Defamiliarising Design

By Ann Light, Mark Blythe and Darren Reed.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The trend towards domestification, connectivity and mobility of computers is changing the use of technology and the constituency of people involved in its design. Ubiquitous computing and the prospect of a 'network of things' are introducing a new degree of interdisciplinary working to the area. New players include non-specialist designers of two kinds: social scientists and software engineers without formal design training, and the wider public who are increasingly engaged in end-designing, rather than end-using (Light 2002, 2005) as they respond to the complex systems of networked computers. Dourish (2006) suggests that the "implications for design" section which ends so many ethnographic studies is more often rhetorical than useful: ethnography is not good at identifying requirements and ethnographers are not good at suggesting designs. Can the challenges of design be better understood by non-specialists? Design is bridging the actual with the possible; it incorporates difference and change; determining grounds and means of intervention. How do non-specialists respond to the challenges of imagining things differently, especially in the social arena? How can empathy, perspective, and the deliberate questioning of the 'known in kind' be fostered? We discuss three methods from the field, all used in design projects to inspire and open up design possibilities by making the familiar strange. All hinge on defamiliarisation in different ways, including randomness, substitution of concepts and pastiche scenarios. We discuss how these practices can be integrated to tackle the demands of changing technologies, changing disciplines, and changing attitudes to design.

Keywords: Concept Design, Methods, Breakdown, Trading Zones, Ubiquitous Computing, Awareness Games, Random Scenario-building, Pastiche Scenario, Metonymic Substitution

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.63-72. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 565.042KB).

Dr. Ann Light

Queen Mary, University of London, UK

Dr. Mark Blythe

University of York, UK

Dr. Darren Reed

University of York, UK


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