Object theatre exercises unfolding human-object relations in participatory design processes
This research exposition presents practical object theatre exercises and investigates how these exercises may enhance the designer’s practice to work with objects in participatory design projects. The study was set up in a theatre-design laboratory in collaboration with researcher and lecturer Sean Myatt from Nottingham Trent University and an international cohort of three design graduates with multidisciplinary backgrounds in design, communication, and social work. The exposition showcases three object theatre exercises – The Object Family Tree, Satelliting Objects, and Dance the Object – which were originally developed for exploring the performativity of readymade objects in theatre workshops. I demonstrate and discuss how these exercises can help designers within participatory design to engage with readymade objects and develop their practice further. I suggest that object theatre research methodology can contribute to participatory design processes by opening new potentials of physical object interaction, inviting unexpected perspectives on human-object relations, and exposing experienced object qualities. The designers in the study were able to consider object materiality, human-object relations, and reflective experiences with objects when designing interactions with non-designer participants in early phases of their participatory design research projects.