in to dresses etc. – and then in turn theorising these objects to reveal a series of 'Thinking Things’. The project explored this praxis-theory relationship from an ad-hoc perspective, arguing that objects, rather than being an objective inanimate species, or simply the projections or extensions of their human counterpart, emerge with arguments of their own / KISD Cologne, exhibited at the Dutch Design Week and the Passagen Interior Design Week in the exhibition ‘To Object the Objectivity of an Object’ (2010-2011).
Grammatology of a District – Exploring the potentials of communication design in understanding how covert manifestations emerge and form incidental meaning – how is the city written, how do we read an urban space, and when do surfaces interact to take on arguments of their own. The project resulted in what was termed the 'terminology' of the district – the basic elements that form the visual vocabulary of the space. The 'grammar' of the district – the interaction of terminology within certain rules of formulation. And the 'arguments' of the district – namely that within a semantically loaded space, the actors (objects, communication, buildings) transcend intentionality, merging and clashing as they take on unintended meaning / DQE Academy, Design Quartier Ehrenfeld, Cologne (2011-2012).
Un-Specifics – Experimenting with ‘open work’, designing with a void of meaning. From messages only appearing when the receiver manages to view the text on the poster cross-eyed and words only appearing in certain light, to messages that can only be read when subduing oneself by bowing down to the poster itself – the project investigated the question of ‘what lies just prior to the specific’, and how the receiver can awarely partake in the making-of-meaning / The project ‘Pre-Specifics: Access X’ was conducted by Onomatopee, resulting in a publication and exhibitions at Röda Sten in Gothenburg and the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven (2010).
Politics of Sound / Sound of Politics – As a practice-based exploration of the intertwining of politics and sound, a series of social-artifactual experiments were carried out in collaboration with Istanbul-based designer Ogul Oz – from ‘auditive typography’ and ‘visual noise’, to re-gendering music tracks and dissecting the rhetoric of the pop-stars of politics / Funded by the Design Quartier Ehrenfeld, exhibited at the PDF Festival for Urban Culture in Cologne (2009).
Embassy of Hybrid Cultural Identity – A temporary embassy was established to investigate hybridity as a starting point for cultural identity, inviting the public to participate in negotiating such an identity, and claiming its legitimacy. Emerging from this social experiment was a charter, which could be re/read from a perhaps infinite diverse perspectives, as well as a dissolving book that sought to instigate an alternative discourse on the integration debate in Western Europe / Funded by and shown at the Nieuwe Vide Art Space in Haarlem, the Netherlands (2009).
Re/Construction – Deconstructing the blue United Nations flag by statistically re-visualising in three flags the data behind the questions: When looking at the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions who makes the decision to send troops to war? Who pays for it? And who actually fights as a soldier on the ground? / Sandberg Institute (Rietveld Academy), exhibited amongst other places at the Netherlands Institute for Media Art (NIMk) and the exhibition ‘Design.Politicized.’ at the DQE in Cologne (2008).
Un/Commentary, Northern Uganda – A documentary film about how (not) to make a film about female child soldiers in Northern Uganda, in which the filmmakers share their ceaseless debate about how to un/make the film with the audience, resulting in an uncensored and personal take on the ethics of editing / Field research carried out in 2007, funded by Oxfam Novib, and presented amongst other places at the University of Amsterdam, Amnesty International, the Netherlands Institute for Media Art (NIMk) and the Lloyd Cultural Embassy in Amsterdam (2007-2008).
Communication Conflict – The newspaper ’33 Grad Nord 44 Grad Ost’ portrays a critical discussion concerning the forming of isolated realities through the use of text, photography and illustration in newspapers based on articles about the conflict in Iraq from the German Newspaper ‘Die Welt’. The work questions elements such as the relevance of the individual in war, the lack of importance that numbers of casualties come to have, and how conflicts easily become converted into technical aspects of military tactic and strategy. On the one side factual, and simultaneously an interpretive provocation, the newspaper operates critically between the fact and fiction of portrayals of conflicts in the media / Carried out in the context of giving a course at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz (2006); contributions from Sun Mee Martin, Andrea Bayer and Mark Brehm; published in input/output and shown at exhibitions in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Japan.