Placing the Self in an alien Territory as Design Act

Tommaso Maggio (Planetary Collegium, Plymouth University, UK/Italy/Thailand)


In a continuum quest to fulfil the cultural gap between his homeland and the host territory of formal Siam, this paper aims to illustrate the journey of the author who as practitioner trough scholarly activities in the discipline of design had become a participant observer in the new context. While merging the ethnographic approach with design thinking a hybrid method has been moulded. Nostalgia intertwined with dream, and, on the other hand ambiguity from a source of uncertainty is as suggested from Professor Bill Gaver, “a resource for designer”. What it started as personal exploration, a sort of search for the inner self, it later became while engaging with the framework of design practice and education a way to decrease preconceptions and furthermore a process to merge the participation with the learning. By engaging in projects with local artists and entrepreneurs the author of this paper has embedded the value of participation as locus of his investigation. Experiments conducted while teaching to freshmen and sophomore design principle have been shifted from the use of the traditional roots of the Bauhaus school as main heritage, to the integration of physical theatre elements.

Keywords: Southeast Asia, Design pedagogy, Emerging Design Practice, Ethnography, Body Consciousness.


Tommaso Maggio is a design practitioner and researcher. His investigation merge eighteen years of design practice and eleven on scholarly activity. A PhDc at Planetary Collegium, Plymouth University, his research integrate cultural studies to Human Centered Design; the social and moral aspect of human body are the locus of his investigation. Design artefacts as immersive experiences, from physical to digital though an extensive conversation with users and experts. Publishing, interface design, graphic, branding, interior, apparel, jewellery and theatre are the area were he operated since graduated. Moreover, by working with diplomatic institutions, universities and companies across Asia, he has combined Italian design heritage and lifestyle with Eastern Asian cultural influence. He has presented papers at TTT2017, Corfu, CUMULUS HK 2016, Consciousness Reframed, Shanghai (2015-2016), ISEA 22′ International Electronic Art Symposium, Hong Kong 2016, the 9′ International Conference on Design Principles and Practices, Chicago (2015).

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