The Interaction Design Research T...
Design Issues: Volume 24, Number 3 Summer 2008 4 The Interaction Design Research Triangle of Design Practice, Design Studies, and Design Exploration Daniel Fallman 1. Introduction Interaction design takes a holistic view of the relationship between designed artifacts, those that are exposed to these artifacts, and the social, cultural, and business context in which the meeting takes place. While there is no commonly agreed definition of interaction design, its core can be found in an orientation towards shaping digital artifacts���products, services, and spaces���with particular attention paid to the qualities of the user experience.1 To be able to deal with user experience���including physical, sensual, cognitive, emotional, and aesthetical issues the relationship between form, function, and content as well as fuzzy concepts such as fun and playability���a number of recent efforts have been made in the direc- tion of establishing a better understanding of the role of the user experience in interactive systems design.2 Unlike the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) community for instance, interaction design fully recognizes itself as a ���design discipline��� in that its ultimate objective is to create new and change existing interactive systems for the better.3 There is a current plethora of departments, groups, and multidisciplinary labs dealing with interaction design that have their origins in such diverse places as computer science, HCI, anthropology, industrial design, informat- ics, and applied physics and electronics. Adding to the disciplinary confusion, each group typically also is configured as a multidisci- plinary team. Since the field of interaction design currently is growing rapidly in scope as well as importance,4 both within academia and industry, there is an increasing need to also expand, further develop, and professionalize interaction design research. Refined models of interaction design research embracing both what it currently is as well as pointing toward what it could be, arguably would be very useful tools in this process. In this paper, we will introduce a model of interaction design research that has evolved at the Ume�� Institute of Design, Ume�� University, in Sweden in recent years, and which currently is guiding our interaction design research efforts as well as our Ph.D. education. Thinking about interaction design research in the way proposed by the model has helped us to keep up what we see 1 Jonas L��wgren, ���How Far beyond Human-Computer Interaction Is Interaction Design?��� Digital Creativity 13:3 (2002): 186���192 and Terry Winograd, ���From Computing Machinery to Interaction Design��� in Beyond Calculation: The Next Fifty Years of Computing, Peter J. Denning and Robert Metcalfe, eds. (New York: Springer- Verlag, 1997), 149���162. 2 Lauralee Alben, ���Quality of Experience: Defining the Criteria for Effective Interaction Design,��� Interactions 3: 3 (1996): 11 Jodi Forlizzi and Katja Battarbee, ���Understanding Experience in Interactive Systems,��� Proceedings of the Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (2004) and John McCarthy and Peter Wright, Technology as Experience (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004). 3 Daniel Fallman, ���Design-Oriented Human-Computer Interaction,��� Proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference (2003): 225���132. 4 John Zimmerman, Jodi Forlizzi, and Shelley Evenson, ���Taxonomy for Extracting Design Knowledge from Research Conducted during Design Cases,��� Proceedings of Futureground (2004). �� 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Design Issues: Volume 24, Number 3 Summer 2008
Design Issues: Volume 24, Number 3 Summer 2008 5 as three vital, external interfaces. First, it leads us to an interface with industry that has facilitated long-term collaborations and an exchange of people. Second, an interface with academia has encour- aged staff and students at the design school���many of whom with no previous experience as part of a research community���to travel to conferences, workshops, and similar gatherings to meet others in the field, thus creating and upholding a network of peers vital to the school. Third, the model also reminds us of our interface with society at large, helping us think about interaction design research as having a voice in societal discussions, and in exploring and shaping possible futures (i.e., that industrial design is in fact not something that only concerns the industry). 2. The Model In its very basic form, the model has the shape of a triangle. This triangle presents a two-dimensional space for plotting the position of a design research activity drawn up in between three extremes: ���design practice,��� ���design studies,��� and ���design exploration.��� While the actual methods, techniques, and tools being used in these activities can be quite similar, we argue that they are primarily different in tradition and perspective. These extremes are three differ- ent kinds of activities that we believe establish interaction design research as a discipline when taken together. We argue that combin- ing these three activities (i.e., the contingency of the interaction design researcher to take on all three perspectives) distinguishes interaction design research from other disciplines with related interests, including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer- Supporter Collaborative Work (CSCW), Informatics, Computer Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, and so on. The basic structure of our model is visualized as a triangle. Commercial design organizations Other disciplines Philosophy Idealistic, Societal, and Subversive Design critique, Art, Humanities Cumulative, Distancing, and Describing Context driven, particular, and synthetic Design Studies Design Exploration Design Practice Figure 1 The model of interaction design research in its most basic form.
Design Issues: Volume 24, Number 3 Summer 2008 6 2.1 Design Practice The activity area of design practice denotes the kinds of activities that interaction design researchers are involved in that are very close, and sometimes identical, to the kinds of activities they would undertake when practicing interaction design outside of academia, such as working for a commercial interaction design organization, a consultancy company working with client commissions, or an in- house design department. We encourage our design researchers and Ph.D. students to take an active part in these practices. An important reason for this is to try to get at the tacit knowledge and competence that are involved in the discussions and critiques that eventually lead up to a final artifact. In doing so, the interaction design researcher should not be part of the design team as an outside observer, first and foremost a researcher, but rather be part of the design team as a designer. The interaction design researcher thus becomes involved in actu- ally putting things together, shaping the form of something new.5 This process calls for a certain level of participation and commit- ment on the researcher���s part 6 ��� involvement and participation in a team effort, and a commitment and engagement to build successful products and services���that is unobtainable by an outside observer.7 While design practice clearly develops vital competence, tacit knowl- edge, and expertise among the designers involved this combination of know-how and know-that often is confined within the individual designer and the design team due to an oral tradition in design work.8 In this activity area, our interaction design researchers become knowingly exposed to the nitty-gritty of interaction design practice, including being part of a multidisciplinary team learning to communicate with managers, sales people, and engineers working under strict and suddenly changing budget constraints negotiating with clients and other stakeholders and so on. Because it���s a design discipline, it is important to realize that activities such as these are just as much part of what interaction design is as actually designing something hands-on. There is, however, a vital ingredient in the model���s activity area of design practice that must not be forgotten for the purposes of design research. When our interaction design researchers work in this area, they must do so with an explicit design research question in mind, or with the clear intent of forming such a question from their activities. The scope of such a research question can range from ���reflective��� (e.g., firsthand experience with how a particular design technique is used) to ���proactive��� (e.g., pushing a research agenda, and actively seeking to change how a specific design technique is used). If the goal of a particular project is to design a new, handheld control device for gaming, our interaction design researcher should be part of that project team the same way as everyone else in the 5 Harold G. Nelson and Erik Stolterman, The Design Way: Intentional Change in an Unpredictable World (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications, 2002). 6 Richard Coyne, Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995). 7 Thomas Nagel, The View from Nowhere (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). 8 Donald Sch��n, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (New York: Basic Books, 1983).