PhD Dissertation

The Artificial as Immunological World Formation

My work right now looks at notions of immunology (a concept that I derived and bring to design from the work of several philosophers like Watsuji Tetsuro, Peter Sloterdijk, & Byun Chul Han) as a way to sketch and define the boundaries of socio-technical systems. I use the metaphor of designed environments as immune systems to analyze how, in different cultural contexts, technological objects effectively create sphereological technical systems that allow for new kinds of practices to emerge. I also study where gaps form in these socio-technical assemblages and how people cope with and create novel solutions where systems fail or limit them (bringing in the work of philosophers like Georges Bataille and systems theorists like Michael Polyani).

Masters Dissertation

Object Oriented Ontological Explorations in Design Praxis

I wrote my masters dissertation asking the question: what could a non-human centered design be like? To answer this question, I first identified critiques of anthropocentrism in modern design by scholars like Tony Fry and Peter Paul Verbeek. I then turned towards the work of Martin Heidegger and Graham Harman to look at what object oriented ontology (OOO), a philosophical movement concerned with thinking about nonhumans, would have to offer to design practice. I concluded by showing that not only does OOO offer novel ways of thinking of the phenomenology of things and of technological systems, but also reveals that there is a kind of ‘material grammar’ present in designerly making, bound up closely with the craft of design practice.

Applied Research at CMU

Learning to See, Seeing to Learn: A Sociotechnical System Supporting Taxonomic Identification Activities in Volunteer-Based Water Quality Biomonitoring

Gigapixel Cyberinfrastructure for Participatory Science Learning

I am currently doing design research with Marti Louw in the Human Computer Interaction Institute at CMU in designing and developing a digital informal learning environment to support and improve observational practices and classification skills among citizen scientists and expert entomologists. To make the task of identifying freshwater insects easier and more engaging, my team is developing a platform, the Macroinvertebrate Identification Training Environment, that will use zoomable, annotatable high-resolution images and interactive media to educate citizen scientists and help them in bug identification, while also increasing the reliability and quality of the data they are generating for purposes of scientific research and conservation efforts. My work so far has involved conducting usability studies with citizen scientists, interviews and observational studies with both trainers and experts, coding and analyzing the data from qualitative research, and translating the data into design insights and designing low level prototypes for the platform.

I have also co-written two papers on a previous research project I did developing another learning platform and the site installation where it would be deployed for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History using Gigapixel technology with professor Louw as part of UPCLOSE and the CREATELab at CMU between 2012-2013.

Partners in Learning: Building Rapport with a Virtual Peer Tutor

I spent the summer of 2016 doing research on another project involving learning technologies with Professor Amy Ogan of the Human Computer Interaction Institute on designing and developing high fidelity interactive protoypes for a math tutoring software aimed at teaching math concepts to multilingual students whose native language was not English. I designed and coded both the prototypes and wrote the protocols and experiment design for their deployment and subsequent testing and data gathering in several schools across the Philippines.


Ansari, A., (2017), Bataillean Excess & Sloterdijkian Immunology in Interactive Systems, International Applied Human Factors & Ergonomics Conference 2017, Los Angeles, CA, July 17-21 (Publication Pending)

Ansari, A., (2017), Glasshouse: The Western Artificial as Sphereological World Formation, Design History Society Annual Conference 2017, Oslo, Norway, Sept 7-9 (Publication Pending)

Ansari, A., (2016), Redesigning Design Education in Pakistan: Integrating Systems Thinking and Material Culture into Local Design Pedagogy, Cityscapes, IVSAA, Karachi

Ansari, A., Kandala, R., (2016), Interview: Jian Guan on Design & Innovation in China, ACM XRDS, June 2016 Issue || Link

Ansari, A., Kandala, R., (2016), ACM XRDS, June 2016 Issue || Link

Ansari, A., (2016), Politics & Method, Modes of Criticism, Vol 2 || Link

Ansari, A., (2014), Operation Sovereign Borders (Australian Government Customs and Border Protection Service),, 2014

Loew, M., Ansari, A., Bartley, C., Nourbahksh, I., (2013), Stories in the Rock: A Design Case for Explorable Image Viewers in Museums, International Journal of Designs for Learning, Vol 4, Issue 2 || Link

Louw, M., Ansari, A., Bartley, C., Nourbahksh, I., (2013), Exploring Gigapixel Image Environments for Science Communication and Learning in Museums, Proceedings of Museums & The Web, Portland, OR, April 17-21 || Link

Talks & Workshops

Transcript of the speech delivered in defense of the motion “Design must fill current human needs before imagining new futures”, MIT Media Lab Summit, 16th July 2015 || Link

Full day workshop, Design Research Methods, for the Pakistan Innovation Foundation Accelerator Weekend, Karachi || July 2015

Mentor, Teams Edequal and AKUH, for the Pakistan Innovation Foundation IlmApps Challenge, DotZero, Karachi || September 2014

Mentor, IlmApps Hackathon, for the Pakistan Innovation Foundation IlmApps Challenge, DotZero, Karachi || June 2014

Full day workshop, Design Research Methods, for the Pakistan Innovation Foundation IlmApps Challenge, KITE, Karachi || March 2014

Mentor, Design Day, for the Pakistan Innovation Foundation NIGC competition, KASBL, Karachi || April 2014

Speaker in #DisruptEd ‘14 conference panel, ‘New Methods, New Modalities, But Same Old Results?’, Islamabad || April 2014

Full day workshop, Design Research Methods, for the Pakistan Innovation Foundation NIGC competition , KITE, Karachi || March 2014

Half day workshop, The HCD Process, for the Pakistan Innovation Foundation NIGC competition , KITE, Karachi || February 2014

Lecture, Approaches & Methodologies to Research in Design Practice, Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture, Karachi || February 2014

Half day workshop, Business Applications of Data Visualization, Marriot Hotel, Karachi || October 2013


Ansari, A., (2013), The Flat Earth: Object Oriented Ontological Explorations in Design Praxis || Link


Ansari, A., (2016), Towards a Design of, from & with the Global South || Link

Ansari, A., (2013), The Postcolonial Bildungsroman as First Philosophical Text: The Problem of Authenticity Explored in The Buddha of Suburbia || Link

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