Max Willis MFA, PhD

design research for sustainable futures

cv - contact:max[at]maxwillis[dot]net


About Max Willis

max willis in a leather jacket

I am an artist, interaction designer and futures researcher. I hold two terminal degrees, a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Media from City University of Hong Kong (2009) and a doctorate (PhD) in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from University of Trento, Italy (2019). Both studies were focussed on social design, and investigations of technology-mediated social interactions. During the MFA I explored interaction design, and the implications of technology and technological artefacts on emergent social practices, from performance to urban-placemaking and audio/video investigations. In After nearly a decade in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China, including a number of years at Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design, as Visiting Lecturer and Research Associate to the School's Co-creation Initiative, I returned to Europe for my doctorate in Italy.

I undertook my PhD on an industrial scholarship from Telecom Italia Semantics and Knowledge Innovation Lab (SKIL) at the Department of Information Sciences and Engineering (DISI) International Doctoral School. My thesis, On Agonism and design: dialogues between theory and practice investigated conflict and pluralism in social design through game and play, stakeholder engagement, interaction and intersubjectivity, and discourse analysis. It was completed as a Research through Design, also known as Constructive Design Research (see the publications page). Throughout my studies and varied practices, I have gained core competencies in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), participatory design, creative inquiry and Research through Design (RtD), Critical and Speculative methodologies. These have evolved into a practice of enacting research by designing and prototyping technological artefacts, and deploying them into lived environments as discursive objects to drive critical discussion on contemporary issues.

My current trajectory is towards Design Activism, prototyping hard and soft artifacts to engage, confront, and disrupt, combining research with my lifelong passion for islands, oceans, coastlines and our existentially connected cultures. In recent years I have been investigating low-cost marine and coastal environmental monitoring systems for Small Island Developing States, and exploring the idea of embedding values of Open Science and FAIR within technology development, and re-examining social-technological-environmental configurations through participatory stakeholder engagement.