Designing for Participation

The aim of my thesis was to open a discussion among designers about a new phenomenon in the process of making. The signs of this behavioral change are manifested in a special type of participation that occurs when individuals modify things in ways that extend the objects into unintended design spaces. These acts of modification become widespread and groups of individuals formalize to support ongoing efforts. The groups grow and the product of their efforts is exposed to the greater population, bringing in new members and allowing less savvy individuals to also participate. The large enterprises that are the original creators of these products take notice and respond. The result of this process as it repeats and grows is a movement that changes the process of making and the individuals who do the making.

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The objective of this thesis research project was born from a previous study conducted on the tools and processes utilized within academic libraries. From that work, we identified the broader theme of inquiry—the movement from disparate fragments of questions and data towards wholes of understanding. As a result of our research, we developed a novel operating system centered around activities rather than tasks and designed the necessary tools for engaging in the process of inquiry.

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Amusica is a socially interactive song selection system designed for individuals and groups in bars or nightclubs. It allows patrons to submit a playlist of songs to a communal pool and to vote on others—selections throughout the night. It enables the sharing of personal media among friends and strangers in public spaces, creating new social bonds, strengthening existing relationships, and broadening musical horizons.

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Controversy Visualization

The Center for the Arts in Society is engaged in an effort to study, analyze, and archive arts controversies. Building on a model of controversies developed by Ph.D. student Peter Cramer, I was brought on to the project to participate by developing a method for visualizing controversies based on Peter’s model. Peter and I collaborated on this project as he continued to develop his model of controversy. The result was a prototype visualization and the specification of a process for the Center to use in analyzing and visualizing controversies.

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Libraries & Space

Myself and four fellow graduate students decided to collaborate on an independent study that would allow us to explore a broad theme an discover where problems exist, as opposed to being given specific problem spaces to explore as had been the case in our coursework to that point. We began simply with the theme of “space” and let our exploration go from there without any specific theoretical framework. We narrowed the context to libraries and then identified problem areas within that context. We concluded with the generation of design concepts that addressed the identified issues. Additionally, it was this research that motivated one of my teammates and I to continue on where we left off and collaborate on our thesis project in the following year.

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Marine Dock Parking Meter

The assigned project was to design an interface for a new parking meter, but our group decided to shift the context slightly by moving away from people parking their cars to boaters docking their boats in a marina environment. We felt that the objective of the assignment was still applicable, but this new audience would yield interesting new ideas. We accommodated several different user types involved in the marina environment and several different boat docking scenarios.

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Digital Book Browsing

For this project, each student was given an artifact that contained complex information such as a book, website, audio of a lecture, CD-ROM, board game, physical space, etc. I was given a magazine, the December 1999 issue of Wired Magazine. My solution is an interactive method for browsing the contents of an item—in this case a magazine. My approach remained as dedicated as possible to the physical affordances of a magazine.

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Space Scyphozoa

The Space Scyphozoa (jellyfish) is a flying semi-autonomous balloon structure that senses the proximity of objects in its path and reacts in various ways based on how close it is to the object. Its mobility is controlled by a fan unit comprised of three fans and by buoyancy from the helium balloon body structure.

The decision to pursue this design was inspired by a video by Charles & Ray Eames that displayed the beautiful movement of a jellyfish through water. Its design is not intended to solve a design problem, but instead was motivated by a personal interest to attempt to replicate the movement and behavior of the jellyfish through a constructed man-made object that would be designed and equipped to behave on its own.

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Brainstorm Caddy

In this short project, we were tasked with creating a desk organizer. Our constraints were that it should hold no more than four items and that it's shape be a cube of specific proportions. I chose to develop this organizer to contain the items often most reasured by the designer—dry erase markers, sticky notes, and a sharpie pen.

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Retro Clock

The objective of this project was to apply all the skills we had obtained over the course of the semester. The goal was to utilize our drawing skills and3D prototyping abilities to render a finished concept of our own design. Our design concepts were motivated after interviews were conducted with elderly participants and their needs were identified.

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Stove and Dial Control

In this project we were asked to take detailed measurements of our stove and then build a scale model of foamcore. Then we were required to design a new interaction for the stove dials that control the heat and define a method for clearly associating each dial with it's corresponding burner. For my concept, I developed a ridged dial that spun up and down. The dial contained a graphic depicting and increasing field of red as the burner temperature was increased. The intent of this design was to provide an intuitive method for adjusting the heat of the burner as well as providing a strong visual cue of the burner's heat level from a distance.

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