The I in Design
Abstract: This thesis describes the relations between objects, practices, and individuals. The main objective is to explore the role of artefacts in user-centred participatory design research, specifically for expressing and communicating personal experiences and creating meaning. In a broad sense I draw on experiences from three practices in order to define the scope of the thesis. The first is practice-led research, the second is design research specifically in the user-centred and participatory design traditions, and the third is concerned with the ways lay persons in general express themselves by and through objects and technology. The focus will be on the exchange of knowledge and experiences between two individuals: the researcher and the informant. One issue of interest is how communication can be made possible. Another is the use of artefacts for personal expression. A third is the constant balancing act when using the experiences and knowledge of a single or a few informants in design research. The first half of the thesis is based on two design cases. Their common denominator is the exploration of how people can introduce their personal perspectives on their health situation into the medical context through the use of expressive artefacts. The first is a study of personal visualisations of experienced health (papers I, II). A future practice of routinely creating and using (instrumental) images based on emotions, meaning and subjectivity in rehabilitation and healthcare is proposed. The second case describes the development of a personal digital device, the Memory Stone used for storing and sharing personal and clinical information (papers III, IV). The case involves pregnant women but the device can be used wherever there is an interest in keeping personal diaries, handling medical information in novels ways, and interacting with information technology at home and in healthcare. The second half of the thesis is an explorative venture grounded partly in the empirical work described in the first half, partly in extensive reading of literature from a wide range of disciplines. Three main areas have been included to discuss the relationship between humans, objects, technology, and self-narratives: a technology of the self (the self as image and data), a science of the self (autoethnography), and autobiographies. The intention is to set the stage for a critical and productive discussion on how the notion of autobiographic practice can inform and enrich design research methodology.
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