research » Workshop Structures

Process and Phases

The experience gained from previous PROJECTS helped us to refine the process in order to create a set of methods and improve the structure of the projects and the on-site work. In a first step, the project initiators formulate their hypotheses and epistemological interests in a particular area. Then the WORKSHOP THEME and the areas to be researched are agreed upon. Such workshops are embedded in bigger projects and related to the Cultural Library META THEME (issue of mobility). The workshop themes are precisely determined while still allowing a certain level of necessary openness. The role of the project- and research teams will then be analysed and formulated according to the particular context. Immediately before the start of the project week in the field, various TOPICS related to the overall workshop theme (e.g. ›Urban Interactions‹) are decided upon in cooperation with our partners and with regards to the conditions in the field. For this work, communication platforms like KISDSpaces or weblogs are used beforehand. This means that in the short time on-site there is more time available for the field research and the review of solid hypotheses. In the workshop week, the student teams are to be introduced to the different topics (e.g. ›Using a Bus Stop‹). At the beginning of the workshops, the international, culture-spanning teams decide amongst themselves the situations to be observed (›MICRO-EVENTS‹, e.g. â€ºIn the Tube‹). These ›micro-events‹ more clearly define the still somewhat abstractly formulated topics and further underline the meaning of action and process that is to be considered. During the course of a workshop the students capture these â€ºmicro-events‹ via one ore several ITEMS â€“ snapshots in time and space that are subjects to further interpretation by the workshop team. 

The here presented framework for a methodological toolbox is continuously improved and updated on this website, where it will also helps future project teams to do comparable work more efficiently. We mainly use questions in our work, either to follow our epistemological interests, to define a hypothesis or to work out a starting point for future design briefs. We formulate questions according to the material collected in the field research in order to interpret, analyse and understand it. This is an iterative process and team members – perhaps from other teams at other institutions – can be a great help. During the week, the questions also help us to get closer to a possible TRANSFORMATION.


The five day workshop overview

Each workshop should have the same timetable of five days. Such a workshop can be part of a superordinate research project. The main phases of the workshop will be the first exploration of the topic by the participants, one day for creation and one day for sharing and presenting the findings. The schedule for the five days is as follows:


First Day: Broad Exploration

Understanding and exploration of the topic in its broadest sense (e.g. using brainstorming). First discussion of the specific cultural issues and initial research: open observation and recordings, conducting first interviews. Working on photos and desk research. The results will be clustered into categories, questions to be addressed will be defined.

Second Day: Deeper Exploration

Choosing an aspect, a situation or a manifestation: by a further concretisation of the TOPICS (›Using a Bus-stop‹), the teams decide on a specific ›MICRO-EVENT‹ (e.g. ›In the Tube‹) with a specific set of questions to be developed.

The teams are focusing on sample research and explore the defined ›micro-event‹ in more detail. Looking beyond the obvious surface appearance, looking for invisible structures and exploring them: Which structures can be revealed by observing manifestations (forms of appearance, objects, symbols and habits) and by analysing this situation, this ›micro-event‹?  

Understanding by describing the context: when/what/where/why. Analysis and first visualisations of functions and processes. Beginning of the iterative work of (re)formulating the questions, aiming to find the questions that will guide the research. 

Creating the first ITEM. De-coding the pictures by descriptions: taking the observations of the chosen situation and finding out which meanings can be depicted. What is ›behind‹ the manifestations? How are they related to other manifestations, to different people/processes? How can they be interpreted? Those findings go into the interpretations of the item sheets. Here the teams already start to use the questions as a research tool, formulating them as precisely as possible.

Third Day: Exploration at the Same Level

Observation of two to four variations and iterations of the chosen aspect of the situation (›micro-event‹). Understanding of the principles of similarity. Relationships between the different findings will be revealed. Item sheets will be used and completed. Language – driven by the work in re-formulating the questions – is used to understand the situation from a different point of view (findings are transformed into verbal language).

Fourth Day: Creating Interventions and Transformations

Refinement of the guiding questions. Interventions are leading the workshop participants back to reality and lead to deeper insights and to ideas for possible transformations. Scenarios are an appropriate tool for visualising the ideas. Definition of the title of the core idea/project work and of descriptive keywords from each team.

Fifth Day: Share and Communicate

Verbal and visual argumentation. Presentation preparation/charts. Focus on the important issues of the findings. Final update of the item sheets.


Open Studio and Presentation

If possible, the workshop takes place in an "open studio" that allows and promotes contact with local people. This eases the work with the local representatives and helps to spread the word about the Cultural Library.  In all cases, each workshop on site ends with a public presentation (maybe also with a small exhibition) where the local representatives and other people are invited to participate. It also aims to gather feedback from those  people (specific feedback forms that will go into the online database are available). Depending on the time available, the presentation can be followed by an open studio (where the workshop is extended for a couple of days). Public discussions are an important aspect of the presentation and the open studio serves to externalise implicit knowledge and experience. The results or further insights can be added to the respective items.