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Title: More than the sum of the parts : shared representations in collaborative design interaction
Author: Shaw, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0001 3400 2790
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2007
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This dissertation presents an inquiry into the roles played by persistent, shared external representations in design collaboration. It advances an understanding of the active participation of these representations—including drawings, models and prototypes—in the collective reasoning of design teams. Interaction was analyzed using a novel network formalization to portray the accomplishment of essential work in this context. A synthesis of analyses over different time scales provides the basis for a comprehensive notion of representational support for design interaction, and a diagnostic for problems that may arise with inadequate support and/or disparities of access and participation. Data were collected during working sessions of a leading, “real-time” concurrent design practice at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, notable for accelerated performance and the use of technologically-advanced, shared representations. Fine-grained analysis of this activity offers insights to complement those obtained from laboratory studies of individual designers, ad-hoc groups, and organizationally-situated ethnographic accounts. A microanalytic technique was developed to assess dynamic interaction between participants and representations. The resulting, novel formalization of an actor-discourse network makes concepts derived from actor-network theory operational to understand the work accomplished through design interaction. Network visualization and structural metrics highlight patterns associated with productivity in the design process. On this basis, indicators for the quality of design conversation are proposed: these include the degree of participants’ engagement, the development of design discourse, the integration of representations and the consolidation of commitment to action. Specific roles and situational attributes of representations are identified that foster and sustain advances in collective design reasoning. The dissertation advances a view of design activity in terms of temporally-evolving constellations of issues and actors, in which representations act to stabilize and anchor expanding networks of commitment. Directions for further work include technical enhancement to network metrics and visualization, extension of the actor-discourse network formalization and further exploration of theoretical and practical issues pertaining to representational actors in social situations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W240 Industrial/Product Design ; W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified