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Title: What lies above : using poetic methods to interrogate user positions across GNSS infrastructures
Author: Wood, Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0004 7654 0521
Awarding Body: Queen Mary University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis argues for the use of what I term `poetic methods' in approaching the study of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) infrastructures. Poetic methods frame research experiments with techniques drawn from art practice and build understandings of an infrastructure's actions, or the \texture" [1] of those actions by leveraging symbol and metaphor. This work is situated in an interdisciplinary space across Human Computer Interaction (HCI), art, design and the study of Science, Technology and Society (STS). The theoretical grounding of the work draws on Actor Network Theory (ANT) and Karen Barad's intra-activity [2] to emphasise sociotechnical practices and objects as emergent across combinations of material agency. From Bowker and Star's concept of infrastructural inversion [1], I argue that infrastructures become visible through points of breakdown. To probe GNSS infrastructure, I stage an experiment where its smooth operation is disrupted. Re-framing the infrastructure in this way draws participant's attention to its influence in forming practices. I then use a second method of short form speculative design [3] workshops to have participants think about scenarios where the user is pushed further into the background and user and infrastructure are understood as nodes in `more-than-human-networks'. Alongside this participant-facing research work, I give an account of artworks that developed from my own practice in response to the research questions. These are understood as deep responses to the design workshops' prompt to re-think how we understand the actions, influence and ontology of GNSS infrastructures. At the end of this art and research process I have a finished artwork and several sets of rich qualitative data. I use these to understand how effective my techniques are in achieving infrastructural inversion, diagnostically understanding the actions of GNSS infrastructure and the texture of how those actions are felt by participants, and interrogating ontological questions around concepts of `user' and `infrastructure'. I argue that the poetic methods offer an innovative set of techniques that can be added to a wider research project to help interrogate blackboxing, practically achieve infrastructural inversion and begin to move towards ontological critique. These offer a new methodological tool to STS researchers and contribute to HCI debates around non- user-centered design practices. I offer some suggestions for further refinements to these techniques and point towards some possible future work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Media and Arts Technology ; Electronic Engineering and Computer Science ; Global Navigation Satellite Systems ; Human computer interaction