Cultural commentators: Non-native interpretations as resources for polyphonic assessment

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Designs for everyday life must be considered in terms of the many facets of experience they affect, including their aesthetics, emotional effects, genre, social niche, and cultural connotations. In this paper, I discuss the use of cultural commentators, people whose profession it is to inform and shape public opinion, as resources for multi-layered assessments of designs for everyday life. I describe our work with a team of movie screenwriters to help interpret the results of a Cultural Probe study, and with film-makers to document the experiences of people living with prototype designs in their homes. The value of employing cultural commentators is that they work outside our usual community of discourse, and are often accustomed to reflecting issues of aesthetics, emotions, social fit or cultural implication that are difficult to address from traditional HCI perspectives. They help to focus and articulate people's accounts of their experiences, extrapolating narratives from incomplete information, and dramatising relationships to create powerful and provocative stories. In so doing, they create the grounds for a polyphonic assessment of prototypes, in which a multiplicity of perspectives encourages a multi-layered assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-305
JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
Issue number4
Early online date30 Jan 2007
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes

Research Group keywords

  • Interaction Research Studio


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