Barbara Neves Alves
I am an Amsterdam based designer and researcher. My focus is on teaching and lecturing, while developing self-initiated projects in design research, exploring hybrid modes of practice between design, theory and the political. I value research as a way of inhabiting practice and taking on a critical approach. An attentive merging of art and theory has been a core aspect in my work, both in education and artistic research. Current research interests and areas of work include ecologies of communication, politics of communication, noise, participatory methods, emerging modes of practice, socially responsible design, practice based research, decolonising practices, spectrality studies. In my PhD (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2016) I advanced the concept of Miscommunication to challenge the notion of ‘good communication’ as an objective of the field of communication design—communication is often failing to reach its intended audiences or outcomes. I expanded on miscommunication as concept and practice to demonstrate how social and cultural exchanges that produce error or misunderstanding can be provocative sites for developing new modes of communication design. Miscommunication is often regarded as the failure of communication. In other words, miscommunication interrupts, slows down, or creates misunderstandings. However, I showed that when miscommunication is acknowledged in design practices it can generate more situated contributions for designers, while creating the opportunity to explore exchanges that can foster new speculative design practices and new political formations. I looked at communication in its transformative capacity, understood as a key element in socially and politically engaged modes of practice. In this way, I contextualised and analysed communication design within social and participatory design, going beyond the literature in design, drawing on a diverse body of literature at the intersection of design, participation, the formation of publics and science and technology studies, to push the boundaries of Communication Design to rethink its role in creating political events and propose new imaginaries for participatory design practices. These were offered through a set of practical propositions for creating ‘political scenes,’ developed through three ‘figures of miscommunication,’ that of the parasite, the idiot and the diplomat, borrowing from the theoretical framework of Michel Serres and Isabelle Stengers, exploring noise that interferes with good communication, impasses to communication through apparent moments of nonsense and forms of exchange that take on misunderstanding. Articulating miscommunication through examples of works in art and design, participatory processes aiming at social change and, reflection on a set of exploratory practices in Lisbon, Maputo, London and Amsterdam. My background is in communication design, type design and typography (Type&Media, KABK). As a communication designer I have worked in a variety of settings and places, and also maintained a regular activity as a teacher in higher education. I have extensive experience with working community-based projects, and collaborating with others such as the collective Cascoland or Theatre of the Oppressed. I have initiated many workshops in design thinking and practice.