• Materialising data experience through textile thinking

Lean, Marion, 2020, Thesis, Materialising data experience through textile thinking PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

In our digitally enabled lives, we are constantly entering into relationships and interacting with data. With little regard for their technical ability, consumers are obliged to accept and live with data experience. Digital literacy and information technology skills help to navigate these technologies, but little is known about the intimate practices of interacting with data from digital systems. The aim of this practice-based research is to identify how knowledge and experience of physical materials can offer novel processes and value to progress communications regarding digital use. This study draws on theory and practice from textile design and sets out to position textiles as a research discipline. Embodied methods are used to explore human relationships with textiles and materials to create physical representations which can be used to generate and share insights from people’s varied engagements with technology and data. Findings are presented which are valuable to the fields of both textile design and the field of data physicalisation.

The methods employed engage the human body as a research tool using the senses to explore and create meaningful experiences with technology. Material handling, modelmaking, workshops and sensory ethnography, all captured on film, facilitate an embodied approach to explore the experience of data. Through this approach, alternative readings of everyday technology emerge. The theoretical contribution of this thesis is the paradigm of
textile thinking as a research methodology. Textile thinking refers to the actions and mindset of textile designers. In this study the tacit knowledge employed by textile designers is presented as a challenge for reporting on design activity and is responded to through the use of embodied methods for engaging materials in research. Textile thinking approaches are embodied in practical experiments which invited people to express how they engage emotionally in relationships with technology and data. The field of textile design is interrogated to identify the unique characteristics of the discipline which are valuable research tools.

Practical research shows that physical data representations enhanced through material choice can be used as opportunities for engagement to examine how people connect emotionally with information. The findings showed that this methodology increased the likelihood of sharing insights into the use of digital products and could be used to elicit emotional responses to technology and data experience. The types of responses included childhood memories, sensations, individual insights into the comfort of technology and engagement with information. This broader understanding shows how this approach can be used by designers, to stimulate an interest in using data and to improve engagement with the digital world through design. The outcomes offer new references and broader perspectives for textile design as a research discipline, supporting a paradigm shift to explore and accept new ways of approaching research and developing design theory.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
School or Centre: School of Design
Funders: AHRC
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2020 13:43
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2020 15:37
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4443
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