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Abstract and Figures

This forum highlights conversations at the intersection of design methods and social studies of technology. By highlighting a diversity of perspectives on design interventions and programs, we aim to forge new connections between HCI design and communication, science and technology studies, and media studies scholarship. --- Daniela Rosner, Editor
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@INTERACTIONSMAG86 INTERACTIONS MARCH–APRIL 2019
This forum highlights conversations at the intersection of design methods and social studies of technology. By highlighting
a diversity of perspectives on design interventions and programs, we aim to forge new connections between HCI design and
communication, science and technology studies, and media studies scholarship. — Daniela Rosner, Editor
FORUM DESIGN AS INQUIRY
lay of the land, descending into chaos,
oceans of possibilities—even blue sky
thinking. We talk about food deserts
and career paths, networks and decision
trees, world-wide webs and websites,
sometimes directly comparing a
new concept to an existing thing in a
landscape, and sometimes using the
idea in a more abstract way. On a more
fundamental level, we might even
realize the spatial metaphors inherent
in perspective, eld, area, stance,
position, looking ahead, and, indeed,
fundamental level.
In developing the form of the kit,
we have taken inspiration from, or
paralleled, approaches including Liz
Sanders’s MakeTools [6], Thudt et al.’s
data physicalization for self-reection
[7], and other work on embodied
sensemaking, modeling in systemic
design, and collective imagery weaves
[8,9,10].
Career paths. In a pilot workshop,
we used simple 2D cutouts. Six
master’s students in design were
asked to construct visualizations
of their individual career paths
(Figure 1) or life journeys and think
aloud as they did so, for up to 40
minutes, explaining the relevance of
the metaphors selected and how the
landscape was constructed, creating
and modifying elements where
necessary.
To give an example of a
participant’s creation, Figure 1 shows
a landscape with color-coded hills
annotated with signs. Two people,
both representing the participant,
with two suns and a variety of clouds,
illustrated emotional aspects. She
explained that the height of the hills
In HCI, we usually encounter
metaphors through interface
design—the desktops, windows,
tablets, clouds, folders, and
feeds of everyday interaction.
Designers use metaphors
strategically to help users
understand new ways of interacting,
but they can also be used to generate
new ideas for products or services
[1,2,3]; considering dierent
metaphors can help expand our
conceptual vocabulary as we work
with the social and political eects of
technologies.
We argue that there is also value
in paying attention to the metaphors
people use to explain their
understanding, as a component of
user research. Eliciting metaphors,
tacit or explicit, can be part of a
process of exploring mental models,
for research participants themselves
or for researchers seeking to gain
qualitative insights around people’s
understandings. Systems theorist
Peter Senge has called for teams
within organizations to work on
“surfacing, testing, and improving
[their] mental pictures of how the
world works” [4] to arrive at shared
mental models; this approach
could also be useful for people
individually. However, there is no
right way to externalize thoughts.
As David Jonassen and Young Hoan
Cho [5] put it, we need “visual
prostheses” to share our mental
imagery with each other.
In the Mental Landscapes
project, we have developed a set
of such visual prostheses: a kit of
laser-cut card parts embodying a
particular set of metaphors based
on stylized landscapes and features
within landscapes, such as hills,
roads, fields, and weather. We
have explored the kit’s use through
workshops where participants
assemble and arrange a variety
of elements to make abstracted
model landscapes that on some
level represent or translate their
mental models of concepts—a
form of projective technique. Our
participants have built models
representing their own career paths,
life journeys, and group projects.
The aim of the workshops was to help
scope the possibilities for the kit’s
development and to explore how this
kind of metaphor-based constructive
projective method could be employed
in user research for design and HCI.
Why landscapes? They are a
common type of metaphor in speech,
particularly for talking about relations
between parts of a whole, or mapping
the structure of one concept onto
another. In organizations, we might
talk about moving into new territory
or the stakeholder landscape, having
a vantage point, mainstream and
backwater, channeling our eorts, the
Insights
Design methods can help people
externalize their mental models,
individually and in groups.
Landscape metaphors provide a
practical way of doing this visually.
3D landscape elements can be
used to enable people to visualize
subjects such as career paths and
experiences of group-project work.
Delanie Ricketts and Dan Lockton, Carnegie Mellon University
Mental Landscapes: Externalizing
Mental Models Through Metaphors
INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG MARCH–APRIL 2019 INTERACTIONS 87
represented achievement and the
amount of downhill represented
unhappiness, most significantly the
sharp downhill after college, followed
by a lightning cloud, gray rain
cloud, and herself taking a nosedive
down the hill—a (self-expressed)
meltdown. After the post-college
downhill, she represented her series
of mostly low-paid jobs with a small
purple hill, followed by a wider, green
hill for her master’s degree. A sun and
blue clouds, with a change in color,
represent her recovering and moving
on from the negative emotional
period following college, although it
is still a part of her life. While details
are specific to each participant, their
use of the elements in different ways
(such as the size and arrangement
of the hills and weather elements)
to embody particular qualitative
meanings gave us insights into the
kinds of possibilities inherent in the
kit, and how it could be used to help
people reflect on their own thinking
as part of a user-research process—
or ultimately inspire new forms of
interface design.
Some patterns emerged, such as the
use of aerial views (e.g., Figure 2) and
branching structures of inuences,
possible choices, and paths not taken.
Some participants said it was dicult
to show their perspective of the
landscape within a two-dimensional
format—for example, things that
were present but not directly on the
path taken. This suggested a way
to improve the kit: moving to a 3D
format.
3D kit. Insights from the pilot
enabled us to develop an improved
and revised kit that provides greater
variety while enabling three-
Figure 1. One participant’s career path landscape.
Figure 2. An aerial-view life journey. Tributaries represent foundational contributions toward
experiences. Rocks within eddies represent periods lacking clear direction.
@INTERACTIONSMAG88 INTERACTIONS MARCH–APRIL 2019
FORUM DESIGN AS INQUIRY
dimensional expression. In addition,
we wanted to explore how the
landscape metaphors could be used to
think through other topics, and in a
group rather than individual context.
The 3D kit (downloadable at http://
imaginari.es/mental-landscapes/)
comprised elements representing:
Hills, mountains, and raised
ground, of many sizes and colors—
both 3D cones and at elevations held
vertically using slotted blocks
Lakes, ponds, and rivers, of many
sizes and colors, plus whirlpools or
eddies
Fields/areas of land, or roads, of
many sizes and colors, including a
ground sheet and lengths of brown
construction paper
Trees and cacti of dierent shapes
and sizes
Silhouettes of people of dierent
sizes
Considering
different metaphors
can help expand
our conceptual
vocabulary.
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Figure 3. The modeling process.
Figure 4 . A group explains their Life Landscape.
INTERACTIONS.ACM.ORG MARCH–APRIL 2019 INTERACTIONS 89
parallels with a variety of papercraft
landscapes. The material choice of
thin card both aords and signals
annotation and rapid alteration,
and we explicitly gave participants
permission to do this.
We ran two larger group
workshops with the 3D elements: Life
Landscapes—again on life journeys;
and Project Landscapes, in which
participants modeled group projects
they had recently worked on together.
Life Landscapes. In this workshop,
29 master’s students from two design
classes, in groups of ve to seven,
were given 30 minutes to visualize
the questions “What do the past and
future look like as a landscape?” and
“Where are we going?” using the kit.
The focus for most groups was their
own perceptions of their journeys
before, during—and imagined journey
after—graduating, but the scope
was left open for groups to interpret
the questions in dierent ways. The
collaborative challenge here was
to create a shared vision from what
started as a disparate set of individual
experiences (Figure 3). Figure 4 shows
one group explaining their landscape,
centered around a set of tributaries
(dierent backgrounds) coming
together with the students on a raft
together (their degrees), heading—
potentially via a whirlpool—for a
variety of possibilities ahead, from
rocky shallows, to deserts with cacti,
to hills representing dierent kinds of
careers.
Project Landscapes. For this
workshop, 45 undergraduate
design students worked in groups
of three to f ive for 30 minutes, re-
forming groups they had previously
worked in together on a recent
project. Groups were asked to use
the elements to create landscapes
representing whatever aspects they
found important to emphasize:
topics, challenges, project stages,
roles, interpersonal relationships,
Weather elements: sun/moon,
clouds (cirrus and cumulus), clouds
with rain, clouds with snow, clouds
with lightning bolts, held vertically
using crocodile clips on rods.
Whirlpools could also be used as
cyclones.
The kit also includes generic shapes
that can be used or modied as well
as sticky notes for use as labels or
annotations (replacing headstone-
like signposts in the original 2D kit).
Some opportunistically collected real
elements—rocks and fallen leaves—
were included in the Life Landscapes
workshop. Our design process for the
kit aimed to maximize the ability of
participants to express their thinking,
while not overwhelming them with the
sheer quantity of pre-made elements.
We wanted to preserve the aordance
of being able to think through how
seemingly disparate experiences
might relate to one another over one’s
life, without prescribing a particular
narrative format. From a practical
perspective, we needed to be able to
manufacture the elements through
the laser-cutting of card, chosen as
a balance between cost and variety
of color availability. The resulting
kit elements have some visual
When projects
encountered difficulties,
many groups
represented these with
lightning, rain, and hills.
Figure 5. A project landscape annotated by the group as they built it.
Figure 6. Here, as explained by the group, initially extreme weather represents a communication
breakdown; a rising sun represent s the group star ting to understand what was going on. The
mountain and swirl of people represent the pressure and opportunity of a major career fair at
that time in the project.
@INTERACTIONSMAG90 INTERACTIONS MARCH–APRIL 2019
FORUM DESIGN AS INQUIRY
Endnotes
1. Cila, N. Metaph ors We Design By: T he
Use of Metaph ors in Product D esign. Ph. D.
thesis, TU Del ft, 2013.
2. Jung, H., Wiltse, H., and Wiberg,
M. Metaphors, materia lities, and
aordances: Hybrid mor phologies in the
design of i nteractive arti facts. Desi gn
Studie s 53 (2017), 24–4 6.
3. Oates, M., Ah madullah, Y., Marsh,
A., Swoopes, C., Zhang, S., Balebako,
R., and Cranor, L. Turtles, locks, and
bathrooms: Understanding Mmental
models of privacy through il lustration.
Proc. o n Privacy Enhan cing Technologies 4
(2018), 5–32 .
4. Senge, P.M. T he Fifth Disc ipline: The Ar t
& Pract ice of The Lear ning Organizati on.
Century Business, London, 1993.
5. Jonassen, D. and Cho, Y.H. Externa lizing
mental models w ith Mindtools. In
Underst anding Models for Le arning and
Instruction. D. Ifenthale, P. Pirnay-
Dummer, and J.M. Spector, eds.
Springer, Berlin, 2008, 145–157.
6. Sanders, E. and Stappers, P-J. Convivial
Toolbox: Gen erative Resea rch for the Front
End of Des ign. BIS, Amsterdam, 2013.
7. Thudt, A ., Hinrich s, U., Huron, S.
and Carpend ale, S. Self-reection and
personal physicalization construction.
Proc. C HI ’18. ACM, New York, 2018,
paper 154.
8. Jaasma, P., Smit, D., van Dijk, J.,
Latcha m, T., Trotto, A., and Hummels,
C. The blue studio: Desig ning an
interactive environment for embodied
multi-sta keholder ideation processes.
Proc. T EI ’17. ACM, New York,
20 17, 1–10.
9. Aguir re Ulloa, M. a nd Paulsen, A. Co-
design ing with relationsh ips in mind:
Introducing relational materia l mapping.
Form Aka demisk 10, 1 (2017), 1–14.
10. Chueng-Nai nby, P., Lee, J., Zi, B.,
and Gardin, A. A creative ontologica l
analysis of collective imager y during
co-design for service innovation.
Proc. D RS 2016. Design Research
So ciet y, 2016 .
Delanie Ricketts is a design strategist
at Fannie Mae in Washington, DC. For merly,
she researched mental landscapes as a
research assistant in the Imaginaries L ab
at Carnegie Mellon University.
dricketts02@gmail.com
Dan Lockton is an assistant professor
and chair of design studies at Carnegie
Mellon Universit y. He runs the Imaginaries
Lab, exploring new ways to think and live.
He has a Ph.D. in design from Brunel
Universit y and was prev iously a researcher
and tutor at the Royal College of Art.
danlockton@cmu.edu
and so on. Groups used and modif ied
the elements in different ways to
represent different aspects of their
projects.
After constructing their
landscapes, each group talked it
through, and it is their terminology
and names we draw on here in
describing the meanings attributed
to elements. Some projects started
with “rocky” beginnings, represented
by cones or hills. Others started with
trees, rivers, and stars, representing
periods of ideation, or general
feelings of optimism. When projects
encountered diff iculties later on,
many groups represented these
periods with lightning, rain, and
hills. Several groups came up with
names to represent specific parts of
their project experiences, such as a
“plateau of exhaustion” before the
project came to an end, or even in one
case a “hell.” In Figure 5, for example,
the group illustrated how at the
beginning of their project, they were
in a “marsh of uncertainty.” During
their first crit, negative feedback was
represented by a “sinking whirlpool”
and rain clouds. The gray, dry “desert
of inspiration” represents not having
a lot of ideas, but the blue circles
represent the team enjoying working
together. Eventually they found an
“oasis of teamwork,” which led to “a
paradise of creation” and eventually
completing the project.
Participants’ comments suggested
that they found the process fun and
creative, while also unavoidably
abstract. For some, the kit helped
them understand their teammates’
perspectives better—after the
project was over—especially in
terms of stress, productivity, and
emotions at points throughout a
project. In this sense, the format
is more useful for surfacing—
and reconciling—overarching
understandings than probing deeply
about specifics. But in triggering
discussion, it has value in enabling
members of a team to interrogate
each other’s perspectives and mental
models of a situation (echoing ideas
from Senge [4]). There is value in
the reflection process for the team
members themselves, even without
any external analysis of the details.
Value for HCI and design. Using
design methods to generate knowledge
is a growing approach within research
through design, and various forms
of modeling and metaphor-based
work can make a contribution here to
what might traditionally have been
text- or interview-based forms of
inquiry. Exploring which elements of
mental models are shared between
group members—and which are
not—and the discussion around
these issues once surfaced, can give
useful insights for researchers seeking
to understand understanding. For
example, dierent metaphors used by
participants could inspire a new form
of interface design for life planning or
project-management tools. Imagine
collaborative project-planning
software—or even an augmented
reality or tangible interface—enabling
team members to shape and annotate
elements in a landscape such as that
shown in Figure 6, where not just
the other events (e.g., the career fair)
in people’s calendars, but also the
meaning of them to people, along
with each other’s perspectives on
communication, dierent visions for
the project, and so on, were visible and
engageable.
Beyond interface design, there is
also something interesting in using
these kinds of methods to shed light
on the unexamined metaphors and
mental models that are present
in our collective (or not) societal
imaginaries of abstract concepts
such as technology, life, career,
family, and work—and issues such
as climate change, our relationship
with nature, resources, artificial
intelligence, mental and physical
health, national identities and
international migration, social equity,
government, new forms of economy,
and quality of life. As such, our aim in
developing the kit further will be for
it to be useful at multiple levels, from
individual reflection to community-
based participatory design
workshops—giving a community
the opportunity to ref lect on and
learn about its own thinking—and
expanding beyond solely landscape
metaphors.
DOI: 10.1145/3301653 COPYRIGHT HELD BY AUTHORS. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00
... Physicalization allows for more natural and inviting types of encoding and interacting with data [40], which potentially leads to more affective, reflective and social forms of user engagement [46]. While physicalization usually requires quantitative data, recent studies demonstrated how qualitative or tacit knowledge can also be represented tangibly, so as to enhance externalization and enable group-based sensemaking [24,35]. Taking into account this promising potential, this research explores how data physicalization can be exploited in the participatory context of group-based urban mental mapping. ...
... Participatory data translation activities such as co-located data crocheting [27] or data cuisine sessions [19,45] showed how the social interactions that tend to occur alongside the construction of a physicalization focus on negotiating and aligning interests and sensitivities around the data. The Mental Landscapes [35] project, in which simple cutout shapes of landscape elements were given to groups to help them represent abstract concepts, demonstrated the group bonding nature of working with tangible material, even when 'concepts' are only loosely related to 'data' in its traditional sense. Chemicals in a Creek [32] presented an action design process to represent the pollution levels of a local creek with a floating physicalization. ...
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... How can designers work with this metaphor? Landscape metaphors, including 'fields' and journeys within an imaginary space have been used in design research to explore topics including mental health (Ricketts & Lockton, 2019), and interdisciplinarity , but the direct analogues with multiple dimensions in AI models have not so far been well developed from a design perspective. Could spaces be a useful metaphor for designers to think about, design, represent, or visualise AI? ...
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... After the publication of Lockton et al (2017), the first author was invited to the Universidad del Desarrollo, Chile, to teach two groups of interaction design students how to create qualitative interfaces and displays, in workshop sessions. Since there was no specific method or obvious process, a decision was taken to concentrate on phenomena themselves, in the world-mostly natural-which might be able to be used as inspiration for non-2 We have excluded two families of projects, Mental Landscapes / Tangible Thinking (Ricketts & Lockton, 2019;Lockton et al, 2019b) and Materialising Mental Health (Luria et al, 2021) which, although inspired by the qualitative interface idea, involved physicalising abstract concepts rather than 'data', externalising them from the minds of the participants via the qualities of materials. The more explicitly metaphorical qualitative augmented reality approach of Experiential Augmentation (Lo et al, 2018) has also been omitted here. ...
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... Figure 2), and Luria et al (in press) also, explicitly or otherwise, make use of metaphors as a way to translate or reify abstract systemic concepts in forms that can be shared and in some cases collectively constructed, from topological metaphors such as landscapes (e.g. Ricketts & Lockton, 2019) to relational metaphors such as material properties (Aguirre Ulloa & Paulsen, 2017), to performative metaphorical approaches where elements change over time (e.g. Fass, 2016). ...
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Editorial The RSD10 symposium was held at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, 2nd-6th November 2021. After a successful (yet unforeseen) online version of the RSD 9 symposium, RSD10 was designed as a hybrid conference. How can we facilitate the physical encounters that inspire our work, yet ensure a global easy access for joining the conference, while dealing well with the ongoing uncertainties of the global COVID pandemic at the same time? In hindsight, the theme of RSD10 could not have been a better fit with the conditions in which it had to be organized: “Playing with Tensions: Embracing new complexity, collaboration and contexts in systemic design”. Playing with Tensions Complex systems do not lend themselves for simplification. Systemic designers have no choice but to embrace complexity, and in doing so, embrace opposing concepts and the resulting paradoxes. It is at the interplay of these ideas that they find the most fruitful regions of exploration. The main conference theme explored design and systems thinking practices as mediators to deal fruitfully with tensions. Our human tendency is to relieve the tensions, and in design, to resolve the so-called “pain points.” But tensions reveal paradoxes, the sites of connection, breaks in scale, emergence of complexity. Can we embrace the tension and paradoxes as valuable social feedback in our path to just and sustainable futures? The symposium took off with two days of well-attended workshops on campus and online. One could sense tensions through embodied experiences in one of the workshops, while reframing systemic paradoxes as fruitful design starting points in another. In the tradition of RSD, a Gigamap Exhibition was organized. The exhibition showcased mind-blowing visuals that reveal the tension between our own desire for order and structure and our desire to capture real-life dynamics and contradicting perspectives. Many of us enjoyed the high quality and diversity in the keynotes throughout the symposium. As chair of the SDA, Dr. Silvia Barbero opened in her keynote with a reflection on the start and impressive evolution of the Relating Systems thinking and Design symposia. Prof.Dr. Derk Loorbach showed us how transition research conceptualizes shifts in societal systems and gave us a glimpse into their efforts to foster desired ones. Prof.Dr. Elisa Giaccardi took us along a journey of technologically mediated agency. She advocated for a radical shift in design to deal with this complex web of relationships between things and humans. Indy Johar talked about the need to reimagine our relationship with the world as one based on fundamental interdependence. And finally, Prof.Dr. Klaus Krippendorf systematically unpacked the systemic consequences of design decisions. Together these keynote speakers provided important insights into the role of design in embracing systemic complexity, from the micro-scale of our material contexts to the macro-scale of globally connected societies. And of course, RSD10 would not be an RSD symposium if it did not offer a place to connect around practical case examples and discuss how knowledge could improve practice and how practice could inform and guide research. Proceedings RSD10 has been the first symposium in which contributors were asked to submit a full paper: either a short one that presented work-in-progress, or a long one presenting finished work. With the help of an excellent list of reviewers, this set-up allowed us to shape a symposium that offered stage for high-quality research, providing a platform for critical and fruitful conversations. Short papers were combined around a research approach or methodology, aiming for peer-learning on how to increase the rigour and relevance of our studies. Long papers were combined around commonalities in the phenomena under study, offering state-of-the-art research. The moderation of engaged and knowledgeable chairs and audience lifted the quality of our discussions. In total, these proceedings cover 33 short papers and 19 long papers from all over the world. From India to the United States, and Australia to Italy. In the table of contents, each paper is represented under its RSD 10 symposium track as well as a list of authors ordered alphabetically. The RSD10 proceedings capture the great variety of high-quality papers yet is limited to only textual contributions. We invite any reader to visit the rsdsymposium.org website to browse through slide-decks, video recordings, drawing notes and the exhibition to get the full experience of RSD10 and witness how great minds and insights have been beautifully captured! Word of thanks Let us close off with a word of thanks to our dean and colleagues for supporting us in hosting this conference, the SDA for their trust and guidance, Dr. Peter Jones and Dr. Silvia Barbero for being part of the RSD10 scientific committee, but especially everyone who contributed to the content of the symposium: workshop moderators, presenters, and anyone who participated in the RSD 10 conversation. It is only in this complex web of (friction-full) relationships that we can further our knowledge on systemic design: thanks for being part of it! Dr. JC Diehl, Dr. Nynke Tromp, and Dr. Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer Editors RSD10
... We began by exploring both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional modes of expression. To test the potential of a 2D approach, we borrowed pieces from a mental modelling toolkit produced previously (Ricketts and Lockton, 2019), which included pieces of thick card stock cut into shapes commonly found in natural landscapes (such as trees, mountains and clouds). To test a 3D approach, we provided our participants with a set of craft supplies including clay, pipe cleaners of various sizes and colours, fluffy balls, wooden skewers, fabric and balloons. ...
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Metaphors We Design By: The Use of Metaphors in Product Design
  • N Cila
Cila, N. Metaphors We Design By: The Use of Metaphors in Product Design. Ph.D. thesis, TU Delft, 2013.