Saturday, November 27, 2010

One-paragraph description of my dissertation research

How to make participatory visual representations (pictures, diagrams, knowledge maps) coherent, engaging and useful. I study the ways that fourteen practitioners using a visual hypermedia tool engage participants with the representations on the screen and the ways they make the representations matter. I'm especially interested in the sensemaking challenges that the practitioners encounter in the heat of their sessions, and in the ways that the form they give the representations (aesthetics) relates to the service they are trying to provide to their participants (practice ethics).The thesis places this in context of other kinds of facilitative and mediation practices, especially those involving some sort of crafted representation or artwork, as well as research on reflective practice, aesthetic experience, and participatory design.


Sandy Schuman said...

I think the question of making participatory visual representations coherent, engaging and useful applies as well to written representations.

For example, when I've recorded a group's words on flip charts and they want to transcribe and distribute them, I caution that they won't mean the same thing to others, and indeed, in a few days they won't carry the same meaning for the people who were there. This affect can be ameliorated to some degree by taking photographs of the flip charts (or white boards, sticky walls, or whatever). The visual image of the words as they originally appeared carries some meaning.

Just as you suggest for pictures, diagrams, and maps, I think this representational/ sensemaking/ aesthetic challenge applies as well to practitioners who use words.

Al said...


Thanks for your comment, and I completely agree. In fact I spend a lot of time on textual shaping in the thesis as well. I do emphasize the more pictorial/visual aspects, but the aesthetic and other dimensions apply equally to words.