What does it mean for a design artefact to be developed in the scientific context?

This research was published in proceedings of the 5th STS Italia Conference : A Matter of Design. Making Society through Science and Technology, Milan, Italy 2014
Full text is available on my ResearchGate page

Abstract

The use of design artifacts in research is a debatable topic which raises important questions about the different approaches to design research and legitimate ways of knowledge production. Research through design normally involves construction of a design artifact, which is at the core of the research process. This paper will outline some characteristics of artifacts that come out of such research practices, hoping to form a base for understanding the nature of research design artifacts and their evaluation. We will examine the process of translation from the research question into the design brief, into the prototype, back to the question, back to the prototype; until the design artifact is fit as a tool for research; or is (temporarily) discarded. The artifacts produced in this way do not necessarily serve a utilitarian purpose, but provide an explicit feedback about their use and the experience they invoke. In terms of design, they are like code with a lot of debugging print statements. It possibly never leaves the studio and when it does, different levels of independence from the studio setting and context can be identified.

The role of design artefacts in research process

When the purpose of research activities is generating guidelines and the focus is on the process of design (research for design), the artefact produced can be a found design object, as well as an object created over the course of research. “Given an airplane, or given a bird, we can analyse them by the methods of natural science without any particular attention to purpose or adaptation” However, when the process of design is an integral part of research, the artefact is not given. It is primarily conceived according to the research scope and question. In this approach, the design artefact is used as a source of data for analysis and generalisation, and not as an external object to theorise about. If process and design object are inextricably linked , then the design artefact created within research through design or constructive design research, is understood in the light of its subject.

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