Wendy Gunn

Wendy Gunn

Distinguished Adjunct of Research


Wendy Gunn is Distinguished Adjunct of Research, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University. As a researcher, she has cross-disciplinary expertise in design, architecture and anthropology and significant experience of conducting collaborative research as part of multidisciplinary design teams involving both private and public sectors. Central to her research is a close connection between theory and practice, research and teaching. At the School of Design, Wendy is focusing on the development of Transition Design research and curricula. In parallel, she will be advising PhD students and /or Master students in the area of Sustainable and Transition Design.

Underpinning her research inquiry is a concern with the affects that design processes and future making practices have on people who engage with products, services, buildings and urban landscapes. This research inquiry is informed by a problematization of existing notions of sustainability and intervention within design processes and practices and has been underpinned by a longer-term aim to understand how people’s sensory experience and perceptual acuity can be involved during design processes and future making practices. Collaboration is central to Wendy’s research and has involved working as a researcher and research supervisor with company and industrial partners: 2014-16 Senior Researcher/Research Supervisor Designing for Growth and Well-being. Battle McCarthy Consulting Engineers and Landscape Architects, London; 2008-11 Senior Researcher/Research Supervisor Indoor Climate and Quality of Life. Velux, Isover, WindowMaster, Nilan, Carl Bro, DTU, SPIRE; 2005-08 Senior Researcher/Research Supervisor User Supported Embedded Configuration (USEC). Danfoss, Grundfos, American Power Conversion (APC), and Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS).

Since 2005 she has defined frameworks for moving collaborative research inquiry into design processes and practices integrating anthropological methodologies and theoretical concepts with creative methods. Her publications explore such processes and practices through ethnographic documentation of design experimentation and analysis of emergent properties, involving learning, imagination, cooperation, etc., as well as methodological implications. In her research, she demonstrates an ability to adapt analytical insights to social processes of collective learning and skill development, and to apply those insights to design processes. As a leading scholar in Design Anthropology, she has played a crucial role in establishing a research agenda for the field of Design Anthropology at an international level. This includes developing conceptual and analytical frameworks whereby experimental design practice is the process of research inquiry, and co-editing two agenda setting key texts in the field, Design and Anthropology (Routledge, 2016, 2012) and Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013). As a result of her research contributions, the field of Design Anthropology has developed as an important area of interdisciplinary research. Wendy has published several articles and books with international publishers including: Routledge, Bloomsbury, Ashgate, Bergahn, Peter Lang, Sage (see https://cmu.academia.edu/WendyGunn). She also has many years experience of curatorial and knowledge transfer communicating scientific research in different forms to divergent audiences. Currently, she is working on an encyclopedia article on Design Anthropology in Europe for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology, to be published by Oxford University Press and an online experimental publication for Cultural Anthropology focusing on the theme of Correspondence.

Wendy holds a MA (1996) and PhD (2003) in Social Anthropology (University of Manchester). Her post-doctoral research (2002-2005) was interdisciplinary in orientation. She placed emphasis on the practice of interdisciplinarity – ways of doing anthropology with other disciplines – rather than doing anthropology of these subjects. In the context of her research the fine art, design, and architectural design studios and anthropology seminar rooms were treated as places to study the interrelations, in practice, between perception, creativity and skill (University of Dundee/University of Aberdeen, see Gunn, W. Ed. 2009. Fieldnotes and Sketchbooks: Challenging the boundaries between Descriptions and Processes of Describing. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang). During this period (1994-2005) she was supervised/advised by the anthropologist Tim Ingold. As Associate Professor (2005-2017) at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) working with Professor Jacob Buur, she developed skills, knowledge and competencies in organizing collaborative temporal spaces for participatory innovation, across university and industry settings and across professional knowledge practices and disciplinary boundaries. At SDU, she built upon Scandinavian Design traditions and involved co-creation, co-production, participatory design and participatory innovation workshop activities in her research towards the co-design of emerging technologies. From 2016-2018, she was Adjunct Professor, College of Design and Social Context at RMIT attached to the Digital Ethnography Research Centre (DERC), RMIT University, Australia. Wendy’s main focus at RMIT was on the social aspects of infrastructuring across health, energy and environmental engineering. During 2017-2018, she was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship at KU Leuven University, Belgium to work with Professor Ann Heylighen (design research) and Professor Dirk Saelens (building physics) on the research project: An Anthropological Inquiry by Design Towards Improving Indoor Air Quality within Hospital settings.

She is an elected fellow of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth and Society of Antiquities of Scotland. Wendy is also a regular reviewer for academic journals: H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences; J. of Science, Technology and Human Values; J. of Design History; Current Anthropology; Visual Anthropology Review; J. of Design Research; J. of Material Culture; Arts and Humanities in Higher Education; EASA European Association of Social Anthropologists Book Series. Since 2005, she has served on examination, evaluation and steering committees for international research councils and universities. Since completing her PhD (2003), she has presented and delivered over 50 lectures, keynotes and workshops about her research to universities, schools of art & design, architecture, and engineering; industrial and company partners, research funders and policymakers in Scandinavia, Europe, UK, USA, Brazil, Israel and Australia. Wendy is widely recognized internationally and has an extensive global network, which she intends to leverage as part of her research at CMU in Transition Design.

As a research supervisor, Wendy has supervised BSc, MSc, PhD and industrial PhD students across the fields of design, architecture and anthropology. Thesis partners, among others: Dong Energy; Össur; Oticon; Focon Electronic Systems; DanChurchAid (Folkekirkens Nødhjælp). Supervised doctoral thesis topics include: The Patient as Skilled Practitioner: A Design Anthropology Approach to Enskilment in Health and Technology; Different Matters of Invention: Design Work as the Dissimilar Design Artefacts; Reconcepualising Understandings of Agency: Within the Demand Side Management in a Future Electricity SMART Grid Infrastructure. Integral to Wendy’s research activity was the development of the first international PhD course in Design Anthropology attracting over sixty students globally. Wendy has chaired PhD committees and examined PhD students at SDU (Denmark); NNTU (Norway); QUT (Australia); and Uni. of Glasgow (Scotland). She previously was an external examiner at Faculty of Engineering, DTU-Man.Eng/Innovation & Sustainability & Social-Technical design, Danish Technical Univ. of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2006-2010; and is currently an external examiner at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen; Design School in Kolding; and Aarhus School of Architecture.