In conversation with wool : a place-based approach to re-imagining materials innovation in Aotearoa through talanoa and science and design in partnership : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Master in Design at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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As the world is engulfed in ever-increasing human-made mass, there is a need to shift present-day assumptions around innovation and progress toward more profound meaning and value within new materials development. Instead of focusing on market-ready material outcomes, the process of conception at the front-end should become more intentional and thorough. Hence, this Master’s project explores how design can aid the product development process in agricultural science organisations at the outset of materials research to facilitate strategic innovation. It aims to ascertain the value of cross-disciplinary collaboration toward finding applications for strong wool-based keratin composite materials. More precisely, the project centres on community involvement at the beginning of science research projects to generate more place-based and culturally grounded outcomes that meet the communities’ needs. In doing so, it seeks to advocate for the value of Pacific epistemologies in research and, therein, different material understandings and ontologies in conversation, challenging the entrenched Western mindset to science and design. This is of particular interest to me due to my Sāmoan heritage and being Aotearoa-based. The project draws on a qualitative research methodology that revolves around talanoa and is supported by participatory and material driven design approaches, encompassing workshops, one-on-one conversations, and the making of boundary objects. It is hoped that the proposed methodology will showcase how material science research may become more accessible and contribute to the advancement of our communities in Aotearoa. Supervision, funding and facilities have been provided by both AgResearch and Massey University over one year. The project demonstrates the benefits of cross-disciplinary ways of working towards more inclusive, ecocentric and place-based futures, acting as a resource for future collaborations in the materials development space.
boundary objects, co-design, cross-disciplinary, material-driven design, material science research, place-based, respectful design, strong wool, talanoa