Using modular abstract prototypes as evolving research means in design inclusive research
Faculty of Design Sciences
American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2012
Engineering sciences. Technology
ASME 2012 : International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Volume 2: 32nd Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, Parts A and B, Chicago, Illinois, USA, August 1215, 2012
Various manifestations of products, prototypes and tools are commonly used in design research to discover and describe novel phenomena, or to test specific research theories, or to explore intrinsic data that cannot be accessed and validated otherwise. However, as research means, the above physical artifacts are over-detailed and inflexible, in particular when phenomena associated with design creativity and product ideation are investigated. To support design inclusive research in the context of conceptualization and early testing of complex, knowledge-intensive software tools, the authors propose modular abstract prototyping. The original goal of abstract prototyping was to demonstrate the real life processes established by new artifact-service combinations, as well as the interactions of humans with them in various application scenarios. A modular abstract prototype relies on a comprehensive information structure. The demonstration contents of the modules are defined by a stakeholder and purpose oriented logical dissecting of this information structure, and implemented as digitally recorded, multi-media enabled narrations and enactments. This paper discusses the technical aspects of developing modular abstract prototypes, and their use as flexible and evolving research means. A complex application example is presented in which modular abstract prototyping was used in focus group sessions to assess the conceptualization of a trade-off forecasting software tool by various stakeholders. This tool is being developed for forecasting energy saving and financial benefits that can be achieved by ubiquitous augmentation. The stakeholders have formulated positive opinion about the level of immersion and the articulation of informing that can be achieved by using modular abstract prototypes. Future research focuses on the development of a web-hosted engine for real-time interactive abstract prototyping in participatory research sessions.