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Developing an Ethically-Aware Design Character through Problem Framing

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Expert designers determine what problem needs to be solved—framing the design space, and not just designing an appropriate solution. In this study, undergraduate and graduate industrial design students at a large Midwestern university were engaged in a one-day workshop, focusing on designing products for natives of Sub-Saharan Africa to sell in their home nations. Participants worked in teams to generate a range of constraints and problem statements. Teams struggled to identify specific use contexts and users, even though these elements were present in provided research materials. They appeared to build distance between their own experiences and that of the users they were designing for, potentially bifurcating their sense of ethics and normative commitments that were actively being reified in problem statements and solutions.

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Developing an Ethically-Aware Design Character through Problem Framing

  1. 1. Developing an Ethically-Aware Design Character 
 THROUGH PROBLEM FRAMING COLIN M. GRAY Purdue University
  2. 2. CHARLES EAMES, 1969
  3. 3. FRAMING JUDGMENTS “what is to be included within the purview of the design process—in other words, what are the ‘edges’ of the project and what lies beyond consideration” (Nelson & Stolterman, 2012)
  4. 4. FRAME CREATION MODEL (Dorst, 2015, p.75)
  5. 5. DESIGN CHARACTER “a designer’s character is his or her core.” self-reflection values, beliefs, skills, sensibility, reason, ethics, and aesthetics design 
 responsibility how do framing judgments serve as a window into a developing designer’s character? —————————————Nelson & Stolterman, 2012—————————————
  6. 6. 1. What types of constraints appear to be most salient for students when constructing a problem frame? 2. How do these constraints, and their ethical implications, relate to the final solution?
  7. 7. PARTICIPANTS • Undergraduate and graduate industrial design students at a large Midwestern university • 100 students (28 females and 71 males) • Self-organized into 21 teams comprised of 4-5 students • Students were convinced they already knew “everything” about problem framing analysis: 
 5.33/7 [SD=0.93] exploration: 
 5.18/7 [SD=1.08] defining: 
 5.02/7 [SD=1.14]
  8. 8. FRAMING WORKSHOP Create a solution that meets a basic need in a developing region in Sub-Saharan Africa, while improving or creating self- sustaining economic activity. UNDERSTAND & DEVELOP CONTEXT 45 MINUTES SYNTHESIZE & FINALIZE 50 MINUTES IDEATE & ITERATE 50 MINUTES “ ”
  9. 9. WORKSHOP STRUCTURE Œ RESOURCES  DEBRIEF STAKEHOLDERS CONSTRAINTS DEPLOYMENT
  10. 10. Œ RESOURCES  DEBRIEF Ž INITIAL FRAME STAKEHOLDERS CONSTRAINTS PROBLEM STATEMENTDEPLOYMENT WORKSHOP STRUCTURE
  11. 11.  DEBRIEF Ž INITIAL FRAME  IDEATION STAKEHOLDERS CONSTRAINTS PROBLEM STATEMENTDEPLOYMENT RE WORKSHOP STRUCTURE
  12. 12. Ž INITIAL FRAME  IDEATION S PROBLEM STATEMENT  REFINED FRAME PROBLEM STATEMENT WORKSHOP STRUCTURE
  13. 13. AME  IDEATION M NT ‘ RATIONALE BIG PROBLEM FRAME CONCEPT  REFINED FRAME PROBLEM STATEMENT WORKSHOP STRUCTURE
  14. 14. ‘ RATIONALE BIG PROBLEM FRAME CONCEPT  REFINED FRAME PROBLEM STATEMENT WORKSHOP STRUCTURE
  15. 15. ANALYSIS: FRAME CRITERIA • Stakeholders: locals (10); government (9); designers/developers (7); companies (7); local organizations/businesses (5); families (4) • Constraints: cost (13); resources (10); culture (7); education (7); location (7); infrastructure (6) • Deployment: airdrop (4); external donors (3); charity programs (2); companies (2)
  16. 16. ANALYSIS: PROBLEMS Comparison of initial and final problem statements and semantic differentials along with the final elevator pitch PROBLEM EXPLORATION WORKSHOP YOUR TAKE ON THE PROBLEM Fill out the semantic differential with two different criteria to talk about different types of problems that you might want to solve. Identify and name a few points on each graph to describe different use cases or priorities. FILL OUT YOUR TEAM’S PROBLEM STATEMENT needs to be able to when/where 3 USER OR STAKEHOLDER NEED YOU ARE ADDRESSING WHEN/WHERE THE SOLUTION WOULD BE USED PROBLEM EXPLORATION WORKSHOP DOES IT SOLVE THE PROBLEM? While looking at the concept clusters you chose, fill out the semantic differential with two different criteria that represent issues that are important to the success of your solution. Locate each cluster within the semantic differential, and then chose a final concept (or modification/combination of a concept) that best addresses the problem. FILL OUT YOUR FINAL PROBLEM STATEMENT needs to be able to when/where 6 USER OR STAKEHOLDER NEED YOU ARE ADDRESSING WHEN/WHERE THE SOLUTION WOULD BE USED PROBLEM EXPLORATION WORKSHOP MAKE YOUR FINAL PITCH Draw out your final concept, with a description and/or annotations. Create a one-minute “elevator pitch” for your concept that you could give to a person not famil- iar with the problem. This pitch should include the following elements: 1) a brief description of the big problem (10 seconds); 2) the specific problem your team addressed (20 seconds); and 3) your team’s concept, and how it contributes to solving the larger problem (30 seconds). Write out the main points for each section below, and practice giving the pitch to each other. 1 2 3 7
  17. 17. INITIAL AND REFINED 
 FRAMING CRITERIA Team Initial Framing Criteria Refined Framing Criteria M4 Education v. Income Community v. Sustainability M5 Cost v. Volume/Accessibility Technology level v. Innovation M9 Tangible Product v. Internally developed Consumer operated v. Uninvasive/invasive to culture M10 Cost v. Complexity Feasibility v. Sustainability M11 Population size v. Age Population size v. Age M13 Aesthetic v. Cost Filtration v. Size A1 Manufacturing (difficult to easy) v. Distributing Maintenance v. Ease of use A4 Cost v. Durability Cost (low to high) v. Durability A9 Filtration (-/+) v. Bountiful water (-/+) Cost (-/+) v. Automation (-/+) A10 Rural v. Family Life Impact (lo/hi) v. Self-sustaining A11 Technology v. Cost Labor v. Cost
  18. 18. CASE: Improving Maintenance of Water Filtration Systems
  19. 19. CASE: Improving Maintenance of Water Filtration Systems 1. Internally developed v. tangible product “Local, small business owner (in any area w/ weak infrastructure/poor water quality) needs to be able to provide a water purifying system made with regional materials & maintenance service to evaluate & test the effectiveness of the system to be used/maintained for household & small group use but located in the vicinity of the community well.” [bold text provided on worksheet]
  20. 20. CASE: Improving Maintenance of Water Filtration Systems 1. Internally developed v. tangible product “Local, small business owner (in any area w/ weak infrastructure/poor water quality) needs to be able to provide a water purifying system made with regional materials & maintenance service to evaluate & test the effectiveness of the system to be used/maintained for household & small group use but located in the vicinity of the community well.” [bold text provided on worksheet]
  21. 21. CASE: Improving Maintenance of Water Filtration Systems 2. Consumer operated v. uninvasive to culture “Water filtration technitions with a small business located near a well/area w/ poor water quality need to be able to manage/test/maintain the water filtration system without being culturally invasive when/where there are communities w/ a regional water source that is in need of water management.” [bold text provided on worksheet]
  22. 22. CASE: Improving Maintenance of Water Filtration Systems 2. Consumer operated v. uninvasive to culture “Water filtration technitions with a small business located near a well/area w/ poor water quality need to be able to manage/test/maintain the water filtration system without being culturally invasive when/where there are communities w/ a regional water source that is in need of water management.” [bold text provided on worksheet]
  23. 23. Big problem Specific problem Concept contribution Water filtration systems in sub-saharan Africa are not well maintained Lack of technical knowledge/skills, as well as materials, are factors that contribute to ill maintained community water sources Local small business technicians install and maintain underground pump filters next to communities/existing wells
  24. 24. DISCUSSION Problem framing provides access to designers’ assumptions about the end user and context ETHICAL CHARACTER TRAVERSAL OF 
 THE SPACE ARTICULATES
  25. 25. DISCUSSION STUDENTS’ ETHICAL AWARENESS GREW • complexity apparent in the debrief • but altered (often in a Eurocentric way) when the students moved to their initial problem statement STUDENTS’ FRAMING ABILITY GREW analysis: 
 5.33/7 [SD=0.93]
 5.40/7 [SD=1.02] exploration: 
 5.18/7 [SD=1.08]
 5.41/7 [SD=1.14] defining: 
 5.02/7 [SD=1.14]
 5.23/7 [SD=1.24]
  26. 26. DISCUSSION BUT THIS AWARENESS (GENERALLY) DID NOT RESULT IN REGIONALLY APPROPRIATE SOLUTIONS • difficult for students to position take with their target user • inability for students to embrace the ethical complexity of their role in providing a solution for developing nations • distancing between students’ own experiences and that of the users for which they were designing
  27. 27. CONCLUSION & FUTURE WORK • We have limited ability to view the ethical development of individuals, only on the team level • It appears that students thought they already knew how to engage in problem framing, but realized in working through the problem the limits of their abilities (flat pre/post) • Need to encourage ethical development in a systemic way throughout design curricula, allowing students to understand the ways in which their normative commitments affect and shape their design process
  28. 28. THANK YOU COLIN M. GRAY Purdue University This research is funded in part by the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES Type II) Grants # 1323251 and #1322552. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. COLINGRAY.ME

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