Dr Tatsuma Padoan - 7 November Anthropology Seminar Series

Thursday, November 7, 2019 - 17:00 to 18:30
Anthropology Seminar Room [RH1.20 Rowan House]

The Designer’s Apprentice:
A Semiotics of Learning and Making in Design Practice

Thursday 7 November 2019, 5.00-6.30pm, RH1.20, Rowan House
Anthropology Seminar, Department of Anthropology, Maynooth University

Dr Tatsuma Padoan (University College Cork)

This paper will explore the dynamics of apprenticeship, technology and aesthetics experienced by students from a Faculty of Design located in northern Italy. My analysis is based on a one-and-a-half-year ethnographic study of the learning processes undertaken by design students within the spatial environments of the Faculty. These environments appear to be structured according to a relationship – sometimes contractual and sometimes conflictual – between places of design project and places of design implementation. These two different kinds of space – respectively called ateliers and workshops – are indeed managed by different professional figures, namely academic staff and technical staff, who interact with ‘apprentices’ engaged in planning and realising design prototypes, often in full-scale. In this paper I will show how design learners move across these spaces, by undertaking notable operations of translation between forms, models, measurements, materials, often through complex processes of adjustment. Through a semiotic and anthropological analysis of these operations, and of the interactions between learners, academic and technical staff, and the “material scene”, I will try to demonstrate how: (1) the design artefact emerges as the result of a negotiation (Yaneva), yet an ‘asymmetrical’ one; and, (2) how the design activity itself could be better understood as an ‘aesthetics of everyday life’, bringing about processes of redefinition of body and subjectivity through senses, affection and materiality.
Dr Tatsuma Padoan is Lecturer in East Asian Religions at the University College Cork, and a research associate at SOAS, University of London. As an anthropologist and a semiotician, he has worked on ritual – including asceticism, ritual apprenticeship, pilgrimage, religious materiality and spirit possession – as well as on the study of design practices and the politics of urban space. His monograph Towards a Semiotics of Pilgrimage: Ritual Space, Memory and Narration in Japan and Elsewhere is forthcoming for DeGruyter.