Following the earlier archaeological thread of when the DRS was founded and which was its first conference here is a quick sift through the options of London 1962, for the early doors; Scarborough 1964 for the consolidation point; Birmingham 1965 where according to Bruce Archer the seeds were sown; Portsmouth 1967 when the society had been formally announced; and now here is 1973, the conference that is introduced by Reg Talbot in the Foreword of the Proceedings as "the first major conference of the Design Research Society". Thanks Reg. That was in September 1971 and there are a series of tweets from the proceedings here. Reviews of the conference were mixed, picking up on both the definition and the experience of participation. The term Design Participation is a term that Nigel Cross thought he had invented specifically for the conference. (Cross, 1972, Design Participation, Academy Editions, p.14). Below is a review of the DRS Design Participation Conference, from Design 275 November 1971 p22
It was bold of the Design Research Society to hold a three day conference on Design Participation at Owens Park, Manchester, and bolder still to devise a way of running it which practically precluded formal participation by the 150 delegates. Reg Talbot and Nigel Cross-the DRS organisers had however included some excellent ideas, like playing back videotapes of each day's speakers, laying on participatory management and design games and not least by keeping the bar open until midnight.
The conference was noticeable for its lack of consumer voices - the exception being William Osborne (one of Ralph Nader's assistants), whose contribution was somewhat marred by US v THEM zeal, which included the suggestion that anti-pollution committees should not accept industrialists. Not surprisingly, fashionable concern with environmental questions dominated most of the contents although Professor Chaddock (Loughborough), E Matchett and J N Siddall (professor of engineering, Hamilton, Ontario) spoke for engineers. The subject matter was dominated by systems methods, cybernetics and simulation techniques, and it was clear that 'computer envy' lies deep in the psychosis of many research projects. ("Anything your computer can do mine can do better").
Christopher Evans (National Physical Laboratory) described the use of computers in medical research; Nicholas Negroponte (MIT) outlined an experimental approach to participation and computation; Tom Markus (Strathclyde) described control systems and usefully quoted Parkinson's "the beginning of the end is when a company builds its headquarters": John Page (Sheffield), John Christopher Jones (Open University) and Robert Jungk (Berlin) summed up - all of them in various ways drawing attention to the conflicts between political, administrative and design processes.
Although some of the papers had clearly been produced for another purpose, the conference usefully exposed a wealth of techniques that are or will be available to sharpen up communications between users and designers. Less successful was any attempt to produce answers which would diminish "professionalism" thought almost unanimously to be at the root of many grievances - and yet clearly visible in many of the contributions. At the beginning Reyner Banham had asked whether the conference would turn out to be like any other design conference with the "new wonder ingredient- participation" thrown in. It very nearly was because of an excessive emphasis on technology for its own sake. One wonders whether applied technology can ever be achieved without the dreaded professionals.
Design 275 November 1971 p22