Abstract

Students, even from non-design disciplines, are sometimes familiar with the use of prototypes to develop a commodity. Rarer, even among students from design disciplines, is the awareness that prototypes can be used to address research questions. In this paper, we discuss a case study for the idea of using prototypes to better understand a situation that includes nonhuman actors. In particular, we used the famous squirrels on the University of Illinois campus as the subject of our design efforts. A group of undergraduates from mainly non-design disciplines was led through a half-day workshop on prototyping. Instead of focusing on prototyping towards a commodity—an object or experience that the squirrels could use—our workshop encouraged students to think of investigation as their primary goal. Thinking through making, participants produced artefacts with features that could help us better understand squirrels. Some prototypes, for example, embodied strategies for observing behaviour in more detail, while others were designed so that their very conceptualization led immediately to additional questions. We recommend workshops of this kind as a tool for encouraging two things: a broader appreciation for the different purposes of prototyping, and an awareness of the limitation of human-centeredness in design.

Keywords:

human-centered design, prototypes, workshop, squirrels, design research

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
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Jul 9th, 12:00 AM

Design for the Nonhuman

Students, even from non-design disciplines, are sometimes familiar with the use of prototypes to develop a commodity. Rarer, even among students from design disciplines, is the awareness that prototypes can be used to address research questions. In this paper, we discuss a case study for the idea of using prototypes to better understand a situation that includes nonhuman actors. In particular, we used the famous squirrels on the University of Illinois campus as the subject of our design efforts. A group of undergraduates from mainly non-design disciplines was led through a half-day workshop on prototyping. Instead of focusing on prototyping towards a commodity—an object or experience that the squirrels could use—our workshop encouraged students to think of investigation as their primary goal. Thinking through making, participants produced artefacts with features that could help us better understand squirrels. Some prototypes, for example, embodied strategies for observing behaviour in more detail, while others were designed so that their very conceptualization led immediately to additional questions. We recommend workshops of this kind as a tool for encouraging two things: a broader appreciation for the different purposes of prototyping, and an awareness of the limitation of human-centeredness in design.

 

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