Exploring the Mediating Role of Playful Technological Artefacts Designed for Animals and Humans

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Exploring the Mediating Role of Playful Technological Artefacts Designed for Animals and Humans

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Publication 2-year master student thesis
Title Exploring the Mediating Role of Playful Technological Artefacts Designed for Animals and Humans
Author(s) Westerlaken, Michelle
Date 2015
English abstract
In this thesis I investigate the mediating role of playful technological artefacts designed for animals and humans through theory and practice with the over-all aim to explore how we can design meaningful artefacts both for and with animals in order to better understand them and enrich or improve their lives. Starting from Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory, which offers a valuable starting point for the inclusion of both humans and nonhumans as actors in a shared network that is constantly being made and remade, I suggest adopting a more informed form of inevitable anthropomorphism in interaction design with animals. Drawing from the work of Donna Haraway I argue for an approach in which we aim to experiment with actual situated design contexts through playful interactions. In this setting we can explore ‘becoming with’ as the worldly embodied interpretations of both human and animal and the meaningful bodily relationships that are developed within the course of the interactions that take place. Instead of focusing on animals and humans as users, as is often the case in ACI and HCI practices, I propose to visualise what happens between the actors, as the dynamic process of playful interaction unfolds. Using the basic outlines of a programmatic research approach, I reflect upon a total of six prototypes that I have developed and tested. My aim is to visualise and reflect upon the dynamic relationships between the animal, human, and design artefact that can be observed within the course of the interaction. To build a design repertoire, these six artefacts are presented in the form of a design gallery in which the design concept and experiments are described for each artefact, supported with visualisations and explanations of the prototypes and testing. Subsequently, I concretely visualise the notion of becoming with between animals, humans, and artefacts, and explore the relationships between the involved actors as the interaction unfolds through annotated videos in which I aim to visually map the interactions that can be observed. For each prototype, I reflect upon these annotated videos together with the involved designers with the aim to better understand the mediating role of the technological artefact that we designed. For the first four prototypes the reflection is focused on the becoming with of the humans and animals that participate in the interaction with the artefact with the goal to evaluate the design of the prototypes. The last two prototypes specifically focus on the reflection on becoming with the animal as a human designer during the design process. Through visualising these dynamic interaction networks, the relationships between the animal, human, and artefact becomes more abstract and results in a better understanding of the mediating role of the technological artefact. Each prototype has major differences in the way the interaction network is visualised and the annotated videos show to be a valuable tool for the designer to discuss new design iterations that could be explored further. The knowledge contributions and takeaways of this thesis project include a new theoretical argument, a method that can be used for the visualisation of the dynamic interaction networks as a tool for designers to better understand the relationships between animal, human and artefact, a design repertoire with six different prototypes, and the annotated videos as concrete takeaways that provide a deeper insight into the experimentation, testing, and reflections of the six different prototypes. 
Publisher Malmö högskola/Kultur och samhälle
Pages 41
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) animal
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/19417 (link to this page)

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