Research project M1.2 R1 - 2013/2014
This is a design research project within Industrial Design TU/e and focuses on the concept of “Growing Systems”. In this research I focus on how people use media in their home environment. Due a close and continues cooperation between me and the test-users I discover what features people find valuable within their media system. I use Smallplayer, a product that I developed with Olaf van Duren outside my study, as a reference for a growing home media system to discover where this example stands in the landscape of media experiences.
I wanted to give my research more structure by exploring the known field Growing Systems first and setting up an approach based on the method of co-reflection. In the previous semester I started by exploring the research topic in context, which in that case mend going to the neighborhoods to find opportunities. Through the design instinct I developed over the year I directed myself in doing a design project approach instead. When I realized this I had trouble in reshaping my previous project towards an in depth research project. This semester I therefore had to force myself positioning first and creating handles through setting up an approach based on research/design methods to would give me grip on the situation. Since I am familiar with making choices in my projects without knowing all the information, this approach felt very unnatural for me at first. Later on in this semester I felt the benefits of my new approach. I was very aware of my progress, from the past till where I was then and what possibilities were in front of me. I believe that this did very much contributed in the depth of my research process, but also in the much more relaxed state I was able to perform a research/design project in general. My verdict of previous semester was hard for me to accept, but I am glad that I had this experience. I want to use these insights in the approach of my FMP. Although I want to focus on design and less on research, I have learned how these perspectives can go hand in hand and lift the process in quality.
In this research I specifically focused on implementing co-reflection. Since I am a user experience designer and experiences happen inside of us, I am always very interesting to seeing things from a user’s perspective. I believe co-reflection is an excellent method to approach this perspective. Since my goal for this semester was to perform a more in control and structured project to improve the quality of my research, I deliberately used my time first to really understand the idea and process of this method and the subject of growing systems. I learned there are three different phases of co-reflection, which I applied in my project as well. What I learned most out of this method for myself, is that I not only need to focus on finding out what users want and how they want it, but to find out what I actually want to find out and what my vision is towards a specific (design) case. I needed to have this vision, since co-reflection is very much about the confrontation between designer and user.
I also discovered that “research is not only to find, but also how to find,” something Jun Hu told me during the mid-term demoday. In my pursuit of implementing co-reflection, I changed my research question a couple of times and eventually I deviated from the original method of co-reflection as well. One of the main reasons I always preferred I design process, rather than research is because I thought this deviation in the process will lower the quality of research, while from a design for society perspective it might be necessary. My previous M1.2 project was a good example for that. Yet in this project I learned that in research I should discover my path as well and the process is often not one straight progression towards a predetermined goal. However the difference lays in having a goal to start with and being able to make the choices in the process based on what knowledge you started with and the knowledge you gained along the way. Because I had paid more attention to structuring my project on forehand, I was able to make substantiated choices leaded to a deviation of the original plan, while still having a grip on the quality of research. Through this experience I learned that this could also improve the quality of my design process, because it gives me more confidence and control on making choices, rather than making a choice based on intuition and gut feeling. Although making choices based on too little information is something I am comfortable with and has already let me to good outcomes, structuring a design project as I did in this research project will allow me to convince my stakeholders much better and it give me some security to fall back on if in doubt. I intent to start my Final Master Project as a design process, but with the same approach as I started this research project.
In this project I combined my design work of Smallplayer with my research within this study. My challenge was to find the right balance between performing a project that could help Smallplayer in improving its concept and gaining knowledge that would contribute to science as well. I covered this by using Smallplayer as design concept within the range of growing home media environments. By this approach I could gain knowledge in how to improve home media environments in general, while this information would also be worth something for Smallplayer. It was not only nice to be able to sort of work for my own company, while at the same time doing valuable things for my study. The integration of Smallplayer gave the project also a sense of importance that I liked a lot. I was not doing a project that would probably just end when the semester ended. Now I was doing a project for which the impact of my performance matters for society.
Therefore I want my Final Master Project also to have an already existing element integrated. This doesn’t need to be a product or a fixed concept. Working within a company or being involved within an existing initiative (within society) would also provide this quality for the project. I have already some active leads for my FMP, but I want to look a bit further still. The upcoming months, before I hand in my FMP proposal I want to have this existing element covered.
The topic of growing systems has given me new insights in designing systems. I believe there is a transformation from ownership of things towards access and usability of things. Why does everybody need to own the same thing to be able to use it? In a sustainable system people should be able to use the system whenever they want. More important, when he doesn’t need it, other stakeholders in the systems should still be able to use it. A growing system is a sustainable system. In this project I learned that the opportunities of improving (or setting up) a system could be found in the very local dimension of a system. With my co-reflection approach I came as close as possible with the people and discovering values and improvements on their level, which helped me in improving their media system. I believe that if you want to design from a sustainable perspective, you start in finding the opportunities on a local level, based on the values of these local people. From these opportunities design has the possibility to experience an implementation of a possible future and try out whether this works in a growing system. With this vision in mind I will start my FMP, so I can get more experienced in growing/sustainable systems.
Overall I believe I did a good project and succeeded in my goal to do a more structured and substantiated project to improve the quality of research. My coach has helped me in understanding what a design research process actually means and the possible approaches I could take, while still allowing me the freedom to direct my own process. I learned that research can be a discovery process, but that I steer towards gaining concrete and valuable data at the same time. Handling the all the data of my research in something from which I could observe patterns and create insightful conclusions is something I had not yet achieved at this level until now. I believe the quality of my results come from the layered process that I directed. I have done multiple rounds of collecting insights based on different techniques and learned what tools to use for what type of information. These phases in the process layered in the sense that each phase contributed in the insights to plan the next phase. In the end I believe I was able to make valid conclusions and I tried to communicate my process and findings in a clear online website. I create a website because the interactivity would allow me to make a clear story of the process and conclusions and providing extra information about the choices that I make during the process only if people were interested to learn more. This form of project report worked out well and I intent to do this for future projects as well.
One of the conversations during co-reflection
In my report I explain my progress which is structured, but also iterative
Trying out Smallplayer