Wednesday, May 27, 2015

DSDN 481: Project 9

Academic Critique of “The Nature of Design Practice and Implications for Interaction Design Research”

Design practices and methods represent ways to deal with challenges and problems that have no singular solution. These so-called “wicked problems” are at the core of what it means to “design”. Understanding this complexity of what design represents and does is an important focal point for Erik Stolterman’s argument in “The Nature of Design Practice and Implications for Interaction Design Research”. Stolterman (2008) suggests that design complexity differs uniquely from scientific complexity, and resultantly the approaches and methods for dealing with said complexity should not be the same (p.55). Stolterman’s background is in Human Computer Interactions Theory (HCI) and Experience and Interaction Design, both of which he lectures as the Professor of Informatics at the Indiana University Bloomington (Indiana University Bloomington, 2015). Grounding the paper in HCI places the written territory firmly into Stolterman’s backyard. With extensive support gathered from a variety of design philosophers and academic papers, Stolterman’s article appears well thought out, thoroughly researched and addresses a current concern for design and its ability to identify where it sits amongst academia. In the following paragraphs I will analyse each of Stolterman’s main ideas, evaluate his claims, and then ascertain the value of his research.

HCI & The Nature of Design Practice
Stolterman (2008) states “One reason why HCI research has not always been successful is that it has not been grounded in and guided by a significant understanding and acceptance of the nature of design practice” (p. 56). This proposition highlights Stolterman’s main argument, one which is heavily supported by Yvonne Rogers’ study “New theoretical approaches for human-computer interaction”. Stolterman and Rogers take similar stances on questioning the nature of design practice and approaches in HCI, especially when it pertains to the usage of design tools and their lack of serious grounding. Rogers (2004) infers that from the perspective of the practitioner there exists a dissonance between the understanding of methods and the actual usage of them, suggesting that this problem might be lie in the overly theoretical nature of design theory and the difficulty in its application (p. 123).

While I don’t disagree with the opinions of either Stolterman or Rogers, I feel like Stolterman’s (2008) analysis of Rogers’ study missed the mark a little bit and resulted in a more monochrome outlook on the subject of “understanding and acceptance of the nature of design practice” (p. 56). Stolterman (2008) makes an assumption that more experienced designers would see these methods as less designerly (read: less suitable or fitting in a design context)” (p. 56). This is quite different to what Rogers (2004) concluded in her study, namely that practitioners of design find HCI theories to be very valuable and informative, yet find the surrounding analytical frameworks much harder to understand and implement than the more basic concepts (p. 123). This isn’t suggested as being a case of the methods being un-designerly, rather the frameworks for them are more involved and challenging. Stolterman could have aided in developing his assumption with a definition of designerly at this point in the paper, as opposed to waiting till the last pages to do so. This would have also benefitted an audience who might be less familiar with the term. While Stolterman’s concluded assumption appears a little fallacious, I wouldn’t necessarily condemn it as being wrong, as ultimately what was concluded from Rogers’ study still supported Stolterman’s primary point.

Stolterman raises valid points on the importance of grounding research in a solid understanding of practice, especially in terms of education. Current in-use practices support Stolterman’s (2008) suggestion of “disciplined educational structures and processes built around concepts and activities such as the use of design studios and design critique” (p. 61). This learning of theoretical concepts through applied learning is one of the definitive qualities of a design education, as Cennamo et al. (2011) conclude “Studio-based-learning … has a long history of use in teaching students to solve design problems” (p. 12). Stolterman’s exploration of the nature of the design practice as a valuable learning and decision-making tool is appropriate, yet there is cause for concern in some of his reasoning in the finer points.

Complexity in Design and Science
The notion and juxtaposition of complexity between design and science is presented by Stolterman (2008) as a means of questioning whether “the underlying principles of scientific methods and approaches (are) transferable and suitable to design practice” (p. 58). It is argued that “in general they are not” (Stolterman, 2008, p. 58), suggesting that designers need to be exceedingly careful in their usage of scientific methods if they don’t fully understand their relation to design practice. Complexity is used as a comparative measure here, since design complexity is suggested as having “almost fundamentally opposite goals and preconditions (to the) … scientific approach” (p. 59). Complexity in design is what gives designers the ability to function. Without an inherently complex state and the ability to create “something non-universal, …. (or) the unique particular” (Stolterman, 2008, p.59), designers end up being marred by design paralysis.

The rationale for linking complexities to the issue of appropriating approaches and techniques is to do with the different forms of complexity often being “mixed and seen as related and similar” (Stolterman, 2008, p. 59). The problem here is evident. If the complexities are seen as similar, then why not use similar approaches to deal with them? Stolterman (2008) rightly identifies that scientific and design fields approach complexities with two different intentions. Design seeks to expand the field by setting problems, as opposed to problem solving (p. 62). Donald Schön (1983) suggested previously  that “science can only be applied to well-formed problems (that are) already extracted from situations of practice” (p. 47). Designers in my experience have issues understanding their place in academia, especially with regard to the usage of established scientific techniques. That is not to say that there aren’t designers who successfully appropriate scientific methods to their intentions.

I argue that design’s strength lies in its ability to be multi-disciplinary, pulling both qualitative and quantitative approaches and methods into the research phase of any project. Ultimately though the intention of the designer is going to be the guiding force for the methods used. If the intent is to create a more universal solution, I would argue that scientific methods are not only valid, but essential. However, if the intent is to create something with a “specific purpose, … for a specific situation, … done with limited time and limited resources” (Stolterman, 2008, p. 59) then the intention of the designer is to create a “desired reality manifested as an ultimate particular” (Stolterman, 2008, p. 59). This intention and usage scenario belies the use of a universal scientific method, and would involve a much more holistic approach to the entire process. This is the core of the design approach. Recognising the constraints and limits on the project ensures that the solution works successfully in that desired reality.

Design Research & Conclusions
Stolterman presents interesting concepts, yet I feel like few conclusions were drawn by the end of the reading. A lot of the writing appears to merely summarise concepts and bring knowledge from a variety of sources together, only highlighting problems designers often seem to already be aware of. The statement “We need to accept design complexity as a real and practical problem that every interaction designer faces” (Stolterman, 2008, p. 63) appears obvious. Naturally design complexity is a real problem for designers, whether their field is HCI, Interaction Design or even Industrial Design. All areas of design have to deal with complexity, since this is what it means to be a designer and do design.

The resounding issue for me is that Stolterman’s paper does little more than enforce the status quo. All of his ideas touch on interesting areas and begin to suggest the importance of applied learning of approaches and methods, yet he fails to suggest exactly where the research should go next. The approach Stolterman suggests with respect to design complexity is something I do however fundamentally agree with. Design being about the “specific, intentional, and non-existing” (Stolterman, 2008, p. 59) and seeking to create things with specific purposes in specific contexts is something I appreciate. Designers would be naïve to design all-encompassing solutions to problems, as the very nature of design is to understand that problems have many possible solutions, all of which can be valid. My thesis would find this approach beneficial, as it develops an appreciation for where design sits in academia and ensures understanding that success is all relative.

Cennamo, K., Brandt, C., Scott, B., Douglas, S., McGrath, M., Reimer, Y., & Vernon, M. (2011). Managing the Complexity of Design Problems through Studio-based Learning. Interdisciplinary Journal Of Problem-Based Learning, 5(2), 12-36.

Indiana University Bloomington,. (2015). Erik Stolterman - Professor of Informatics. Retrieved 25 May 2015, from

Rogers, Y. (2004) New theoretical approaches for human-computer interaction. In B. Cronin (Vol. Ed.), Annual review of information, science and technology: Vol. 38 (pp. 87-143). Medford, NJ: Information Today

Stolterman, E. (2008). The nature of design practice and implications for interaction design research. International Journal of Design, 2(1), 55-65.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

DSDN 481: Project 8

Wicked Problems - Social Housing & Reform

Q ~ 1          A Problem Worth Solving
Social Housing. The supply of it, the regulation of it, and the construction/purchase of more of it are all presently on the political table for New Zealand. The Social Housing Reform Bill passed under urgency in Parliament in November 2013 is part of a multi-year plan to advance capabilities of NZ in terms of social housing and aiding vulnerable citizens. The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (2015) states that the review of the NZ social housing sector revealed “a number of issues, including … the current social housing environment was not sustainable, ...increasing demand, … not enough social housing providers” (para. 4-5).

While positive social housing reform seems like a no-brainer, NZ social housing is likely becoming temporary housing for a lot of people. David Hargreaves (2015) states that with respect to the reform, “we've received quite a lot of fluff and very little meat” (para. 2), while Labour’s Housing Spokesman Phil Twyford (2013, as cited in Fox, 2013) stated that “National was squeezing state houses in a time of great need” (para. 20), and the resultant changes would heavily affect the funding available as well as strain sheltering capabilities.

Q ~ 2          Research Context
Hargreaves (2015) suggests the supply of social housing in Wellington falls short of estimated demand in 10 years time. Wellington is a useful location for this research as the Wellington City Council (2015) manages “2300 houses and units...around the city” (para. 10), which places both the tenants, owners, local government and national government all within walking distance. The tenants and local council are both stakeholders in this “wicked problem”, and will be affected by the outcome of any proposed solution.

Activities would be done to ascertain the perceptions of the stakeholders (tenants) in the usage of social housing as temporary living. Activities would strive to understand the day-to-day experiences of the stakeholders in the usage of spaces in temporary social housing and look to creating a solution through the use of design as research.
Q ~ 3          Research Question, Aims & Objectives
I think social housing should be a means of getting people back onto their feet. I see potential in Social Housing becoming outfitted temporary housing, looking at how provided objects and spaces could function as dynamic entities.  Refining this into the topic “Customisable Temporary Accommodation as Social Housing” allows formulating a question looking at components of customisation, e.g, furniture, objects, designed systems.

Question - How might the engagement with spaces in temporary social housing be impacted by a collaboratively designed system?

Aim 1 - I want to develop an understanding and insight into the way tenants use spaces in temporary social housing.
Objective A - I will monitor and deconstruct the way spaces in temporary social housing are 
currently used by people.
Objective B - I will collaboratively analyse and explore the way objects and furniture are used 
creatively beyond their original intended function.
Aim 2 - I want to design & explore designed systems as a means of facilitating greater personalisation of spaces in temporary social housing.
Objective A - I will develop an understanding of needs and constraints through prototyping 
and collaborative testing.
Objective B - I will refine and construct a modular system that can meet a multitude of needs 
in temporary social housing.

Q ~ 4          Research Methods
Initial exploration of work - Phase 1 involves developing an understanding of the users and avenues for collaboration. Site visits, observation, and experience mapping would work towards understanding the spaces and the way people use them. Observation would develop understanding of the users themselves and enable me to choose more suited participatory methods in the following phase. Experience mapping would enable self reporting and collaborative planning for a shared vision in the next phase.

Discovery Processes - Phase 2 seeks to collaboratively develop a shared vision and desired outcome. Bodystorming, mind-mapping, and photo studies would enable collaborative explorations into what the user values in order to develop effective outcomes. Bodystorming and mind-mapping encourage collaborative creative pursuits as well as dissecting the current status quo, all while enabling active design ideation. Photo studies encourage self-reporting by the users and collaborative dissections of the experiences.

Prototyping - Phase 3 involves developing the ideas and understandings from the first two phases into workable systems that suit the priorly identified needs. Mock-ups and cooperative prototyping would be essential here at giving users the ability to test and design the system as well as giving voice to opinions valuable to the designer. Both of these methods would facilitate collaborative physical designing, giving the user opportunities for design input, suggestions, and a sense of ownership as well as reflective analysis.

Q ~ 5          Research Outcomes & Outputs
Gaining a knowledge and understanding of how people and objects fit together in the broader scheme of the wicked problem would enable research to strive towards a concrete solution. The collaboratively outputted designed system would seek to address desire for customisation in a temporary environment and connect users to their homes.

The primary question of success in Participant Design Research (PDR) would be looking at whether there had been an improvement in quality of life for the participants, as well as whether the project and designed system had been developed collaboratively. The question of collaboration is the secondary criterion, yet arguably more important to PDR; defining whether or not the research and its solution had resulted out of methodical group studies and participation. Finally, the last criterion would establish whether or not the project had succeeded through continual reflection and critical analysis, as well as ensuring continued support and user input. All of these criteria support assessing success in the research project, ensuring a more appropriate designed system that effectively considers the users.


Fox, M. (2013). State House For Life No Longer. Stuff. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from

Hargreaves, D. (2015). David Hargreaves tries to make sense out of the Government's plans to shift more social housing into the hands of community providers. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from,. (2015). Social Housing Reform. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from,. (2015). About the Council's Social Housing. Retrieved 19 May 2015, from

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

DSDN 481: Project 7

Ron Swanson & Modular Furniture

1) Select an existing character from literature, television, or film and write a scenario that details their interaction with something you have designed in the past or would like to design in the future.
“Son, I leave my office for very few things. Usually those things involve food or government incompetence, neither of which I see here.” Ron said as he followed me.

Standing in the workshop space, we looked at the indistinct pile of wooden components and pieces. The pieces formed the basis of a modular system that could be used to build a multitude of different pieces of furniture. Ron strode over to the pile, leaning to pick one up.

“Red Oak. Good work. That’s my third favourite timber. Mortise and tenon. Solid choice for a join. Nice job on the bentwood.”

I nodded in response, smiling as I watched him take hold of several pieces and place them on the workbench next to the pile. He chose a small wooden mallet, and moved two of the pieces together before firmly tapping them until they meshed. His moustache wrinkled a little as he frowned at the shaped pieces of timber.

"Any idea what you’re going to make, Ron?"

"Something I can call my own. Please understand that I know more about this than you do." I saw him smirk as he said this, picking out pins from the pile to complete the joints. He gave the two parts a twist to see if the joint would hold. It did so with a creak, and I saw a deep furrow edge over his brow.

"You’re certainly no cabinet maker. Next time, get the the edges smoother and the joints cleaner." His criticisms felt harsh, but I could tell he meant well. On the workbench, what looked like a chair was beginning to take shape as Ron slotted the next pin into place. With a sharp tap of the mallet, the pin slid into just the right spot.

"I feel like I'm six years old again. My father used to give me old pallet pieces filled with nails and send me outside to make stuff. I got tetanus twice." I laughed at this. “I nearly died.” I immediately went silent as he eyeballed me. He held the stare for a couple of seconds before flipping the piece over and started lining up the legs. He lined up the pegs with the slots, pushing the parts together slowly and deliberately. The parts slid together with relative ease, and the seat of the chair looked complete.

“So every piece you’re using there could be used for an entirely different piece of furniture”, I explained. He looked up at me with a frown.

“This is the best and only option.” I started to argue against it, but he silenced me with a look. I mouthed a quick “Sorry” to him as he turned back to his work. The chair had legs now, and he was already picking out pieces for the back. A collection of smaller flat planks I had made was forming next to his incomplete chair. He smacked these smaller parts together with some curved struts.  

“I’ve never really cared much for this whole kitsch DIY movement. But I can see how this might get people to make more things. I think that skill is being lost. Make sure that doesn’t happen.” He almost seemed to be enjoying himself. I had hoped he might. Ever since I first made friends in the Parks department, I’d heard about the legendary Ron Swanson. I knew I had to have him test my design, and he’d reluctantly accepted.

His chair was finished. He’d usurped my original concept a little bit, and decided there was only one way to make things; his way. With a smile, he smoothed his moustache, then turned and sat in his creation. He leaned back and sighed, clasping his hands behind his head, smiling at the ceiling.

“Now, son, for my work here I was promised Lagavulin and bacon-wrapped shrimp. You had better deliver.”

2) Reflect on your scenario, in writing, addressing what you think are the strengths and limitations to using storytelling techniques to explore design.
The key element of Ron’s interaction with the design was that I was only able to shape, not determine precisely how he used the system. The way he used it came down to who he was as a character; something that I was unable to define. The strength of scenario writing is in its ability to mirror real people and real situations. In the real world, I can only ever guide people in their usage of the design, and even that won’t always be possible. People interact with objects in unexpected and unique ways and as a result, my design would be subjected to uses it wasn’t intended for. Writing the scenario allowed me to explore some of the potential uses and outcomes that Ron as a specific character might explore. The depth of Ron as a character with more defined traits and facets than a blank persona enables me to explore deeper involvements and outcomes with more dynamism and believability.

The problem inherently stems from this attempted mirroring of real life. What makes scenario writing so successful is also one of its greatest shortcomings. Because I, the designer, write the scenario, ultimately this still limits the potential outcomes to versions of the situations that I can think of. Despite toying with a character who is entirely different to me, I am still limited to the breadth of my own imagination and creativity. Employing real people with real stakes in a design would almost certainly expose new and different understandings, perceptions, and opinions.

Scenario writing presents itself as a powerful tool for conceptual phases of design, but is likely to fall off in usefulness as more in-depth analysis and development of design exploration is required.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

DSDN 481: Project 6

Subversion, Indeterminacy, and Cultural Probes

Q ~ 1          Using the range of probes discussed by the authors, describe the different
forms probes can take and their corresponding goals.
Originally developed in 1999, cultural probes offer a more designed approach towards understanding the experiences and sensibilities of the participants, while enabling directed self-reporting by the participants. Probes involve engagement with experiences, objects, systems, and the concept of separation from the researchers. Kristen Boehner et al. (2007) seek in “How HCI Interprets the Probes” to categorise some of the goals that researchers utilise probes for. The key stance that they take is that the paper “is not a “methods” paper” (p. 1077), but focuses instead on the types of knowledge produced. This is defined as being more dependant on the goals of the researchers as opposed to the actual methods used. The same method can work for multiple goals, as Boehner et al. (2007) state that “the categories we have developed are not mutually exclusive” (p. 1078).

Each goal ends up focussing on a different facet of knowledge that probes can generate. Probes as Packet focuses on using cultural probes as a means of encouraging self expression in the participants. Boehner et al. (2007) place emphasis on the revealing of data that could lead quickly into industry-style design cycles. This goal of making probes function as a packet places emphasis on the initial design and resultant broad, rapid data. Probes in this vein often appear as postcards, cameras, ready-made kits, and other objects that involve evocative tasks.

Probes as Data Collection emphasises the collection of specific information pertaining to a specific context or question. Boehner et al. (2007) explore their use for developing design constraints and attributes as well as being a method for gaining understanding of needs, environments and technology. These probes, according to Mattelmäki & Battarbee (2002), often seek to develop a “holistic understanding” (p. 267), and can take the form of participatory exercises and questionnaire-like artefacts.

Probes as Participatory is where Boehner et al.(2007) engage with the importance of participation as the defining element of cultural probes. The probes can focus here on the way that participants might reflect on an experience. Participants get to explore the inspirational side of cultural probes, as well as controlling what information is shared. It also facilitates more emotionally-sensitive scenarios as well as giving the users a greater sense of privacy.

Probes as Sensibility enables discussion towards more story-based understanding of proposed experiences. Boehner et al. (2007) identify the value here in “subjective interpretations...biased data...interactions and reflections” (p. 1080). Here, if someone doesn’t want to participate, that can be just as telling as a result from someone who did. Experience-based probes are key in achieving this goal with respect to knowledge creation.

Q ~ 2          Summarise the authors’ views on problems that have arisen as researchers
adapt probes, and explain why you agree or disagree with their assessment.
The key issue that Boehner et al. (2007) highlight is the subversion of the original probes method and intentions. The result of this is the reappropriation of the methods to suit more traditional information-gathering approaches. This ties into the identified issue of uncertainty amelioration, where a lot of the paper authors sought to find the “one correct interpretation” (p.1081). Boehner also notes that combination of “rich explanations” (p.1081) and diversity of interpretations being lacking leaves the probes devoid of their original potential to explore and develop dialogical interactions between participant and researcher.

The reassignment of probe usage takes a step back from the original intent of the probe development. As a result, there are sensibilities and process that get ignored or swept aside, leaving the resultant data and uncoverings potentially barren of personality, story, and eschewing potential further exploration into interesting and engaging areas.

Q ~ 3          Using examples from the article, explain what you think are the main
opportunities and challenges presented by the use of probes.
Boehner et al. (2007) infer that probes have a uniquely varied potential to “surprise,...break preconceptions”, (p. 1082) and discover, as well as “…and define”(p. 1083). The variance in expression of the methods enables the researcher to gain a hugely diverse understanding of experiences, stories, feelings and data. Probes result in a wealth of potential understandings, data and misunderstandings, with the subjectivity and indeterminacy of responses acting as a membrane that can create both useful material and noise with no direction.

Boehner et al. (2007) note that one of the key challenges that face probes is the lack of a “critical interpretive frame” (p. 1083), which Peter Dourish (2006) concludes as a primary consideration in the case for probes being “intended to provide inspiration rather than the basis for analysis” (p. 549). Another challenge Boehner identifies would be to ensure that probes don’t become a “generic approach...producing materials that seem insincere” (p. 1083). These challenges could certainly be addressed with a careful look at both the design, distribution, consideration, and interpretation of the probes.

Q ~ 4          If you were to design a probe for your thesis research, what kind of probe would you choose, and why? What would you, as the design researcher, need to do to
ensure your probe worked well?
The nature of the probe would be as an establishing look at the feelings and relations people develop to/with their furniture and the objects in and around their lives. The probe would seek to produce inspirational material in order to initiate a dialogue and create starting points for the design process to develop. Utilising Probes as Packet as an outset goal would encourage the probe design to allow for a broader and more diverse range of responses and interpretations while also focusing on the evocative nature of tasks and the use of uncertainty as an asset.

Boehner, K., Vertesi, J., Sengers, P., & Dourish, P. (2007, April). How HCI interprets the probes. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1077-1086). ACM.

Dourish, P. (2006, April). Implications for design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems (pp. 541-550). ACM.

Mattelmäki, T., & Battarbee, K. (2002, January). Empathy probes. In PDC (pp. 266-271).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

DSDN 481: Project 5

Participant Observation: ARISE Church

Part 1 ~ Notes on Participant Observation

ARISE church takes a much more modern approach to collective religious gatherings. This non-traditional experience involves a live band, catchy Christian pop songs, dancing, extravagant light shows and other special effects. The experience began the moment my informant (Matt Band) and I stepped over the threshold of the Michael Fowler Center (MFC). I was greeted by an excited young man giving out high fives. Stepping into a space full of smiling, cheerful young people felt more like the pre-show to a pop concert than the more somber church gatherings I was familiar with.

My informant told me that I had chosen a very special week to come to the service, as ARISE’s main band would be in Wellington for the middle stop-off of their New Zealand wide tour, as well as this week being a week that baptisms took place. I was told that the evening service we were going to was one of two that would be held that day, and that ours was the less populated and less formal of the two, as well as being more popular with younger people. My informant is heavily involved in the community of the church, so it meant that I got to meet a lot of strangers. It was fascinating seeing this  new-age take on an age-old tradition and the way it brought people together. The response to a new “member” was extremely positive, with a lot of people eager to introduce themselves to me. Despite myself introducing myself along with my lack of religious alignment and my intentions, people were still very receptive to my presence and curious about the implications of my cultural exploration. I did notice that my informant was behaving a little more reserved than I know him to be. This could possibly be due to the fact that religion isn’t an aspect of our friendship that we share. Resultantly he might have not been as free with his actions.

Handshaking, fist-bumping and hugs were dished out constantly from people I didn’t know while the constant hubbub of close to 600 people droned. The conversations turned to anticipation for the nights sermon as we entered the auditorium. The stage was decked out in a large luminescent cross and accompanying setup for a large band. Three projected screens dominated the overhead space, counting down a timer. Smiles and waving were ever present, and a large collective took up the space between the seats and the stage. As the timer reached its final seconds, the huge space went black, before erupting in light and sound, with the band entering with a thumping bassline. The projector screens leapt into action with telephoto footage of the band in action and overlaid lyrics. Before I knew it, I joined in clapping to the beat of the drum, despite not knowing the tune. The volume of the music was nigh-excessive, and the bass from the drum pulsed in my chest and against my skin. The colourful lights flicked back and forth across the jumping, chaotic audience, casting long shadows between the upturned faces of the crowd. Matt elaborated that the songs and singing were the primary avenue of worship, and formed the basis for a collective experience; one that a lot of the audience got very visibly engaged in. The entire sensory experience felt specifically designed, as if almost every facet of the service had been chosen to culminate in a highly suggestive environment. I found it slightly unsettling that the atmosphere was possibly being tailored to elicit such strong emotional responses.

The cultural importance of religion on an individual level makes sense, but seeing the way people outwardly show their emotions so readily in a semi-public space hinted at the power this kind of collective experience has at generating community. I’ve always thought of church as a very somber and boring experience as it was always something I dreaded going to. Angling religion towards younger people in this way seems to work well. That said, my predisposition against religion prevented me from committing to the experience and I kept my distance from what was being said with a degree of skepticism.

As the show settled, the smell of perfumes, sweat, and dry ice took over. The direction of the service was then carried by a youth pastor, animatedly talking about his experiences over the last week and relating them to passages and lessons from the bible. His readings and grandiose talk provoked affirmations and agreement from the audience. He then led the congregation into more songs while some of those present were taken into another room to fulfil their baptism. These were then displayed on the projected screens as a means of sharing their experiences with the rest of the audience. I found this strange, as I thought it seemed a very personal choice that you might not want to share with an auditorium of people. My informant explained that this was an outward display of devotion to God. The service was then closed off with more song and dance, after which everyone drifted out of the auditorium.

Part 2 ~ Questions on Participant Observation

1 ~ What understanding was gained from participation compared to just observing?
Participating in the service put me right into the heart of the action, giving me a fully rounded sensory experience. I was able to form connections with the people around me, watch their facial expressions, motions, and interactions up close and ask my informant specific questions about everything. Solely observing might have made me miss the intricacies of the audiences responses, which could have led to misinterpretations. I was able to develop empathy for the participants, as well as generate a formative understanding of the experience and its cultural significance.

2 ~ What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
I was able to get immediate responses explaining the service as well as a run down of the kind of things to expect in that environment. My informant provided an insider perspective, which I used as a mirror against which to hold my impressions and preconceptions. Matt gave me the opportunity to gain understanding of the importance and value that this community provided.

3 ~ What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
Gaining a unique personal sensory understanding of the experience would be impossible without physically being there, even if the interview or questionnaire included a sense question. Going into the service knowing little about it and participating revealed interesting facets. The questionnaire might fail to capture the conviction and emotion witnessed, while an interview might miss the dynamism that the presence of so many individuals brought.

4 ~ For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
I might have been able to get a broader look at the collective personal experience of the audience and gather from a more diverse set of viewpoints. I could gather a broader, yet shallower perspective of the experience with a questionnaire. The rest of the participants had superior understanding of the event than myself and could offer angles on the service that one informant might not have knowledge of. The nature of self-reporting could reveal thoughts and feelings participants might not show to another person or the interviewer, which could begin to aid in drawing out differences between individuals in the collective

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

DSDN 481: Project 4

The Case Study Approach

1 - A) What are the central defining features of this approach?
The defining feature of the case study is the fact that the issue is “explored through one or more cases within a bounded system” (Creswell, 2012). The case study can be viewed as a methodology, or as a way of defining what will be studied. Creswell (2012) infers that the key element of the case study is the detailed, in-depth data collection done over time.

1 - B) What forms can a study take within this approach?
Data or material informing the case study can take on a variety of forms; including interviews, direct- and participant-observations, archival records, documents and physical artifacts.

1 - C) What are the procedures for using this approach?
The case study approach initially needs to be ensured as the most viable option for research. In order to define the case study, the researcher must decide on system boundaries as well as the types of data to collect. This data is analysed, and the case and its meaning are interpreted. This research is then considered in relation to the contextual conditions set out in the beginning.

1 - D) What are the benefits and challenges of using this approach?
Identifying the case and the system’s boundaries can be challenging. Creswell (2012) states that the researcher must establish a rationale for the sampling strategy they want to appropriate to the case, as otherwise the research can lack a defined beginning and end. The benefits are in the ability to address a particular issue that spans multiple individuals or groups. If done properly, the case study operates within a well-defined boundary, which helps refine the structure and direction of research.

2 - A) What is the question/problem to which this research approach is applied?
The case study that Kin Wai Michael uses as his approach to his article “Pleasurable Products: Public Space Furniture with Userfitness” explores the notion of public space for older persons in Hong Kong. This approach analysed the way older people used the public outdoor furniture in aspects of routine, social gatherings, exercise, and for various social and personal pleasures.

2 - B) What are the conclusions drawn from this research approach?
Kin Wai Michael and his team realised that due to the diversity of people’s lives, it is very challenging to create products with high levels of “userfitness” without having studied the day-to-day practices of the potential users. Simply making alterations to existing systems is neither sustainable nor worthwhile as a long-term design approach. Change must be made from inception.

2 - C) Based on your understanding of this research approach, how do you know this research is valid?
The research defines a specific area and boundaries, and explores with the intent of understanding an issue, as well as heavily considering the context of the research. Kin Wai Michael develops a conclusion that is adequately constrained and doesn’t try to generalise beyond its boundaries.

Creswell, J. (2012). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. London: Sage.
Kin Wai Michael, S. (2005). Pleasurable products: public space furniture with userfitness. Journal Of Engineering Design, 16(6), 545-555. doi:10.1080/09544820500273383