Expanding Design Space(s) - Lectio (Doctoral defense)


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Slides used in my "Lectio Precursoria" that is the presentation made in the public defense of a doctoral dissertation (Viva in the UK tradition). The lecture is suppose to introduce the theme of the research to a broader audience.

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  • Honorary Custos, honorary Opponent, ladies and gentlemen;
  • I want to start by sharing with you a personal anecdote.In the beginning you might question how this theme relates to collaborative new media design? Bear with me until the end, as I think the story illuminates some aspects of the central claims I make in my research.
  • In 2004 my family was fortunate to spend a few days at Kätilöopisto, the midwives’ hospital school in Helsinki.We, accompanied by resourceful and experienced staff, were there to deliver a baby. The specific ward we went to was called Haikaranpesä, or The Stork's Nest in English. We had visited the ward before to learn more about the birth itself and the staff, and to discuss how delivery could proceed.
  • That warm, late summer night, the baby, my partner, my mother, I and some wonderful midwifes were surrounded by a bathtub, laughing gas, rocking chairs, pillows, stools, and other stuff and some other families. There was no sense of hurry and I got the feeling that everybody was there to do their best.
  • Sometimes I was at the centre of the stage, sometimes the focus was on the midwife, for moments it was all about the stool I was sitting on and pushing, and of course we also thought about the baby. But for the most part of it, it was all about all these things at the same time. It was both a powerful and mundane experience.
  • During our stay in Haikaranpesä, the midwives helped us get acquainted with our new responsibilities. Tricks to change diapers were provided to the nervous father, and some knowledgeable hands helped me to accommodate in the breast a fuzzy, and at times uncooperative baby. I can describe this post-delivery period as a state of “not knowing-knowing what to do” that pretty much continues.
  • Häikaranpesäwasone of the firstFinnishhospitalwards to uphold the World Health Organization and UNESCO’sguidelines for Baby FriendlyHospitals. Believe me, there exists such a thing as “un-friendly” childbirth giving. Judging from many stories, un-friendly childbirth giving is the norm rather than the exception.
  • Despite the fact that baby-friendly childbirth is not the norm, the last decades have seen a resurged interest in “baby-centred births”. It seems to me that in that discussion there is a tendency on focusing on new ways of birth-giving, as either some new age philosophy, or some special treatment for those who can afford it. The baby-centeredness focuses too much in just the delivery. I contain that what Haikaranpesä is reallyabout, or lets say what WE achieved there, is more nuanced than simply “baby-centred” delivery.
  • The things and the people in the Haikaranpesä ward are the closest to what I consider should be common-sense birth giving and upbringing practices. It is about the families, the midwifes, the future of the children. “Here is an interesting approach” I thought back then. Let me share with you some of the principles by which I think it works:
  • Giving birth and assisting a birth, is neither a miracle nor a routine/mechanical thing to do. For a child to be brought to life many partnerships of many kinds are needed. Because it takes time, one should think about the before and the after. Things do not necessarily end up with a baby being born: once there is a baby, it needs to be taken care of. There is no point in trying to manage and predict the outcome. However a lot can be done through companionship and caring. 
  • Anybody that has anything to do with children should have to agree with this African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”. This quote represents a central learning of my stay at Haikaranpesa. It also marks the end of the personal anecdote. The message of the proverb has stuck to my mind. As I advanced in the research,I realized that the same aspects I pondered about in Haikaranpesa hold also true for contemporary new media design practices.
  • Similarly as in birth- giving, in Design it is getting more common not to talk about the mythical lonely hero designers that create elegant solutions on their own and then leave the public to admire the fruits of their genius. There are today user-centred design tools, participatory design approaches, experience design methods, you name it! Methods and techniques to help place other aspects of design at centre stage. Yet, unlike in Haikaranpesa or in avant-garde midwifing, the part where the public is left to enjoy and admire the fruits of design has remained curiously under-developed in design research.
  • Most of the research around user centred design and even participatory design, predominantly focus on the concept design stage – the so called fuzzy front end of innovation, as the literature in innovation management calls it-. Even when spread throughout the design cycle, most explicit collaborative design research interventions seem to end when the product is taken into use.
  • This state of affairs is well and honestly depicted in this model for co-designing, taken from a widely quoted article by Sanders and Stappers. Their squiggle portrayal maps the growing relevance of co-designactivities, mostly to the fuzzy front end. It shows collaborative designdiminishing and getting narrower by the time a prototype or a concretesolution appears. This seems to be a project-centred view of collaborative design. A view that takes for granted the production process of industrial physical goods. In such a view, the main contributions of collaborative design are organized around research and development projects that conclude at a product launch. However, this no longer matches the realities of many contemporary design engagements. There is no village here.
  • Can we also achieve the long-term village of the African proverb for our social-material culture?In a way, the village is already there. At least, this is what decades of research in fields like Science and Technology Studies have taught us. It has always been there: we just do not see the trees from the forest.
  • I will now share some of the findings of my work, walking you through the central concepts that contribute to new ways of understanding Design and conceptualizing the Design Space.My dissertation, “Expanding design space(s) Design in communal endeavours” deals with certain types of collective design processes, that do not match entirely time-bound traditional research and development views.
  • Such collective design processes, tend to be a mix of parallel project trajectories that cross and align each other at certain points. A view perhaps messier than the squiggle image showed earlier.
  • In the dissertation, I characterize such processes as “communal endeavours”.
  • The processes are endeavours because they occur through some sort of shared enterprise that requires earnest, ongoing efforts at different scales and times. 
  • The processes are communal because, various communities of practice, but also emergent collectives, loosely tied groups, and even teams, engage in those.
  • The empirical body of the work consists of materials collected during my participation in two different design research projects dealing with 2 particular communal endeavours.
  • The first case articulates with the life project of the Active Seniors, an association developing an alternative housing arrangement called Loppukiri.Loppukiiri which in English means “last sprint”, is a co-housing building and it is also a community committed to growing old together, or at least, to understanding what it takes to do so.
  • This part of my research draws particularly on the collaborative design and development of what this community called Miina: which is an Everyday Life Management System for Loppukiiri.
  • Miina is a set of prototypes to look at ways in which sharing of resources, spaces and eating and cooking together, as well as creating more awareness of each other, could be achieved. Miina started as a calendar for shared resources, and grew to become also a knowledge-sharing, planning tool, and many other things. Conceived while Loppukiiri was in its forming stage, Miina was deployed in the house when the seniors first moved in. Since then it has been used and hacked. It has also served as inspiration for other developments. And it has also been partly abandoned.
  • The second case looks at forms of active citizenship in the interactions of citizens, with each other, and with officials in the city administration here in Helsinki.
  • For this case, I draw from my involvement in the design process of Urban Mediator, an online platform for sharing locative media content about the urban environment.
  • I was interested in understanding if new media could transform ”issue reporting” into “issue sharing”. Issue reporting, is the uni-directional reporting of mundane fixes to city infrastructure and life. The things that usually come from the citizens, in the form of reports about broken streetlights or illegal dumping. Issue reporting is also the way in which city officials present ready-made development plans for feedback. Issuesharing instead is more ambitious because it entails that issues can be collaboratively constructed and even bring publics into being.
  • The two cases I have just presented, have served as experimental settings and as case studies.I have looked at, taken care of, and actively influenced the arrangements in these two distinct communal endeavours. All these activities are documented and analysed on six original articles and a summary article in the book.
  • A central concept I use is Design Space. A short-cut that aided me in recognizing what everybody understood we were designing, and with which resources. My analysis of the cases shows how the available space for design is not limited to designed objects. It also includes immaterial designs that affect how social arrangements, norms, timing, and pacing of everyday routines are carried out.
  • To elaborate on what I mean with the Design Space I will take a simple example. Lets say we are to design an interactive box.
  • In the traditional understanding of Design where we have the lonely designer -in the top left of the diagram- the design space into which it is possible to design, and make such a box, usually consists of the box’s immediate surroundings: the shape of the box, perhaps its function for an imagined user or audience. That restricted view of the Design Space has changed, mostly because of two important movements: user centered design (in the middle of the diagram) and Participatory design (in the bottom)The User centered design movement has insisted, that the most important part of a design space, is made up of existing use situations, and of context. Things that should be understood better before designing. The participatory design movement insists, the more people are able to participate in defining if they need or want a box the more the available Design Space changes.These ways of seeing the Design Space are useful and valid, but they do not capture completely what was happening in the cases I told you about.
  • When designing the box in a communal endeavour, you need to account for and capture a wider interplay of possibilities.When designing, the space for action is also dependant on the practices, partly assembled technologies, as well as the developing competencies and social arrangements, emerging over time. All these are basis for ongoing design choices, choices that are made at design time, at use time and most important also at design-in-use time, when there is something there to use, like Miina or Urban Mediator. As a collective we do not have just one design space to explore. Instead, there are extended design spaces, multiple unfolding of possibilities that change and evolve. They do so, in Design, in Use, and in Design-in-use, as the design engagement advances.
  • The interactive box of the example stands for ALL new media practices and information and communication technologies. These are two of many relevant areas called to address so-called societal challenges. Challenges such as more seniors being able to grow old together, or the future of our collective possibilities to shape our living environments in more collaborative and possibly more democratic ways.
  • Societal challenges make it important to understand its design process and spaces better. These processes are usually presented as either “technology-led,” or as being “user-centred”.My case studies show that such an issue is more nuanced than that, just like in Häikaranpesä. I propose that instead of centring the design process on the user or on the technology, we can concentrate on understanding what type of Design Spaces are available at each step, and move from there together, to develop something. As we do that, we also check how the Design Space changes as we advance, and orientate our next steps, to open spaces for collaboration.
  • We need to think in parallel of all the layers of design activities, I mean, the kind of things people are doing that have design-related implications. In my diagram in the vertical axis. These activities comprise things such as creating infrastructure and code to build modules from scratch, user interfaces done through remix or assembling of components, content created by workarounds, or making social agreements. These activities also comprise the ways in which people re-integrate social practices. Designing in communal endeavours is a sort of spiraltime, an ongoing cycle between design, use, and design-in-use.
  • Contemporary design practices we already know require the development of new design methods and new roles for designers. On their own, however, these means of engagement are not sufficient to achieve the required levels of learning and trust building. Users’ sense of ownership, their coming to understand their own needs and desires as well as designing at multiple levels of practice and technology all require time and more sustained and open design strategies and tactics. In terms of what we negotiate in the cases I analyze, I look at a set of things like "Cultivating an open agenda" or "Avoiding design locking-in with crucial choices (like technology)”, because when we were able to uphold those principles we got interesting results.
  • The repertoire of practices and strategies documented in the work, offer guidance to the sorts of activities and venues needed to allow ongoing collective design processes, room to breath and grow - aside the idea of designers as "facilitators”. When designing we also need to make interventions  in order to better understand what is amenable to design,and to understand when design is not enough. I think midwifying serves as inspiration to accomplish the articulation needed between using and participating, form-giving and evolving. In proposing midwifing as an analogy that lends itself to this context, I am most interested in the ways in which the practices of contemporary professional midwifery can help us rethink the processes through which things come into being and develop. In looking at the experience in Haikaranpesä, I continue to be inspired by the effort involved in common sense caring midwifing.
  • I ask you, honoured opponent appointed by the Doctoral Studies Board of the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture to present the critical comments on the dissertation you find well-founded.
  • Expanding Design Space(s) - Lectio (Doctoral defense)

    1. 1. Andrea Botero LectioPrecursoria(DA defense) 20.9.2013 Opponent: Dr Monika Büscher
    2. 2. < personal anecdote >
    3. 3. “Baby-friendly hospital”
    4. 4. Baby-centredness (?)
    5. 5. Common sense
    6. 6. Giving birth and assisting a birth, is neither a miracle nor a routine/mechanical thing to do. For a child to be brought to life many partnerships of many kinds are needed. Because it takes time, one should think about the before and the after. Thingsdo not necessarily end up with a baby being born:once there is a baby, it needs to be taken care of. There is no point in trying to manage and predict the outcome. However a lot can be done through companionship and caring.
    7. 7. “It takes a village to raise a child ” African proverb </ personal anecdote >
    8. 8. Giving birth and assisting a birth, is neither a miracle nor a routine/mechanical thing to do. For a child to be brought to life many partnerships of many kinds are needed. Because it takes time, one should think about the before and the after. Thingsdo not necessarily end up with a baby being born:once there is a baby, it needs to be taken care of. There is no point in trying to manage and predict the outcome. However a lot can be done through companionship and caring.
    9. 9. The “fuzzy front end” of innovation (aka = the delivery)
    10. 10. It takes a village (Does it?)
    11. 11. Communal Endeavours
    12. 12. CommunalEndeavours
    13. 13. Communal Endeavours
    14. 14. Two cases
    15. 15. First case Growing old together in Loppukiri
    16. 16. Miina, a web based everyday life management system for a co-housing community
    17. 17. Second case Active forms of citizenship in the interactions of citizens and city officials
    18. 18. Urban Mediator, a web-based platform for location based “issue sharing”
    19. 19. Issue reporting / Issue sharing
    20. 20. I Botero, A., Kommonen, K.-H., Oilinki, I., &Koskijoki, M. (2003). Co-Designing Visions, Uses, and Applications. In Electronic Proceedings of the 5th International Conference of the European Academy of Design. TechneDesing Wisdom, Barcelona, Spain: European Academy of Design / Universidad de Barcelona. II Botero, A., &Saad-Sulonen, J. (2008). Co-designing for New City-citizen Interaction Possibilities: Weaving Prototypes and Interventions in the Design and Development of Urban Mediator. In J. Simonsen, T. Robertson, & D. Hakken (Eds.), Proceedings of the 10th Participatory Design Conference pdc08 (pp. 266–269). Bloomington, Indiana, USA: CPSR/ACM. III Botero, A., &Kommonen, K.-H. (2009). Coordinating Everyday Life: the Design of Practices and Tools in the Life Project of a Group of Active Seniors. In Proceedings of the cost 298 Conference: The Good, the Bad and the Challenging (Vol. II, pp. 736 – 745). Slovenia: abs-Center and cost 298 Action. IV Botero, A., &Saad-Sulonen, J. (2010). Enhancing Citizenship: the Role of In-between Infrastructures. In T. Robertson, K. Bødker, T. Bratteiq, & D. Loi(Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Participatory Design Conference pdc10 (pp. 81–90). Sydney, Australia: ACM. V Botero, A., &Hyysalo, S. (2013). Ageing Together: Steps Towards Evolutionary Co-design in Everyday Practices. CoDesign, 9(1), 37–54. VI Botero, A., Kommonen, K.-H., &Marttila, S. (2010). Expanding Design Space: Design-In-Use Activities and Strategies. In D. Durling, R. Bousbaci, L.-L. Chen, P. Gauthier, T. Poldma, S. Roworth-Stokes, & E. Stolterman (Eds.), Design & Complexity: Design Research Society International Conference (p. 18). Montreal, Canada: DRS.
    21. 21. Design space(s)