The role of difference in reflective design activity

Arno Verhoeven, Claudia Eckert

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper discusses Schön’s account of design as a reflective activity from the perspective of groups of actors collaborating during a ‘see-move-see’ episode. We discuss the implications of viewing design as a social activity, where multiple actors are seen as being engaged in different types of conversations about different things. Conversation is understood as a signifying practice involving a system of representations, and a key feature of such systems is difference. We propose an account of the design process which outlines how groups of actors identify and manage difference, constructed from two perspectives. First, a series of observations with a postgraduate product design student engaged in a self-initiated, self-directed project over one semester of study highlights the types and degree of difference present during tutorial discussions across a series of design episodes. Second, using a
sociological framing, we construct a framework of difference, suggesting it is a significant socio-cognitive feature of design activity. Our framework, situated in the product design discipline, is constructed from the perspective of the intermediary object (Vinck and Jeantet, 1995, Eckert and Boujut, 2003), at once both an inscription device (Latour and Woolgar, 1979) and a boundary object (Star et al., 1989) acting as a silent actor in the design episode, seen as central to the development of future artifacts which remains representative and abstract throughout the design process. We discuss ways in which difference enables the design process to proceed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
EventDCC 2014 - UCL, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jun 201425 Jun 2014


ConferenceDCC 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • design process
  • conversation analysis
  • boundary objects
  • intermediary objects
  • trajectory


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  • DCC 2014

    Arno Verhoeven (Participant)

    25 Jun 2014

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

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