Nomadic Practices: A Posthuman Theory for Knowing Design
Ron Wakkary


This article develops the theory of nomadic practices as an alternative to seeing design as a humanist discipline. Nomadic practices is an epistemological theory guided by posthumanist commitments of phenomenological intentionality, situated knowledges, and nomadism. In contrast to humanist understandings of design that rely on objectivist viewpoints and universalizing foundations, nomadic practices see knowledge production in design as situated, embodied, and partial. The aim of the theory of nomadic practices is to remove the epistemological hurdles of a disciplinary structure such that design practices can be more expansive and plural. The article builds on prior epistemological theories including Kuhn’s (1962) paradigms, Redström’s (2017) programs, and Agre’s (1997) generative metaphor as seen through past changes and upheavals in what is considered design, such as Bødker’s (2006) third wave HCI (human-computer interaction) or Harrison et al.’s (2007) paradigms of HCI. It then turns to key posthumanist concepts to articulate structural features of nomadic practices, namely 1) multiplicity of intentionalities; 2) situated knowing; and 3) nomadism. The contribution of this article is to offer a theory for thinking about design that embraces multiplicity and diversity rather than universalizing and singular ways of knowing design.

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