Barbara Neves Alves (Porto, 1974) is a design and artistic researcher, and educator based in Amsterdam. Currently her work focuses on proposals for decolonial contexts, working with how memory materialises in public space and becomes manifest in the cultural archive. Neves Alves articulates an exploratory practice that weaves in theoretical investigation, workshops, and writing—understood in an expanded way.

Neves Alves is a tutor at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (NL), with 20 years international teaching experience, including at Goldsmiths, University of London, where in 2016 she obtained her PhD with the thesis Miscommunicating and Design: Researching Miscommunication as a proposition for Designing Political Scenes—funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (PT). She was a researcher at the LAPS Research Institute for Art and Public Space (NL), integrated a research project with CLUE+ Vrije Universiteit and Zone2Source, having published articles in PARSE and Valiz, among others. Areas of work include the ecology and politics of communication, miscommunication, contemporary design and artistic research practices, radical pedagogies, critical fabulation, speculative practices, practice-led research, the archive, spectral studies, decolonial discourses, geopolitics and postcolonial narratives.

Her PhD (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2016) advanced the concept of Miscommunication to challenge the notion of ‘good communication’ as an objective of the field of communication design—communication is often failing to reach its intended audiences or outcomes. I expanded on miscommunication as concept and practice to demonstrate how social and cultural exchanges that produce error or misunderstanding can be provocative sites for developing new modes of communication design.

Miscommunication is often regarded as the failure of communication. In other words, miscommunication interrupts, slows down, or creates misunderstandings. However, I showed that when miscommunication is acknowledged in design practices it can generate more situated contributions for designers, while creating the opportunity to explore exchanges that can foster new speculative design practices and new political formations. I looked at communication in its transformative capacity, understood as a key element in socially and politically engaged modes of practice. In this way, I contextualised and analysed communication design within social and participatory design, going beyond the literature in design, drawing on a diverse body of literature at the intersection of design, participation, the formation of publics and science and technology studies, to push the boundaries of Communication Design to rethink its role in creating political events and propose new imaginaries for participatory design practices. These were offered through a set of practical propositions for creating ‘political scenes,’ developed through three ‘figures of miscommunication,’ that of the parasite, the idiot and the diplomat, borrowing from the theoretical framework of Michel Serres and Isabelle Stengers, exploring noise that interferes with good communication, impasses to communication through apparent moments of nonsense and forms of exchange that take on misunderstanding. Articulating miscommunication through examples of works in art and design, participatory processes aiming at social change and, reflection on a set of exploratory practices in Lisbon, Maputo, London and Amsterdam.

Barbara@barbaranevesalves.net / Academia.edu / Facebook / Linkedin