A critical artefact methodology : using provocative conceptual designs to foster human-centred innovation.

BOWEN, Simon John (2009). A critical artefact methodology : using provocative conceptual designs to foster human-centred innovation. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This research develops a rationale for using provocative conceptual designs to foster the innovation of human-centred product ideas -a `critical artefact methodology'.

This research employed similar tactics to Action Research (Swann 2002): cycles of action (using critical artefact methods in design projects) and reflection on that action (including a contextual review of existing theories and practices), which produced action (product ideas) as well as research (a proposed critical artefact methodology).

In two projects, I used sets of workshops where stakeholders' engaged with my critical artefacts to develop my understanding of their needs. Living Rooms (designing the home for `tomorrow's older people) suggested how my methods might be improved then taken account of in Digital Mementos (designing novel mementos for increasingly digital lifestyles), including selecting productive participants - stakeholders in-tune with the possibilities of novel situations, such as von Hippel's "lead users" (1986).

Within participatory design and co-design I position critical artefact methods as using stakeholder participation to inform design activity rather than as co-creation. In reference to Ehn and Kyng's mock-ups (1991) and Gaver's cultural probes (1999) exemplars, I show that critical artefacts do not fit the description of `prototypes' (suggestive of design direction or destination) and that my critical artefact methodology depends upon a progression from presenting stakeholders with critical artefacts (that provoke critical reflection) towards more `prototypical' artefacts expressing relevant needs (for evaluation).

I suggest that critical design (Dunne 1999) and related design practices have similar characteristics and operation to Critical Theory: a view that the status quo (generally affirmed by design) somehow `oppresses' society; that `enlightenment' of the factors underlying this `emancipates' society and is facilitated by a reading of critiques (alternative proposals such as critical artefacts).

In my critical artefact methodology the designer develops their understanding by designing artefacts to `process' stakeholders' engagement with previous artefacts -I use Polanyi's notion of "indwelling" (1966) to support this method of empathic knowledge sharing. Designer's and stakeholders' co-reading of critical artefacts means that this understanding can be of future or latent stakeholders needs; it enables them to explore alternative needs, wants/desires, practices and products by broadening their understanding of what is possible.

The contributions of this research are a critical artefact methodology supported by critical artefact methods; a more instrumental use of critical artefacts than other critical design practices; and (in Digital Mementos' outputs) exemplar findings demonstrating the value of a critical artefact methodology's application. Whilst this thesis presents a `point in time' in my methodology's development, I intend that it provide designers with insights into similar techniques within their own professional practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: Jill Hazard
Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2011 15:43
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2011 15:43
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/3216

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