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  • Representing experiences of digital systems: the design and use of externalising models

Fass, John, 2018, Thesis, Representing experiences of digital systems: the design and use of externalising models PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This is a PhD by practice that explores how people’s experiences of digital systems can be made physically and visually apparent using models and activities I have designed. The theoretical context for this PhD centres on internal and external models of people’s experiences with digital systems. This is an AHRC funded PhD written as part of the Creative Exchange, which supports collaborative research projects conducted with industry and academic partners.
The way people experience digital systems can be dif cult to observe, and is experienced via complex, fragmented interfaces with hidden effects. We often nd that digital systems have a attening effect, and are frustrating and confusing to use, while our actions and behaviours are invisibly tracked and analysed. There is thus a need for people to gain awareness of the ways they experience digital systems.
My primary research question focuses on the design characteristics of visual and physical models that externalise individual and group experiences of digital systems. Secondary questions include: What effects do the material properties of externalising models have on how digital systems are represented? and What types of activities externalise representations of digital systems? These questions are explored through case studies that focus on a set of digital systems identi ed through the research including web browsing, digital social networks, and image metadata. The first two case studies are exploratory, the third is applied. I completed these case studies in three collaborative settings, employing qualitative data collection methods including drawing, physical modelling and semi-structured interviews. I draw on theories of representation and cognition, and Dix and Gongora’s theory of externalisation in design, and apply them to new contexts and situations. My units of analysis are the externalising models and participants’ spoken accounts of making them. The ndings include: externalising experiences of digital systems using diverse materials is a way of countering attening effects; deploying new non-linguistic metaphors to represent experiences of digital systems is an important way of understanding and communicating them; and designing situations where people can create self-constructed representations of their experiences of digital systems enables narrative sequences, tangible expressions, and shared descriptions.
My research is useful for the insight it provides participants into their own experiences with everyday digital systems, giving them better ways of understanding how digital systems shape their lives. It is also useful for designers working with people to nd out about their experiences of digital systems, and design researchers who are developing novel elicitation methods. My original contributions to knowledge include new contexts for externalising models, applying externalisation to experiences of digital systems, and recommendations for how designers can create objects and activities to externalise the experiences of digital systems of non- designers.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W280 Interactive and Electronic Design
School or Centre: School of Communication
Funders: AHRC, The Creative Exchange
Date Deposited: 23 May 2018 14:37
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2018 14:31
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3445

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