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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