Michelle Westerlaken

Michelle Westerlaken
Michelle Westerlaken

Position: Postdoctoral Research Associate

Department: Department of Sociology

Keywords: smart Forests, multispecies design, participatory research, interaction design

I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate for the Smart Forests project at the department of Sociology.
As an interdisciplinary researcher and designer my work builds on posthumanism, feminist technoscience, critical animal studies, and participatory design methods to investigate possibilities for humans and other species for more relational —multispecies— ways of living on this planet. So far, these projects have involved design negotiations together with cats, dogs, ants, penguins, and various interactive technologies. Central to my work are the ways in which theory and participatory research practices continuously inform and inspire each other.

I have a PhD in Interaction Design from Malmö University in Sweden. My dissertation, “Imagining Multispecies Worlds” obtained in 2020, presents a ‘Multispecies Bestiary’ in which 10 protagonist species (including, among others, forests, worms, mice, and monsters) guide the reader through an illustrated collection of multispecies stories. These stories show a repertoire of world-making practices with other species in which we recognize and engage with the ability to respond to each other. The project involved visiting research undertaken at the Hong-Kong Polytechnic University, Laguna College of Art and Design in California, and The University of Malta.

Besides doing research, I taught undergraduate and graduate courses on the topics of design theory, playful interaction, interactive storytelling, and experimental game design.

Get in touch: mw833 [at] cam.ac.uk, twitter @colombinary