Journal Article

Particularizing the Past: Persuasion and Value in Oral History Interviews and Design Critiques

Arlene Oak

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 19, issue 4, pages 345-356
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epl028
Particularizing the Past: Persuasion and Value in Oral History Interviews and Design Critiques

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Design historians are accustomed to dealing with ‘the past’ as they locate their work within particular periods and historicized frameworks. Yet, as well as a context for research, the past may be used in specific ways to give structure and to support persuasion within particular genres of social interaction, such as oral history interviews and design critiques. This paper uses discursive social psychology (DSP) as a tool to explore the micro-qualities of talk in twelve design history interviews and two design critiques. Through a DSP focus on ‘particularization’, the issues considered here are how, in the interviews, specific terms concerning the past are used to help categorize its relevance for the interviewees and how, in the critiques, specific terms related to the past are used to support arguments about current design work. The approach taken here, wherein details of talk are examined, demonstrates how historians who conduct interviews may ascribe particular status to their interviewees and how contemporary design practitioners may actively use references they have garnered from the history of design. Thus, rather than considering oral history interviews in terms of what they tell us about the designers' pasts and rather than considering critique interactions in terms of what they tell us about ‘good’ design, the data are analysed here with regard to how particular references to the past help give meaning and persuasive power to the present activities of oral history and design practice.

Keywords: design; design critique; design history; discursive social psychology; oral history; women designers

Journal Article.  8280 words. 

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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