Breakdown and Breakthrough

So tonight in capstone class we discussed the content of our sketches. Because my capstone is a research capstone, I based my sketches around my design framework. Essentially, I want to make a snazzy infographic that makes people point at my framework and say, “Yes. Definitely. Yes.”

Before I went to capstone class tonight, my framework for designers who want to create artifacts that empower the user to appropriate was as follows…

  1. The artifact should allow users to capitalize on their existing knowledge
  2. The user should be able to interpret the artifact’s function
  3. The user should be able to alter the artifact’s interaction
  4. The user should be able to adapt the artifact’s aesthetics
  5. The user should be able to explore their creative freedom

My sketches tonight were working around the relationships between points 1-5. For instance, I thought 1 and 5 are the most important, because this is where the user makes the decision to (and how to) appropriate an artifact. After speaking with Jay, Heiko, Joe Y, and Thalith, however, I realized that this entire “framework” is from the end-user’s perspective, rather than for my user, which is a designer who wants to make an artifact that suggests it can be appropriated.

It’s late and I’m very tired from the long day, otherwise I would have uploaded photos of my sketchbook to show you what I mean. Suffice it to say that

  1. Tonight’s design session helped immensely and
  2. I’ll upload the images later and also,
  3. It’s always best to have three items or more in a list because it feels right.

Speaking with these guys showed me a glaring problem with my “framework,” namely, that it might not be a design framework at all. It might be a design model, or a set of design guidelines. I wasn’t keeping my user group in mind, but my user group’s user group. If that makes sense. So with this in mind, I’ve changed my “framework” to the following.*

DESIGNER    -> creates artifact that
USER to     -> interpret, alter, adapt artifact

I don’t know if this is a design framework, or a design guideline, or a design model. I do know that I feel like it’s much closer to what I want to say than I have previously, which is good. Tomorrow morning, I have my first user interview, which I’m sure will alter this… thing… again. In the meantime, I’ll keep sketching about the relationship between these verbs until I come up with something I can present.

I like to think this session tonight was my first pilot study on whether this design framework would actually work for designers. I learned that it definitely wouldn’t, because everyone was confused about how the designer was supposed to know how to “capitalize” on the user’s “existing knowledge.” So it’s back to the drawing board for this girl, and boy, is she excited to see what comes out next!

*This really would look better as a sketch, but I’m far too tired, as mentioned above.

Making my thoughts tangible

Over the weekend, I threw together some sticky notes, as mentioned in my status report. This has been extremely helpful for me to get some of my thoughts out without censoring myself, which is great. When my thoughts are hidden in my head, they’re locked in a black box. When thrown out onto sticky notes? I can move them around, create associations, transcribe the ideas into a meaningful post on a blog, etc.

Theories, Concepts, Issues and Questions
Theories, Concepts, Issues and Questions

Above, is a photo of the wall above my bed. The orange notes are my questions, the blue notes are questions that are explicit from the papers I’ve been reading, and the fuchsia are the theoretical concepts, theories, and issues that I’ve determined from my papers. Continue reading

Pilot Studies

There are a couple of great things about SteamPunk which I would like to share.

  1. True SteamPunks are all about sharing their knowledge of craft. For instance, I-Wei Huang wrote an article describing how your SteamPunk drawings can be more authentic… which has helped my sketching immensely for ceramics.
  2. People have no idea what it is, and when I describe it, they’re always excited. Or at least intrigued.
  3. If I decide to go SteamPunk for Halloween, I only have to buy goggles and potentially make a bustle because guess what, I already have the rest of the costume in my wardrobe. Sweet.
  4. There is so much information out there about SteamPunk for me to sift through, and most of it is entertaining.
  5. Did I mention there’s a SteamPunk Guide to the Apocalypse? I’m prepared. Are you?

All right, now let’s get a little more serious, here. This past week one of the first years, Robert Begley, engaged my topic. He asked me some great questions that helped crystallize some of my thoughts, and I wanted to document that somewhere, i.e. here at Siriomi Reflects.

Robert’s email:

Okay I have a couple questions 🙂 🙂
First off, are you focusing more on why people (self)customize, DIY, etc vs. buying the actual, branded, product or going to a professional to get something customized? Are you using Steampunk more as a reference in terms of.. well so for example in video games, in the genre, there tends to be customizations of weapons/tools/etc. You mentioned Bioshock for example, have you played it? Have you seen those “customizations”? I want to say Steampunk comes with the idea of the “mad scientist” where there is *only* one person who creates these “technological advances” in a non-technological world – or rather that it is more rare to see tech. So no commercialization obviously etc…
Is customization/DIY/hacking/<add another word here that relations> more of your focus?
I’m just trying to understand more of your focus and where Steampunk fits in ;p

My reply…

Excellent! I’m glad you’re asking these questions.

I’m focusing on why people self-customized through DIY. I’m using Steampunk as an example of the DIY movement, as the people who alter the aesthetics of their technology typically do it themselves… they have the skill set and apply it creatively to something that traditionally is bought and used without any particular customization (keyboards, monitors, iPhones, etc).

I have not played Bioshock, I had only just heard about it before speaking with you.

I see Steampunk almost as a rebellious movement against the homogenized technology that currently rules our world. I’m interested in that. Why are people rebelling against this? Why is it important for people to feel connected to the objects in their lives? Why do they take that extra step to customize/personalize/hack something, when others don’t?

But yes. I am interested in self-personalization, the creative motivations that go into DIY appropriation. Steampunk is merely my example of this, as there are plenty of people to interview, either online or in-person.

Thanks! This helped me clear up a lot of things. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Robert then surprised me by telling me a story about his own DIY dabbling, which is EXCELLENT, and a great pilot study example of DIY and some appropriation. I did a happy dance. I have yet to respond to his email because I’ve been running across state lines this past week, but that’s next on my To Do list. Just wanted to update on my capstone progress.