Doing Theory with Participants

The line that stood out to me the most from the Bardzell et al. paper was:

Instead, we were collaboratively doing theory with our participants.

Collaborative doing is an accurate description of what I strive for as an artist and of the approach I am trying to bring to my work in HCI.

I think that it’s thoughtful, critical and rather perceptive to start in critical theory, but to design in the conversation between theory and real-world user interaction with the object. Taking the time to understand how people respond to the object, what theories they bring to the object, and to engage in conversation about the job of the object, leads down a design path that is less about trying to disrupt, shock or change, but to reveal. I find it incredibly difficult to reveal the human condition (or the societal, or the individual), but an incredibly worthwhile endeavor.

I wish I could see the next iteration of the SS and WW, in order to understand how the collaboration between designer and participant manifest itself in the objects, and how the theory that the object embodies differs from the critical theory originally put forth.

What are other examples of this type of process in critical design?


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