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85 301 Objects of Research: Titanium Dioxide

Full course name in English: 
Objects of Research: Titanium Dioxide
85 301
Syklus 2
2020 Høst
2020 Høst
Maksimum antall studenter: 
Ingrid Halland
Om emnet

The chemical compound titanium dioxide (TiO2) circulates extensively through our material, biological, and economic systems, most of the time completely unnoticeable: in the food we eat, the paper we print on, the paint on the wall, and our iPhone chargers. The man-made substance is a white pigment that has been used in the mass-production of materials and goods since its discovery around 1900. TiO2 has been called “the whitest white” and its material properties are inextricably related to invisibility, durability, and surface.

Representing the new, the bright, and the clean, TiO2 was discovered and patented by Norwegian chemists Peder Farup and Gustav Jensen, and production for the global market began in the mine Titania AS in Norway in 1918. After a hundred years of mining, the extraction of TiO2 has left an irreversible change in the local landscape: The environmental trace of mining modernism consists of a vast cut through the surface of the earth and a white artificial desert of mining waste.

Once a signature of modernism, TiO2 has now become a signature of innovative materials and smart technologies. Architects, chemists, and building engineers progressively investigate the future prospects of the material as an essential component in renewable and alternative building technology. Today, TiO2 nanopraticles can produce smog-absorbing building surfaces, self-cleaning windows, and antimicrobial coatings for laboratory use.

This course explores TiO2 as an object of research. How can this abstract material be approached from the fields of architecture and design? What methods can be used and what are the implications of various methodological approaches? The aim of the course thus twofold: First, the course takes TiO2 as a starting point, and the course participants will research this material by using methods and theories from their own disciplines. Second, the theories and methods selected by the students will be contextualized by lectures on topics related to research, such as “what is data?”, “what is method?”, and “what is a research hypothesis?” By conducting a small segment of research on TiO2, the course participants will be introduced to topics and issues within research ethics, research mediation, theories of knowledge, and historiography within architecture and design. The course will thus highlight how various research approaches can turn an abstract subject into a concrete object.


After this course the student will have:

  • Gained knowledge of different means and aims in research discourses (quantitative research, qualitative research, research by design, ethnography, history, theory, and criticism)
  • Learned to apply selected theories and methods to an object of research
  • Practiced searching for relevant literature, writing a brief literature review, formulating relevant discursive research questions, and acquired knowledge on how to write a research proposal
  • Developed the ability for critical thinking in order to reflect on their own discipline from different external academic perspectives, including knowledge of the distinctive character, strengths, and limitations of their own discipline
  • Reflected on the role of a researcher, and the requirements and expectations this entails in terms of social responsibilities and research ethics
Praktisk organisering og arbeidsmåter

Each student will approach titanium dioxide rooted in their own discipline (e.g. design, history, landscape) and will formulate relevant research questions that will be used to conduct a segment of a research project on the substance. The research on titanium dioxide can be mediated materially, textually, or visually, and the research activity will be contextualized by seminars on various research methods and theories for the purpose of preparing the students to produce methodologically rigorous research proposals. During the course, the students will write a short text (1000 words) on their research approach, which will include a brief summary of one selected research article. The selected research article needs to contextualize and situate the students’ research approach within a research discourse. As long as the Government’s Covid-19 regulations allow it, there will be a two-day overnight excursion to Titania AS in Sokndal. In addition, the group will (in collaboration) curate, develop, and launch a research platform where the research activity and research results will be published. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak and AHO’s regulations to minimize the amount of people inside the AHO’s buildings, half of the course will take place digitally on Zoom.


The elective course builds on a research project by Norwegian artist Marte Johnslien. As a part of her PhD in artistic practice at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (2020), Johnslien explored the Norwegian history of titanium dioxide through ceramic sculptures, written texts, anthropological methods, and photography. Johnslien will participate in the course in three ways: 1) by introducing the topic and her own methods of research, 2) by partaking in the field trip as an expert guide, and 3) as a guest critic. Other participants include Gjertrud Steinsvåg at ROM for kunst og arkitektur and representatives from Titania AS.

Evaluering og kvalitetssikring

Compulsory assignments

  1. Selecting a research approach and defining a research question
  2. Active participation in the seminar
  3. Writing assignment: a 1000-words description of the research approach that includes a summary of one research article
  4. Final project: to conduct and mediate a segment of research either textually, graphically, or materially

More information about how the course will be evaluated will be handed out when the course start. 

RapportIndividuellBestått / ikke beståttWriting assignment: a 1000-words description of the research approach that includes a summary of one research article. Counts 50 %
ProsjektoppgaveIndividuellBestått / ikke beståttFinal project: to conduct and mediate a segment of research either textually, graphically, or materially. Counts 50 %
Karakterskala:Bestått / ikke bestått
Kommentar:Writing assignment: a 1000-words description of the research approach that includes a summary of one research article. Counts 50 %
Karakterskala:Bestått / ikke bestått
Kommentar:Final project: to conduct and mediate a segment of research either textually, graphically, or materially. Counts 50 %