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On What Grounds? An intra-disciplinary account of evaluation in research through design

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Research through design is a murky field and there is an increasing interest in understanding its varied practices and methodology. In the research literature that is initially reviewed in this paper two positions are located as the most dominant representing opposite opinions concerning the nature of such a methodology. One position proposes a cross-disciplinary perspective where research through design is based on models and standards borrowed from natural science, social sciences, humanities and art, while the other position claims a unique epistemology for research through design insisting on its particularities and warning against importing standards from these other disciplines. In this paper we argue for taking a third position, an intra-disciplinary position that appreciate how design processes and the making of artifact can be a method of inquiry, while at the same time insisting on using standards and terminology that can foster a dialogue with surrounding scientific cultures. To substantiate our claim we further introduce five methods of evaluation in research through design, which are derived from a close examination of a sample of PhD theses that are claimed to be exemplary of the field. In so doing, we aim to lay new grounds for a methodology.
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On What Grounds? An intra-disciplinary
account of evaluation in research through
design
Thomas Markussen, Aarhus School of Architecture, thomas.markussen@aarch.dk
Peter Gall Krogh, Aarhus School of Archtecture, pgk@aarch.dk
Anne Louise Bang, Kolding Design School. alb@dskd.dk
Abstract (Abstract heading style)
Research through design is a murky field and there is an increasing interest in understanding
its varied practices and methodology. In the research literature that is initially reviewed in
this paper two positions are located as the most dominant representing opposite opinions
concerning the nature of such a methodology. One position proposes a cross-disciplinary
perspective where research through design is based on models and standards borrowed from
natural science, social sciences, humanities and art, while the other position claims a unique
epistemology for research through design insisting on its particularities and warning against
importing standards from these other disciplines. In this paper we argue for taking a third
position, an intra-disciplinary position that appreciate how design processes and the making
of artifact can be a method of inquiry, while at the same time insisting on using standards
and terminology that can foster a dialogue with surrounding scientific cultures. To
substantiate our claim we further introduce five methods of evaluation in research through
design, which are derived from a close examination of a sample of PhD theses that are
claimed to be exemplary of the field. In so doing, we aim to lay new grounds for a
methodology.
Keywords: Research through design; methodology; evaluation;
interaction design; theory of science
Introduction
Methodologically, research through design is a murky field. Asking practitioners and
researchers about their notion of research through design, and you’ll get an inconsistent set
of methods and criteria defining the approach. This methodological plurality is mirrored in
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the lack of standards for evaluation and agreed forms of output. If one looks into a sample of
PhD theses that are claimed to be “exemplary” of the field, the huge and at times even
irreconcilable diversity in evaluation practices is puzzling. At one end of the spectrum,
evaluation is practiced as systematically and rigorous as in controlled lab settings (Frens,
2006; Ross, 2008), while at the other end research through design is dedicated more to
activist reforming of practice and the crafting of manifestos than to evaluation (Trotto, 2011;
Von Busch, 2008).
This “state of the art” has led some researchers to call for a policing of the research through
design label, working out a formalized approach with an agreed upon method to document
knowledge (Zimmerman, Stolterman, & Forlizzi, 2010). Other researchers, however, argue
for appreciating the controversies and proliferation of research programs currently
characterizing the field (Gaver, 2012). In caricature it can be noted that representatives of the
first group works to associate design with changing existing research traditions (natural,
technical, social sciences and humanities) dependent on the deployed methodology and
measures for evaluation whereas the latter works to position design outside classical research
and science. Interestingly we agree with both insofar as design delivers other results than
classical sciences and thus exist outside such measures, but design research needs some
common ground to discuss what is knowledge production and thus it needs a scientific
foundation. However, such foundation does not derive from other fields identifying what is
right and wrong, but we need to articulate design as an independent field of research that
follows the same language games as any other science and research traditions articulating
what we explore by means of hypothesising, experimenting, posing research questions and
do evaluations.
We want to appreciate the rich diversity of evaluation practices and criteria that is
characteristic of research through design. Yet, at the same time, we argue that research
through design must still be judged against some kind of criteria of accountability (Koskinen
& Krogh 2015 (in press) or validity of research (Hamilton & Jaaniste, udateret; Niedderer &
Roworth-Stokes, 2007, s. 5). Diversity in evaluation does not preclude a coherent formal
account of this diversity.
In order to get a firmer grasp of what evaluation means, we will go through some recent
research literature that has taken up the question of evaluation in research through design. It
is common in design research to cast light on evaluation by viewing it cross-disciplinarily
from the perspective of science, social sciences and the arts and humanities. We shall argue,
however, that there is a need to pay greater attention to how evaluation is actually being
practiced within design research itself. Hence, we contend that an intra-disciplinary
treatment looking at evaluation from the inside out is likely to be a valuable supplement to a
cross-disciplinary understanding.
Having positioned our own work in relation to existing discussions, we will then examine a
sample of PhD theses thereby identifying a set of evaluation practices. More specifically, we
will demonstrate that evaluation in research through design can take the form of what we
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shall refer to as repercussive, relational, serial, expansive and eclectic evaluation. It is our
hope that these five methods of evaluation can be helpful to doctoral students, supervisors
and researchers trying to navigate the expanding territory of research through design.
Related work
Research through design (hereafter abbreviated as RtD) has matured into an established
research approach with a rapidly growing body of literature dealing with all sorts of
foundational issues and questions for the discipline. The seminal work of Frayling (1993),
Archer (1995) and Cross (2001) were vital in positioning research through design as a
scientific culture of its own, a “third culture”, so to speak, if we consider it existing next to
the two other cultures suggested by C. P. Snow (1960): science and art. These
epistemological distinctions – or “ways of knowing” (Cross) - are still lurking behind recent
discussions, while the image has certainly become more nuanced. What currently divides
researchers is the question whether one should insist on the epistemological autonomy of
research through design or allow for various cross-disciplinary interplays. For instance,
Koskinen et al. (2011) tend to treat research through design as if moulded by norms,
methods and practices found within the natural sciences, the social sciences and art, while
Stolterman (2008), Gaver (2012) and Bowers (2012) argue that RtD deals with criteria or
topics that are unique – or “ultimate particulars” in Stolerman’s terms – and therefore this
research practice is irreducible to existing scientific models.
The question of evaluation hinges upon which one of these two epistemological positions
one forfeits. Epistemology, to make sure, is concerned with how knowledge is gained by the
use of a research method, and why results are obtained. According to Ziman (2002, s. 93),
being able to give such an explanation, is the very essence of doing research. The why-
question has to do with the disciplinary and personal motivations of the researcher (Bang,
Krogh, Ludvigsen, & Markussen, 2012) and fundamental knowledge interests of his or her
research community (something that can be compared with what Lakatos (1974) calls as a
“research program”). To answer the how-question we need to work out viable accounts of
how “means of design” (Fallman, 2005) and the making of artefacts can be considered a
legitimate method of inquiry (Zimmerman et al., 2010). To be sure, it is a matter of
explaining, not what methods are practiced by, let’s say, the graphic designer, the interaction
designer, the fashion designer, and so on, but rather how results can be documented and
evaluated as an outcome not being reducible to the design work alone.
Methodologically, RtD is said to be “constructive” (Koskinen et al., 2011). That means, it is
a research practice that changes the part of reality that is the very subject matter of the
research, and the design researcher is taking active part in that process of change. Originally,
Simon (1969) suggested that this change consisted in transforming reality into a “preferred
state”. But as Dunne and Raby (1999; 2001) have abundantly made clear what is deemed
“preferable” is not a reliable evaluation criteria. Indeed by introducing terms such as
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“inhuman factors” and “unfriendliness” as design ideals Dunne and Raby encourage us to
reflect on the unspoken norms, politics, ideologies and cultures that permeate any act of
designing and design research, but which are rarely highlighted.
These ideologies, politics and cultures must be taken into account, if one wants to
understand how the outcome of design and design research is evaluated. Koskinen (2015)
argues that there are four dominating “cultures of analysis” in design research, each of which
prescribes certain ways of assessing and evaluating results. The first culture largely derives
its model of analysis from the natural sciences and psychology. Here evaluation is arrived at
through statistical analyses of data, which is evaluated according to their fit with a
hypothesis formulated on the basis of theory (ibid., p. 218).
The second culture is influenced by the social sciences. Here evaluation is typically relying
on the use of “analytic induction”, where a hypothesis is not based on theory, but created out
of an analysis of a small number of cases and empirical data gathered from fieldwork. Such
an analysis typically takes the form of post-it clustering or the analysis of design probes
rather than statistical analysis. The unit of analysis is not statistical data and measures as in
the first culture, but ‘meaning’ and ‘context’ (p. 219).
The third culture borrows its model of analysis from the humanities. Basically, says
Koskinen, this model can be characterized as ‘explanation’, which is further defined as “a
detailed examination of meaning” governed by the methodological principles of the
hermeneutic circle (p. 221). The hermeneutic circle represents the idea that every act of
explanation – and consequently of evaluation – must be seen as a movement back and forth
between understanding parts of a phenomena in relation to a larger whole1. This explanation
does not come in the form of scientific explanation, but as cultural understanding influenced
by the individual’s common sense, preconceptions, taste and past biography (cf. Moran,
2000, s. 280).
The fourth analytic culture is art and design-based. According to Koskinen this means that
scientific ideals such as “transparency”, “clarity” and “disinterested knowledge” is given up
in favour of “idiosyncrasies and vague analysis; in fact, ambiguity may even be encouraged,
if it leads to interesting design.” (Koskinen, 2015, s. 222). Evaluation here hinges entirely on
the subjective judgement of design qualities and so-called “creative steps” in the design
process, and less on whether other design researchers can understand how design work is
produced.
While we generally agree with Koskinen in that design research has borrowed research
practices and methods “from disciplines with longer historical roots” (p. 217), we also find
that his account is not entirely satisfying. Koskinen is of the belief that “the best way to
understand analysis in design research is to look at it from an abstract perspective” (p. 224,
our italics). We, on the other hand, argue that by taking such a perspective there is a risk of
1"Cf."The"Stanford"Encyclopedia"of"Philosophy:"http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hermeneutics/"
"
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loosing sight of how design serves as a method of inquiry of its own. Koskinen’s account is
cross-disciplinary insofar as he treats analysis in design research as if it needs to justify itself
by lending models from other scientific disciplines. Except, of course, from the art and
design-based analytic culture. But, according to Koskinen, ‘design-based’ is synonymous
with ‘idiosyncratic’, ‘vague analysis’, ‘ambiguous’ and ‘definitely not scientific’; a kind of
black art unable (or unwilling) to participate in the language game about what should be
considered reliable and valid criteria of sound research.
Rather than a cross-disciplinary approach designed on the basis of adopting a variety of
methods from traditional research disciplines, we argue for the necessity of developing an
intra-disciplinary account of how evaluation is practiced in RtD. By intra-disciplinary we
understand an account that takes a look at evaluation from the inside out – as it is developed
in a research project out of a series of design experiments executed in order to cast light on a
research question or hypothesis (Bang et al., 2012). Interestingly, an attempt at such an
account is made by Zimmerman et al. (2010). Lamenting that “there is no agreed upon
method to document knowledge [] that emerge from research through design”, the authors
suggest a set of formal distinctions enabling design researchers to classify various types of
theory that may be build up from RtD. More specifically, such theory may take the form of
guiding philosophies, conceptual frameworks, implications for design and design
implications. What characterizes all of these outcomes is that they are typically developed
with the intention of improving design practice. Hence, they serve as theories for design. For
instance, guiding philosophies sensitize “concepts to help direct designers and researchers in
solving design problems”; implications for design results “from inquiry into wicked
problems”; and design implications arise “from the analysis of designed artefacts”
(Zimmerman et al., 2010 p. 313).
Zimmerman and his colleagues provide a valuable formal account that enables researchers to
classify research outcomes into certain types of theories for design. Yet, the relationship
between such theories and design work needs to be further specified. On what grounds do
we judge whether a theory for design is useful, valuable or successful? What is the validity
and role of theory produced from design?
Addressing these questions, Gaver (2012) points out that we should not evaluate theory
produced from design on the same conditions as in science. The evaluation criteria are
simply too different. A theory in RtD is not verifiable through falsification (p. 943). Its role
is to be ‘generative and suggestive’ (ibid. 943) rather than to explain universal truths and
principles of empirical facts. More interestingly, however, Gaver observes “that theory
underspecifies design [] in the sense that many aspects of a successful design will not be
captured by a given theory.” (Gaver, 2012 p. 944). Hence, if we focus too rigidly on theory
as the sole outcome of RtD, we neglect that design work is the fundamental achievement.
Design work does not serve as mere illustration or exemplification of theory. On the contrary,
design takes centre stage, while theory serves the function of annotating resulting artefacts,
interfaces and products, making visible certain features, rationales and choices made by the
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designer. As in the portfolio of Dieter Rams where theory is manifested in the form of Ram’s
well-known 10 concise design principles (pp. 944-45). This is a more accurate specification
of what we should expect from RtD: annotated portfolios.
Under the heading “The Logic of Annotated Portfolios” Bowers (2012) provides further
insight into how annotated portfolios are constituted and what role annotations fulfill.
Annotations are what make a collection of designed artifacts into a portfolio. Annotations
bring together artifacts as ‘a systematic body of work’; explicate ‘family resemblances and
differences’ between works within the portfolio or in relation to related work in a field.
Annotations can also ‘configure use, appreciation, aesthetics and scientific value as well as
suggesting future research and design possibilities’ (p. 72). In this way design works “are
organized, categorized and otherwise arranged in their presentation to have or illustrate a
point or several points and through doing this to reveal … something of the design identities
in the work and the nature of the contribution being made” (p. 71).
Following Gaver’s and Bowers’ account, we argue that by looking more closely into how
portfolios are annotated, it is possible to get a firmer grasp of how evaluation is practiced in
RtD, because one of the primary tasks of an evaluation is to reveal “the contribution being
made”. Furthermore, we suggest conceiving of a selection of PhD thesis as exemplars of
annotated portfolios each of which is constituted by certain methods of evaluation. More
specifically, we will demonstrate that these methods can be characterized appropriately as
being repercussive, relational, serial, expansive or eclectic.
"
Five Methods of Evaluation in Research through Design
In this section we will look closer into six PhD theses that have been selected because they
are representative of varied ways in which evaluation in RtD is being practiced (without
claiming our treatment to be exhaustive). Further the theses broadly cover design practice
from fashion and product design to interaction design. These PhD theses served as the
curriculum for three doctoral courses dedicated to understanding basic methodological
principles of RtD. Over 60 PhD students from universities and design schools all over
Europe and Scandinavia participated in the courses. Due to this contextual setting, regions
and countries outside Europe and Scandinavia are unfortunately misrepresented.
This section is organized into five sub-sections each focusing on a particular logic of
evaluation. In each sub-section we will provide general characteristics as well as examples
taken from the selected theses.
Repercussive Evaluation
This method is generally characterized by the evaluation of experimental results and design
work according to one nucleus of criteria. To secure as controlled an evaluation as possible
all disturbing factors and contextual relationships are excluded. All insights gained through
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sketching, mock-ups, and prototyping during the design process are then held up strictly
against to the nucleus of criteria. As design iterations are performed knowledge outcomes
may layer themselves as circuits around the nucleus, but the understanding of every outcome
is gained only by falling back into the center, which is why we refer to it as repercussive (see
Figure. 1).
Figure. 1repercussive evaluation
The method of repercussive evaluation can be found in the work of Frens (2006) and Ross
(2008). Ross, for instance, uses a research through design cycle to investigate how three
different perspectives on interaction behavior (Dynamic Form, Social Activity and Sensory-
Motor Activity) can inform the design of intelligent lamps. Furthermore, he wants to
investigate whether it is possible in the design of the lamps to create conditions so as to elicit
certain values in user’s experiences of the lamps. For his lamp design, Ross deliberately
chose neutral colors, material and a static shape to rule out any influence from factors other
than those of interest. Through a series of experience prototyping experiments documented
through microanalysis, Ross explores various ways of correlating dynamic form, social
activity and sensory-motor levels. While this results in detailed design guidelines for how
the three perspectives may inform design of intelligent lamps, his evaluation shows that the
lamp designs do not elicit the right values in user experience. Hence, Ross ends up falsifying
one his hypotheses.
Relational Evaluation
Relational evaluation is at stake when evaluation is used primarily to explicate and judge
how design work exists in a system of family resemblances and differences. Similarities and
differences are relations that can be either intrinsic as in between individual artifacts in a
designer’s portfolio; or the relations can be external as when design work is compared with
the works of other designers. As a requirement for this method of evaluation, a core criterion
must be established (e.g. a key concept, term, measure or theme), which can serve as
grounds of comparison of how design work relate intrinsically and externally (see Figure 2).
Even though relational evaluation seems at first sight to be indistinguishable from a classical
nucleus of
criteria
experiment 1
experiment 2
experiment 3
experiment 4
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comparative study, it appears under closer scrutiny that comparative evaluation accounts
only partly for the method of relational evaluation.
This method is widely used and well documented in the thesis by Kinch (2014) and Niederer
for example. Kinch evaluates how people perceive and use an interactive bench in three
different contexts (an airport, a concert hall and a shopping mall). A key evaluation criterion
for her is ‘atmosphere experience’, which is a hybrid concept founded upon theories of user
experience as well as on philosophical speculations on the nature of atmosphere. By
studying people’s experiences of one and same bench as it is contextually replaced, Kinch is
able to uncover several dimensions of atmospheric experiences. The evaluation is first and
foremost concerned with intrinsic relations.
Figure 2 - relational evaluation. The model can be used to map the logic governing how design work is evaluated in a
system of relations. In Niederer’s case performative objects act as ground for comparison; L represents Art Objects; M
represents Ritual Objects; N represents Craft Objects. X1 is the Libation Cup project, while X2 is the Social Cups projects.
The internal relation is concerned with difference in terms of mindfulness, while the external relations indicate how the
disruptions of function in performative objects differ from Art, Ritual and Craft Objects.
In Niederer both intrinsic and external relations figure in her evaluation. Niederer sets up the
concept of ‘performative objects’ as a core criterion for conducting an evaluation of her
design work. She draws upon several theories (e.g. semiotics, hermeneutic phenomenology,
behaviorist theory) in order to derive two defining sub-criteria of performative objects: Thus,
performative objects are objects that are designed to i) cause an experience of mindfulness
(what Niederer refers to as ‘result’) through ii) a disruption of function (referred to as
‘means’). Through a careful analysis, Niederer then identifies four object categories against
which her performative objects are compared externally: art objects, ritual objects, design
objects and craft objects. Art objects, ritual objects and craft object are able to evoke
mindfulness of a similar kind as performative objects, but they do so through different means
than disruption of function. Only design objects qualify in this respect.
X1
intrinsic relation
external relations
X2
L
M
N
L
M
N
grounds of comparison
external relations
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However, Niederer’s relational evaluation is not restricted only to the external comparisons
between performative objects, on one hand and art, ritual and craft objects on the other.
Taking center stage is her evaluation of how the framework she has set up allows her to
explore some design possibilities for designing drinking vessels as performative objects.
Hence, in the Libation Cup project Niederer deliberately designs a cup with wholes in it to
evoke mindfulness-of-self in relation to the object and symbolic connotations, while, in the
Social Cups project, cups without foots are designed to encourage users to be mindful of
their “interpersonal interaction” during the drinking act as the cups can only be placed to
stand on a table when combined in sets of three.
To sum up: Niederer uses evaluation of external relations to name and classify performative
objects as a new object category, while her evaluation of intrinsic relations is central for
making a nuanced distinction between two forms of mindfulness.
Serial Evaluation
The method of serial evaluation denotes how design experiments are being evaluated
according to a certain order or logic of locality determined by how experiments in a
sequence has cast light on an overall research interest. Like relational evaluation, knowledge
production in the progressive method is achieved on the basis of inquiries into relationships
between design experiments. But there is a significant difference. Whereas, in the first
instance, insights from design experiments are held up in a system of relations (cf. Figure 2),
in serial evaluation, it is the local relationship between two neighbouring experiments that
matters (see Figure 3).
Figure 3 - serial evaluation. X represents design experiments performed in a sequence. Left pointing arrows
stands for evaluation of local relationships between two neighbouring experiments.
In the work of Lynggaard (2012), for example, a set of so-called tactics for making home is
derived from her ethno-methodological studies of highly mobile people. One tactic is
Connecting – staying in touch with those at home over distance; another one is Spreading
distributing one’s belongings in a space to make it homely. Rather than starting out from a
X3X1 X2 X4 Xn
Research interest
sequential relations
X2-X1 relation X3-X2 relation X4-X3 relation Xn-X4 relation
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fixed nucleus of criteria as Ross, Lynggaard takes one tactic at a time exploring it further in
concrete experiments. Thus, serially, each tactic experiment is evaluated according to the
previous experiment, so that, in the end, Lynggaard is able to present a taxonomy consisting
of seven homing tactics. This is also different from Niederer insofar as Lynggaard does not
so much use theory to evaluate her design work. Rather Lynggaard uses design work to build
new theory.
Expansive Evaluation
This method of evaluation focuses on how designerly experiments can serve to reveal and
identify qualities of an area as-yet uncovered. It resembles a voyage of discovery where new
places and insights are described along the way much like annotating bits of observation and
information onto the traveller’s map. Such is the case, for instance, in Dinder who introduces
‘engagement’ from the theories of notably Berleant, Borgman and pragmatism as a valuable
new territory for designing ‘participatory engaging’ exhibitions in museums.
Figure 4 - expansive evaluation. In Dindler passive user involvement would be Evaluation Criteria 1, while
active user involvement would correspond to Evaluation Criteria 2. The IXP prototype for Kattegat Marin
Centre is represented by X1; the interactive runic stone for Moesgaard Museum is X2. The two prototypes
show different aspects of active user involvement.
Dindler takes his point of departure in analyzing the fairly traditional museum space of the
Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, where active involvement of the audience lies at an
absolute minimum. This serves as a low-level indicator for his evaluation of two interactive
prototypes, which he developed and designed for the Kattegat Marine Centre and Moesgaard
Museum respectively. In contrast to a control study evaluation, Dindler does not use the low
level indicator as a kind of baseline measure for comparing user engagement in the two
prototypes with the level of engagement in the Viking Museum. Rather, he regards minimum
engagement in the traditional museum space as representing one end of a spectrum, while his
two prototypes represent the opposite end: ‘active user involvement’. At the same time, he is
able to broaden what forms active user involvement may take by evaluating his prototypes.
Evaluation
Criteria 1
Evaluation
Criteria 2
X1
X2
Xn
continuum of conceptal
framework
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In the Kattegat Marine Centre the installation allows for “engaging visitors in playful
activity” in creating imaginative fish and sea creatures, whereas, in Moesgaard Museum, the
possibility of creating their own interactive runic stones, prompt visitors to reflect on
seminal events in their lives to be told to other visitors. In this way Dindler is capable of
expanding the notion of engagement.
Eclective Evaluation
Eclective evaluation is characterized by its way of fusing and sampling ideas, theories and
philosophy from different disciplines. This sampling is often driven by the peculiar interest
and agenda of the researcher and can be overtly normative, ideological or political. Unlike
relational evaluation, eclective evaluation is not focused on explaining how results fit into a
coherent conceptual system. Nor how a philosophical notion can be made sensitive to
designers as in Dindler. Rather, eclective evaluation typically takes the form of manifesto-
like claims or calls for aesthetic reform of practice as documented by von Busch (2008) and
Trotto (2011) for example.
In von Busch’s thesis there is hardly any evaluation in the traditional sense. Von Busch is
interested in reforming the fashion system from the bottom-up and democratizing it by
making it possible for ordinary people and professional amateurs (so-called proams) to have
a say in the shaping of fashion. One of his central arguments is that, to let this happen, a new
anarchistic approach has to be invented, which enables collaboration between fashion
designers and non-designers and which he refers to as ‘hacktivism’.
Busch draws upon theories of DIY, software hacking and political theories to formulate the
conceptual foundations of hacktivism and he sets up a series of open workshops and
exhibitions to explore if people and proams are able to reform the fashion system. The
workshops are not tied together by certain logic of progression or expansion, but exist as
singular events (see Figure 5) planned to explore the fundamental question: Is it possible?
Figure 5 - eclective evaluation. Design experiments (W1, X2, Xn) are performed independent of each other and
evaluation of their individual success or failure lead to demonstrating the possibility of an overall research aim.
X1
X2
Xn
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In his evaluation of one of these workshops held during the Hackers and Couture Heretics
Exhibition, Busch concludes that it has been a success for two reasons. First, it was easy for
people and bystanders to participate due to the use of simple methods such as re-design,
button exchange, shop dropping etc. (ibid., p. 219). Secondly, the workshop proved that
“DIY does not have to look grubby or lack craftsmanship(p. 222).
These observations tell a great deal about the nature of eclective evaluation. It rests entirely
upon subjective judgments, and the purpose is first of all to highlight that people actually
participated rather than how they did it. The ultimate goal for Busch is to demonstrate that
hacktivism is possible and that it does not rule out aesthetic quality. Eclective evaluation is
thus used by Busch, not to document the validity of results, but as means for articulating a
new approach and aesthetics founded upon DIY, activist philosophy and political theory.
Discussion
On the basis of our description and exemplification of five methods of evaluation, we are
able to account more accurately for how we contribute to existing research literature. First of
all, we have attempted to show that an intra-disciplinary perspective on evaluation in RtD
offers insight into concrete methods that is not captured by Koskinen’s cross-disciplinary
perspective. For instance, if we consider Koskinen’s four cultures of analysis, then Kinch
and Lynggaard would fall under the second culture, while Niederer and Dindler would
belong to the third culture. However, by taking an intra-disciplinary approach, the kinship
between the researchers stands out differently. Thus, both Kinch and Niederer perform a
relational evaluation, while Dindler og Lynggaard conduct two separate forms of evaluation
referred to as serial and expansive. This indicates that the cross-disciplinary framework is
too coarse grained, and we suggest that an intra-disciplinary could serve as a valuable
supplement in several respects.
Secondly, while we find the notion of annotated portfolios valuable, we also believe that it
needs further elaboration. Both Gaver and Bowers argue that theory is useful for annotating
design work in a portfolio, thereby making visible certain features, family resemblances and
differences. Yet, by looking closer at methods of evaluation, we are able to explain in more
depth how design work is organized according to certain evaluation criteria and for what
purpose. More precisely, we have claimed that design work can be organized according to a
nucleus of criteria (Frens, Ross), intrinsic and external relations in a system (Kinch,
Niederer), serial relations between design work (Lynggaard), an identified concept un-
theorized by an existing framework (Dindler) or isolated design experiments arranged for
reforming practice (Busch, Trotto). We suggest that these five methods of evaluation
correspond to what Bowers refers to as the logic of annotated portfolios, and that they are
helpful for planning, performing and examining doctoral work. But further studies are
needed before this can be ascertained.
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Thirdly, even though our study thus contributes with valuable new knowledge on RtD
methodology, its explanatory scope should not be overestimated. Our methodology is
derived from the study of a few PhD theses and therefore future work is needed to determine
if the description of evaluation methods is accurate and systematic. Such work would benefit
from studying a large number of PhD theses representing and challenging the five methods.
Moreover their appliance to doctoral work found at other continents must be investigated.
Conclusion
In this paper, we have argued that RtD would benefit from the working out of a methodology
that appreciates the rich diversity of the field. In the research literature two positions are
dominant representing opposite opinions concerning the criteria and purposes of such a
methodology. One position proposes a cross-disciplinary perspective where RtD is based on
models of analysis and evaluation borrowed from existing scientific cultures, while the other
position claims a unique epistemology for RtD insisting on its particularities and warns
against importing standards from other disciplines. We have argued for taking a third intra-
disciplinary position that is premised on the idea that the cross-disciplinary position is
insufficient because it cannot account for how design processes and the making of artifacts
serve as methods of inquiry. At the same time we deem it relevant and critically important
for the field to participate in the language games of science by using vocabulary and
terminology that is familiar to surrounding research cultures. To substantiate this argument
we introduced evaluation as a useful term and have looked carefully into five methods of
evaluation in our examining of doctoral work.
This paper is the last out of three that address key issues and foundations of RtD. In our
previous work we have focused on hypothesis-making and the crafting of research questions
in RtD (Bang et al., 2012) as well as on the methods of experimentation in RtD (Krogh,
Markussen, & Bang, 2015) It is our hope that this work will have a practical value for
doctoral students who are planning and doing RtD, that it will be helpful for supervisors and
examiners assessing doctoral work, and last but not least that it can foster a constructive
dialogue and an interplay with research disciplines outside the design research community.
IASDR2015 Interplay | 2-5 November | Brisbane, Australia 14
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Chapter
On what grounds do we judge whether a theory for design is useful, valuable or successful? What is validity in constructive design research? What is the role of theory produced from design? Chapter 4 dealt with ways of construing hypotheses and how the K-R model may help map the constituent parts of a research process. Chapter 5 presented the typology of ways of drifting explaining how design experiments inform and urges design researchers to drift. This chapter turns to how design researchers can evaluate and justify their claims about knowledge. And completes our core trilogy of dialectic activities serving the dual ambition of relevance and knowledge production in constructive design research.
Chapter
This chapter asks how constructive design researchers construe hypotheses. What guides the construal process, is it theory, research program, or design reasoning? We will argue that this question involves two sub-questions: one concerns the hypothesis that guides research, another the hypothesis that guides design. We argue that constructive design research has to balance both of these to be effective, and we also point out that many of the controversies we have discussed in the previous chapters are in fact efforts to grapple with the Janus-faced character of the discipline. It is this character that has inspired us to suggest the Knowledge-Relevance model that help the constructive design researcher to balance the core research activities when the process is driven by design.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper studies the transition from research to concept in design through examples from some well-known designers and design researchers. It shows that this " drifting, " as we call it, takes several forms in design. The range is from cases in which the drift is kept in check by methodological choices and aims, to cases in which the drift is seen as free form. We describe two successful classes in which we have been teaching drifting, one for Master's students in Hong Kong, another for PhD students in Denmark. In discussion, we contrast the concept of drifting to the notions of radical innovation and rationalistic process models of design, proposing that these misspecify the diversity of what actually happens in design during the transition this paper focuses on.
Thesis
Full-text available
This dissertation addresses the topic of how to design for atmospheres in the overlap between interaction design and architecture. The research follows an industrial Ph.D. program in collaboration with the Alexandra Institute Ltd. and the Aarhus School of Architecture. The dissertation is based on experimental design work and comprises six peer-reviewed publications, which are framed by a general overview that puts the arguments in the papers into perspective. Furthermore, generative approaches to the topic of the dissertation are presented in the form of an analytical model and a design tool, ATEX cards, to facilitate designers in the process of making. The starting point for the research is the conviction that too much technology is designed with a narrow focus on digital devices. Certainly, trajectories towards more spatial and embodied qualities of technology are finding footholds in interaction design, but still, we designers neglect how people’s interactions with, experiences with, and interpretations of the device are also colored by the timbre of the situation. To acknowledge this, a new vocabulary is needed. To establish this, I position the research at the intersection of furniture design, interaction design, and atmosphere research and illustrate how these domains are vehicles for new knowledge on atmospheric experiences in two ways: first, by relating to the overarching theoretical aspects, and second, by pointing towards concrete design tools for reflection and action. II The first part of the contribution addresses the theoretical grounds for atmospheres in interaction design. The concept of the middle ground experience is introduced as an overarching perspective denoting the unarticulated perceptible design space between our cognitive foreground and peripheral background awareness. This establishes the foundation for introducing atmosphere in interaction design based on phenomenological and pragmatic thinking. The concept of the atmospheric experience is positioned in the field of experience design to emphasize how the contextual space is inhabited by affective and social qualities which exist on conscious and non-conscious levels. Finally, I discuss how the atmospheric perspective differs from related research, notably the ambient and affective discourses in interaction design. The second and larger part of the contribution relates to the research approach: researching through design practice. The research is founded on a range of design experiments and I highlight the experimental design processes of two interactive furniture prototypes, Kidkit and coMotion, and how they elicit design sensitivities within the topic of investigation. Furthermore, the experiments illustrate the broadness of designing for atmospheric experiences on an expansive continuum of methodological and theoretical strands. Within the overarching perspective of the atmospheric experience, the experimental design work thus points towards new dimensions of analysis of atmospheric experiences, whereas a concluding analytical model and design tool, ATEX cards, embody how to design for atmospheric experiences in the field of interaction design, thus enabling designers to make more deliberate choices for interactive environments and products.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Design experiments are claimed to be a core means of inquiry in the research tradition of research-through-design. However, it is rarely articulated how the experiments were carried out in order to test a hypothesis, to begin a fruitful journey into unexplored design terrain or just gradually build knowledge. On the basis of the analysis of ten PhD theses we provide a typology comprised of five forms of design experiments in research-through-design. This provides a general outline of the characteristics which point to the methodological roles that design experiments and design work may acquire in research-through-design. Our typology of design experiments in research-through-design accounts both for relations between major cases and iterations embodied in detailed sketches and prototypes. The purpose of the typology is to provide an overview that respects and account for the less-than-ideal way design research actually happens: process-loops where hypothesis, experiments, and insights concurrently affect one another and result in a drift of research focus and continued adjustment of experiments to stabilize the research endeavour.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
It is, today, widely appreciated that Research-through-Design – or Constructive Design Research as we will call it in this paper – allows for designers to produce knowledge based on the skills and capacities of the design field itself. However, most of the research fails to bridge the gap between the general notions of constructive design research and the detailed research activities of the field. We therefore suggest bridging this methodological gap in the academic discussion with what we have ended up calling the " entrance level of constructive design research ". As a step towards to a more nuanced and solid perspective on how to keep constructive design research on track, this paper offers a model for understanding the role of hypothesis in constructive design research. The model allows for understanding the hypothesis's relation to research motivation, questions, experiments, evaluation and knowledge production. The intention of the model is to have it serve as a tool in the research process aiding the researcher to understand at what " level " discussions and claims are brought forward, and what consequences these might have for the research work at hand. Thus, the paper claims the central position of the hypothesis as a key-governing element even in artistic led research processes.
Article
Full-text available
The focus of this paper is interaction design research aimed at supporting interaction design practice . The main argument is that this kind of interaction design research has not (always) been successful, and that the reason for this is that it has not been guided by a sufficient understanding of the nature of design practice . Based on a comparison between the notion of complexity in science and in design, it is argued that science is not the best place to look for approaches and methods on how to approach design complexity . Instead, the case is made that any attempt by interaction design research to produce outcomes aimed at supporting design practice must be grounded in a fundamental understanding of the nature of design practice. Such an understanding can be developed into a well-grounded and rich set of rigorous and disciplined design methods and techniques, appropriate to the needs and desires of practicing designers.
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