The definition of 'applied anthropology' varies from period to period and from culture to culture. However, anthropology's centrality is, in my eyes, unquestionable. With that in mind, a significant part of the discipline's basic principles remained unchanged, despite recent socio-cultural, economic and technological changes sweeping the world in recent years. In this article I wish to present two case studies in which the inherent connection between anthropology, as a discipline, and other professions, is challenged. Through teaching anthropological theories and methodologies to industrial designers and architects I will present a somewhat different approach from those practiced by anthropologists. As a result I will redefine the role of the applied anthropologist as an essential member of the design team.
Medical Design Anthropology, Improvisational Practices and Future Imaginings
Jonathan Ventura and Wendy Gunn
The body as an anthropological nexus of sociocultural norms and conventions has been discussed at length in the humanities and social sciences. However, within the worlds of industrial design, an important player influencing an understanding of the body within a design process has been neglected and that is the industrial designer. Our main thesis considers designing as an anthropological, sociocultural and physical praxis, in the midst of which stand person(s) engaging within their material environments. We argue that, as an interdisciplinary dialogue with anthropologists and designers alike, the industrial designer could pursue a broader perspective than the classic techno-practice perspective, which deliberately detaches the social qualities of human action with the aim of changing user behaviour through the use of medical products. Instead, we propose an understanding of industrial design practice(s) that considers the improvisational and interwovenness of peoples and practices and what this means for attuning industrial design practices accordingly.