Reflection Week 2

This week I got sidetracked from the original plan and have managed to confuse myself.

A key text of this weeks reading has been “Design by Use” by Brandes, Stich and Wender, which explores the concept from various angles, e.g. inside & outside, gender-related and from a philosophical point of view. Most insight is based on observation and participant questionnaires and backed up with images. The methods described and images provided are very close to what I plan to do at this stage. Even though reading through their work has been highly exciting from this point, it left me slightly ‘lost’  as to what outcomes of this kind of research might be and what value might be added by this knowledge.

What this book got me thinking about -and what got me sidetracked- is the topic of form and affordance. It leads me back to my interest in objects and how people relate to it – and in how far this is influenced by the user and how far by the designer. I am still unsure where I stand personally on the question of appropriation and inhowfar this is a creative act, but it is something that my research will evolve around. In “Design by Use” the authors give many examples of objects used in different ways than they were intended,  which obviously involves creative thinking in the sense of problem-solving and divergent thinking. But some of these examples, such as jackets flung over chairs or the use of jars to hold paint brushes, is so well known and so common that I hesitate to consider it a new or creative use. This leads to the interesting question of when use is considered creative and what establises a new use?
Form and affordances have been named as relevant influences on how objects are used and it is therefore very interesting to consider them in the context of appropriation. I read the original text by Gibson of affordances, which I have come across mentioned quite often to get an idea of how it become such a relevant topic in human-computer interaction. In my opinion there are two thoughts that I take away: Firstly that affordances are neither subjective to the observer, nor objective to the item, but they get meaning in the context in which they are used. The other point of interest is that affordance is different to other descriptive qualities of an object, such as size, colour, material etc, which allows for new uses and appropriation.

Even though I have practiced writing a blog as a research tool for all of my MA, I think I need to adjust my technique for the PhD. I write two sorts of entries, one of which collects my research and the other my reflection. I need to make sure to connect the two strands better, which will not only support my writing and the communication of my insights, but also help me to stay focussed of where I am going with my research. While for my MA I wrote mostly about individual articles or summed up a couple under one heading, I think I need to work more with headings and themes now. I have tried that already, but I think the different threads are too widespread at the moment and do not allow for consistent linking.

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