At the start of the semester, I had a hard time defining what design research is. Since my project is a design research project as well, I chose this module to gain a more concrete understanding of design research through doing and experiencing. In a team of 7, we went through a small design cycle, focusing on the Field Research method.
In the initial theoretical approach, we explored doing field design research and the subject of our research through analyzing relevant articles. Perhaps it is because I am not used that much yet to build on existing research that I have not seen myself as proper audience yet; in this module, I explored through articles, intervening and observing, and found a role for myself as both an audience and a researcher. Trying to build new knowledge on top of research findings made me think of the way I would present my own research at the end of the semester, putting me in the shoes of my future audience. This painted the bigger picture for me where relevant research takes place, how we get to this knowledge and how this can be put inside a certain framework. Having experienced the roles in design research, I feel like I can set up a more relevant design research project in the future, taking the audience into consideration, reflecting on what way I to present my knowledge and to who.
"Your reflections come to good themes showing that you understand. Do try to base the reflections in some concrete evidence, though. Now you jump straight into what you learned without describing how this learning was situated in 'evidence', 'observations' and 'data'.." - Stephan Wensveen
Bridging Observation and Research
Our initial research question was broad: How do social aspects influence behaviors of charity and greed around vending machines? We decided to explore the actual context by going there, observing and talking to users in the actual context. These observations helped us see where we can intervene as designers. We were able to narrow our research question and shape the design of our prototype. After gathering and discussing data, we could evaluate even more narrow research questions.
I think that through doing and iterating, research explores and builds on itself to find new unexplored areas of knowledge. The only way I can claim truth for this knowledge, is if I can trace the real life observations it uses to justify itself, back through the research on a bigger foundation of previous findings. Going through a small research iteration myself helped me realize how important it is for my future research to be able to show these connections between concrete findings and abstract theories.
"Next to your own approach you have gained awareness about the other two approaches (Lab, Showroom) through the lecture, informal discussions and the final group presentations and discussion.
You have asked me questions for clarification that showed an interest in understanding the differences and similarities between the approaches." - Stephan Wensveen
The Lab, The Field, The Showroom
The openness and abstractness of the field is mainly what sets it apart from the quantitative controlled environment of the lab. Working in a second person perspective allows me to gather “why?’s” beyond the surface of interactions between users. Working in a showroom approach seems to be a strange mix of both, where you have a starting point of testing/discussion like you do in a lab approach, but the end result is really open like in the field. The impression a showroom design leaves on the user might also take some time to develop into more meaningful realizations. For both field and showroom, I can see how involving users in a second session after the initial research can help with the shaping of these values. Even in a lab, where test results might feel conclusive and more like closure, other interesting statistics might prove to be worth investigating with users. In the case of the module, the Lab approaches curve graph in how many people donate in relation to complexity, I found really fascinating and definitely worth exploring further.
"You managed to go through the entire 'Field' process and deliver good content (videos, posters). It showed your managed the group process well among the team members (which is not easy), while staying in the attitude of the field approach. You experienced making mistakes in the doing of this type of research. You managed well to come to themes from the observations that are relevant beyond the specifics of your own set-up and context." - Stephan Wensveen
Since a design research done in the field conjures such open results, we used affinity diagrams to cluster all the collected qualitative data. This felt really similar to a converging ideating session where you try and gather the meaningful qualities for ideas from the generated concepts. In this case the meaning in the shape of values can be distilled from the abundance of interview and observational data. Because we kept track of what was said by who, we decided to include these users in the data session as well, in order to get a deeper understanding of the meaning clusters that they were involved in. We saw that you shared your coffee, but why? What is your connection to the person you shared it with?
When deriving the meanings, the hardest part was how far you can take a collection of opinions and truly extract something that can be considered a fact. Our group had big discussions on whether we could really say something is true for a broader context outside the observations. Maybe then, qualitative research tries to make sense of something abstract, in order to allow for concrete quantitative research. This ‘sensemaking’ instead of gathering hard data in an open approach I think is what Husserl aches towards in the philosophy of phenomenology, so I understand why it is one of the principles for field research.
nicky liebregts / 2015