Revisit: Notes on Design as Inquiry

Small notes, tidbits and reflections on design as research and other stuff.

Strange Cams was a joint research project that I conducted with Aurelia Friedland in Spring 2011. In summary, this project was design led inquiry questioning the term ‘All American City’, but manifested in ways that we did not expect. For myself, this became a way to develop a methodology of particpatory fieldwork that would reveal relationships between participants.

As a reflection, I browsed through where it is conducted: Occupy Los Angeles 2011, Mornignside High in Inglewood and other various social services in LA. Years later, I still am extracting lessons of how designers can pull from fieldwork & interventions and how to operate from spatial events to small prototypes. (Project Link)

(lef) Occupy LA 2011 , (middle) SilverCam prototype, (right) students at Morningside High Community Garden

1. Be Intentional w/ Your Participants

It’s important to be intentional when creating participatory experiences. The biggest learning curve is to look on how your design can reveal realtionships and heirarchies embedded in communities that go unseen.

2. Fieldwork Works Best When You Linger

Designers conducting fieldwork with their designs should understand that it’s a dialogue between them and the place they are investigating. Whether its learning about displaced communities or their physical environment, your design is an opportunity to understand the place through time. Moments of clarity or revelations don’t just automatically happen, it could take several visits and evolving iterations of your design to extract these.

3. Embrace a Non-Linear Process

When starting Strange Cams, we had this intial research question: ‘how does residents of Ingelwood understand the term ‘All American City’ that’s given to urban communities?’ However, as we designed how that question would be documented through this camera system, other themes began to appear. This ranged from how we as instigators in these spaces approach people for inquiry, how we design instructions to use StrangeCams, and to how do we conduct activites with special needs based communities.

We may had an original plan on how we would gather participants and document, but the way people would interact with Strange Cams would obviously challenged our original assumptions. Also, there were many people that we wanted as participants but would strongly decline.

Therefore, we would go back and forth in documentation on how to reflect when participants would take photos and interact with each other.

Links and References:

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