Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Semiotic constituents and abstractness of mediating artifacts in design research
by Hahn, Young Ae, Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology, 2009, 268; 3370897
Abstract (Summary)

User studies conducted in design research establish communication between researchers and future users of the services and products, allowing users' knowledge and experiences to be shared. Due to the limitations of verbal-communication, some language-dependent user research methods are not sufficient for exploratory user studies. To compensate for such limitations, design researchers introduced perceptible objects and research activities designed for their exploratory user studies. In this research, the phrase mediating artifacts has been used to refer to both the perceptible objects and research activities that together mediate the participants' knowledge and experiences during user studies.

This research empirically examined the methodological characteristics of mediating artifacts in comparison with those characteristics of language-dependent user research methods. The researcher responded to the following research questions: (1) What are the semiotic constituents and abstractness of the mediating artifacts that render them signs in the context of user studies? (2) What are the effects of mediating artifacts in generating different types of data? and (3) How are the semiotic constituents and mediating effects of mediating artifacts relevant to the construction of secondary and tertiary artifacts by future users in exploratory design research?

The questions were investigated by trying three mediating artifacts in comparison with one of the language-dependent research methods—the semi-structured verbal-only interview method—in three hypothetical user studies investigating the value of news reading. From the findings, this research concluded that: (1) Through the semiotic constituents of the physical attributes, structural characteristics, and symbolic associations of photographic images, the symbolic meanings of words, and the iconicity of diagrammatic representations, participants' knowledge and experiences were successfully mediated. (2) The activities of narrative creation and visual metaphor creation encouraged participants to direct their thoughts into the realm of the projected future and unarticulated inner experiences, thus generating knowledge types of data. (3) Tertiary artifacts of 'hypothetical narratives' and 'new insights on news reading experiences' were constructed from the mediating artifacts. The findings from this research contribute to general knowledge for design research, design research methodology, and design practice in visual communication and service design.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gregory, Judith
School: Illinois Institute of Technology
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Design
Keywords: Abstractness, Design games, Design research, Design research methodology, Knowledge generation, Mediating artifacts, Semiotic constituents, Visualization
Publication Number: 3370897
ISBN: 978-1-109-32290-3
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