Probing into research through design: understanding design-led knowledge production in HCI

Cerci, Sena (2024) Probing into research through design: understanding design-led knowledge production in HCI. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The research field of Human-computer Interaction (HCI) is concerned with technological design, which has the potential to impact society faster than any other design domain in unprecedented ways. As a result, HCI design researchers are increasingly urged to understand what they are dealing with much faster towards making design theory. However, the contemporary methodological and conceptual discussions often under-acknowledge the relationality and heterogeneity to the academisation of design and the situated nature of design-led knowledge production. This results in the partial inclusion of design in the field, as previously discussed by many.

In this qualitative case study, I aim to understand how ‘Cultural Probes’, often used as part of a ‘Research through Design’ approach, facilitate the politics of design research in HCI. While an increasing diversity of design-led research practices and design researcher identities can be found under these umbrella terms, they have been extensively debated respectively as a ‘method’ and ‘methodology’ since their first introduction to the field. I conducted a series of interview studies with design researchers who have worked with and published on Probes for their design-led research in HCI in order to understand the complexities of conducting and disseminating design-led research within the science-based research frameworks of HCI.

This thesis contributes to the ongoing definition and negotiation of design’s provisional disciplinary boundaries in HCI: It makes visible the enduring ‘research recognition gap’ in design, where dissemination is the locus of the (re-)production of design-led knowledge as in the case of Probes in HCI. Although Probes and similar design-led approaches to research are valued for facilitating criticality in design research, their ongoing methodisation aggravates this recognition gap. I further elaborate on the ways design research is attributed value to the extent it can be scientifically governed and made fit into the existing research frameworks of HCI.

The implications of this research recognition gap extend from disciplinary concerns onto impacting society through technological design. Hence, I present practical suggestions to alleviate the methodisation of Probes in HCI and to foster a culture of design and design research in academe. I approach design historiography from a practice perspective and engage in writing microhistories for design research, HCI research, and my personal journey of becoming a design researcher. I encourage design researchers to further engage with this lens of ‘becoming a design researcher’ to emphasise the situated nature of design research beyond the limitations of disciplinarity. The outcomes of this research could also contribute to reframing some of HCI’s ongoing disciplinary problems by creating awareness around its status as a design field rather than a design-oriented one.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: design theory, politics of research, research dissemination, disciplinarity, practice research
Subjects: W200 Design studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2024 07:43
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2024 07:43

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