Dr Betti Marenko

Profile image of Contextual Studies Programme Leader BA (Hons.) Product Design

Contextual Studies Programme Leader BA (Hons.) Product Design

Central Saint Martins

Biography

Betti Marenko is a design theorist, academic, educator, public speaker and consultant.

Marenko’s background is in sociology, philosophy and cultural studies, and she has over 10 years of experience in design education and research. Her interdisciplinary approach brings together design studies, continental philosophy and the analysis of digital cultures to investigate the relationships between design, society and technologies, and their role in shaping possible futures. Her work has featured frequently in international conferences, collections and peer-reviewed journals, including Design and Culture, Design Studies and Digital Creativity. She is a co-editor of the volume Deleuze and Design (Edinburgh University Press 2015), the first book to use Deleuze and Guattari to provide an entirely new theoretical framework to address the theory and practice of design.

Marenko leads the BA Product Design Contextual Studies Programme at CSM, and prior to this was Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Essex, and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Urbino. Her earlier work focused on the practices and politics of body modification - specifically tattooing - analysed through the thought of Deleuze, Guattari and Spinoza, and she is the author of two seminal books in Italian on this subject: Ibridazioni. Corpi in Transito e Alchimie della Nuova Carne (Roma, Castelvecchi 1997), and Segni Indelebili, Materia e Desiderio del Corpo Tatuato (Milano, Feltrinelli 2002). Both are works of practical philosophy based on her extensive experience of, experimentation with, and reflection on permanent body marking.

Research interests

Design Theory; Continental Philosophy; Speculative Futures; Digital Cultures; Computation; The NonHuman; Animism.

Research statement

My work is located at the intersection of philosophy and design. Influenced by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, it examines the tension between design taken as a way of speculating on, and instigating, the future, and thought that addresses materiality, affect, the virtual and the nonhuman. I am interested in fostering lines of minor design: multiple ways of repositioning design in the 21st century as a problematising tool for thinking, making and creating change.

I am currently writing a book titled Digital Uncertainty: Between Predictability and Potential in Algorithmic Culture, which investigates the new contingent logic of planetary computation and its impact on society, publics and subjectivities. It looks at the production of algorithm-driven knowledge and suggests ways of re-imagining human-machine interaction through unpredictability, intuition, and minor practices. It asks what it means to be human in a world populated by objects designed to be smart. It examines the emerging nonhuman intelligence of smart objects, informed matter and sentient environments by focusing on the animation and contested materiality of the digital. Animism and digital enchantment are proposed as post-human, post-cognitive, post-user theoretical frameworks to speculate on alternative models of interaction between humans and digital objects and, broadly, between the human and the nonhuman.

Projects, awards and grants

Part of an interdisciplinary team (TU Delft, Hong Kong Polytechnic, Simon Fraser University) awarded a research grant by the Lorentz Center, Leiden University to organise the workshop ‘Designing smart objects as embodied agents in everyday life’ (Forthcoming April 2018).

Students

Neslihan Tepehan (The University of Edinburgh), Asignifying traits in design.
Rebecca Breuer (University of Amsterdam), Fashion beyond identity. The three ecologies of dress.
Guy Keulemans (University of New South Wales), Affect and the experimental design of domestic products.

Betti Marenko is interested in hearing from potential PhD students interested in Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy in relation to design practices and theories; animism, agency and thing theory; computation and digital materiality.

Selected research outputs