PhD summer school on Theatre in Design


Apply before May 1st

August 22nd – August 26th 2016
University of Southern Denmark 
Kolding, Denmark


SDU Design organises a PhD summer school as a part of Nordes Design Research network. This 5-day PhD summer school brings together researchers from different academic disciplines to study how various forms of theatre can support design and design research by exploring object interactions and social dynamics. We invite PhD students who are or will be involved with theatre in designing products, systems or services, in facilitating practice changes in private or public organisations, or in engaging with users or other stakeholders.

Theatre and other forms of artistic interventions have for some years been used to support processes of change and development in private and public organisations. Designers use scenario acting with to anticipate users’ reception of new interactive technologies. Performativity is used to explore new human behaviours in social design. Theatre methods help facilitate co-creation workshops and make ethnographic findings relevant to multiple stakeholders. Also, Forum Theatre and improvised theatre uses professional actors to investigate and resolve organisational conflicts. There are several branches of research, which take theatre and action-based approaches as a starting point to provide qualitative research results.

SDU Design has solid experience in bringing improvisational theatre into design. Our Theatre Lab works with the full range of methods for design, organisational change and qualitative research. In this summer school we will explore in more depth what insights we gain from studies of object interaction and social dynamics through improvised theatre. How can theatre support design? What themes can theatre help research?

A choice of two tracks Depending on your interests and research focus the summer school will allow you to specialise in one of the two tracks:

Track 1: Object theatre in interaction design Object theatre engages with objects as triggers for improvisation. Bringing objects into theatrical settings enhances our awareness of the role of objects in design and everyday life, which may change the meaning of the object and invite to reflexivity about our experiences. Interaction design has a fundamental interest in understanding the social nature of objects and object theatre can help designers take object perspectives, experience objects ‘from within’ and explore context interdependencies of the design object.

Track 2: Improvised theatre in social design Improvised theatre can create micro-provocations and disruptions to change the quality of human interacting. The playing out of conflicts can be of much help in clarifying how organisations prescribe certain ways of doing, ways of knowing and communication, while excluding others. Social design has a fundamental interest in the nature of sociality and how power, ideology and politics are distributing certain roles of identity and ways of living. In this track, we shall explore such themes with improvised, participatory theatre.

Programme The PhD summer school runs for five days August 22–26, 2016. See the tentative program on the left. In the mornings we will organise seminars to provide theoretical grounding. In the afternoons the two tracks will explore concrete project cases through different theoretical concepts and theatre approaches to develop novel ways of researching complex issues. In the late afternoons we will share findings across the two tracks. The programme is exploratory and we expect you to contribute with your own experience towards the themes above. The first three days of the summer school will also be open to actors, artists and other researchers with an interest in the field. The last two days will be dedicated to PhD students and how your research projects may draw on the insights gained from the first three days’ explorations. The working language will be English.

As part of the summer school we hold an 3-day International Seminar for researchers and artists. Click here to read more

Participation If you find this interesting, please send us a quick mail with a few lines about yourself and to which track you are interested in. This will be non-committal but very helpful for our planning.
To register for participation, you must submit a short summary of your PhD research and a brief statement of how theatre is relevant to your project. Submissions should be no more than two A4 pages, and sent to Henry Larsen (hlarsen@mci.sdu.dk) by May 1st 2016.
We will select 10-20 PhD students per track to achieve a multidisciplinary balance between design directions, design anthropology, conversation analysis, organizational change and innovation management. Upon notification of acceptance, participants will receive course material as well as further instructions of how to prepare for and participate in the summer school.

Credit 5 ECTS. The summer school will support PhD students in preparing a paper for submission to the NORDES conference 2017.

Registration fee DKK 1200 (+ VAT 25%, + payment fee) to cover lunches, refreshments and the summer school dinner. Participants are expected to book and pay their own travel and accommodation.

Organisers This PhD summer school is part of Nordes summer school program and organised by SDU Design Research, a cross disciplinary centre nested between social sciences, humanities and engineering at the University of Southern Denmark.

  • Professor Henry Larsen, participatory innovation, Mads Clausen Institute
  • Professor Jacob Buur, user-centred design, Mads Clausen Institute
  • Associate professor Thomas Markussen, social design, Department of Design and Communication
  • Theatre Lab consultant Preben Friis, Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management
  • Theatre Lab actor and junior researcher Merja Ryöppy, Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management

ContactIf you have any questions, please contact: Professor Henry Larsen (e-mail)

Important dates

  • May 1: Deadline for submission of the 2-pages summary of PhD research
  • May 13: Notification of acceptance and link to the payment system
  • June 10: Deadline for the payment of registration fee
  • June-July: Course material will be shared in the LinkedIn group


Documents to download
PhD_summer_school_on_Theatre_in_Design_Summer school brochure