Understanding the Designing of Knowledge Work Support Tools as a Situated Practice
Abstract: The aim of the thesis is twofold. First, a need is exposed for adopting a situated design perspective in designing computer-based tools that support knowledge work. Second, an examination is made of what this perspective may reveal concerning the nature of processes and relations within the design situation. This is done to understand better what it means for users and developers, as well as other stakeholders, to approach and capture the tacit knowing within the work context.The argument for adopting a situated design perspective is based on experience drawn from development projects, as well as literature reviews. In these projects, the design situations encountered are best characterized as explorative and iteratively interpreted. Here, approaching and understanding the work context, together with the users, has at best been a pursuit of the vision of the future system guided by local circumstances, and where the users had difficulties in expressing and understanding what it is they want and how they want it. This implies that formal engineering methods, where the development work is reduced to an engineering endeavor based on a rationalistic perspective, are not sufficient.The situated design perspective is presented in this thesis as a conceptual model of the design practice, highlighting its constituent worlds, processes, and relations. The model depicts designing as an explorative and sense-making process, navigating between what is wanted or envisioned and what may be negotiated and discovered. It emphasizes the importance of the artifact being designed as a means to capture, communicate, and discover what is possible in the work context. The model makes clear that the design process is highly situated, and that it cannot take place outside the work context because of interdependent relationships. It is designing within the living work context, not design for an objectified one. Thus, it cannot be planned as a pure engineering endeavor, but needs to be viewed as a situated practice.
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