Designing (researching) lived experience

by Ian Coxon

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Department: School of Communication Arts
Degree: PhD
Year: 2007
Keywords: transportation; environmental aspects; design; human factors; methodology
Record ID: 1037141
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/11513


After many years of research focusing on different aspects of human experience conducted both within design research and outside of it, no clear understanding of experience or ways it might be researched have yet been developed. Many conferences, academic papers, and design studies have described partial structures, formulas and hypotheses that have so far provided inadequate understandings of what constitutes experience and how it might be understood (especially in design){Engage, 2005263, p.68}. The first difficulty is that there are no suitable design research methods available to enable design researchers to study experience. Secondly, the nature of what is being studied (what constitutes experience) is unclear and thirdly (due to the absence of the first two) no well reasoned way has yet been found to make this type of information useful to designers. This research project set out to find a way to understand everyday human experience from the point of view of design, but first the tools and methods to do this kind of research had themselves to be researched. The personal experiences of a niche group of transport users were chosen as the research vehicle for an explorative research project. Using hermeneutical phenomenology to guide the philosophical orientation as well as many aspects of the methodological approach, field research was conducted in Australia and Europe. From this approach, taxonomy of the vehicle experience (ToE) was developed. A process of deeply (hermeneutically) exploring the information contained in this taxonomy produced a second set of methods (The SEEing process) that causes a deep understanding of the experience to emerge in the design researcher. Both these methods were successfully trialled in Australia and Germany and an analysis of the results is presented. The ToE-SEEing methodology described in this paper provides firstly, a structured approach to understanding a specific experiential situation. Secondly, the methods enable a fundamental and clear understanding of the deeper essences of the experience to be seen with a degree of clarity, such that informed design can take place. This methodology will be helpful to those for whom it is important to have a deep understanding of the experience they wish to design for, and it will be especially helpful for informing those responsible for decisions (design or otherwise) effecting the quality of others experience with goods or services. ToE-SEEing has been shown to be teachable, learnable and useful as a design methodology. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)