agents of change

AGENTS OF CHANGE: FROM COLLECTION TO CONNECTION

White, H., Steel, E., (2007) Agents of Change: From Collection to Connection, The Design Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, p.22-34, Ashgrove

Keywords: Interaction, jewellery, multimedia, wearables, user centred design, craft

“I think it was my grandmother’s”, she said, lifting the string of multicoloured beads from the box. “I’ve seen her wearing it in media clips from when Dad was little.”

Carefully she fastened it round her neck and looked in the i-mirror. As

her hand brushed against a large sea-green bead, an image appeared in the corner of the mirror: a small boy, unmistakably her father, standing on a windy beach, pulling at a wobbly tooth, explaining that the tooth would fall out that night, and the tooth fairy would leave a coin under his pillow. Mesmerised, she touched another, smaller bead. This time the i-mirror showed her father, slightly older, listening spellbound, as his grandfather read him a bedtime story…..

Craft has been accused of ‘discontinuity’ (Greer 2006), simply producing objects to be looked at rather than used. This paper suggests that there is a role for craft practitioners and craft thinkers in the world of interactive technologies. By focusing on new roles for jewellery and through discussion surrounding issues related to this new role, the research proposes that a synthesis between interactive technologies and craft creates a new space for craft and a new method of research practice.

Research into wearable computing in the 1990s led by design labs such as Phillips and IBM, envisioned clothes and jewellery which would enable communication and entertainment systems to be integrated into clothing and jewellery. The mode and purpose of wearing jewellery makes it an appropriate choice as a controlling device in physical computing (Wallace and Dearden 2005).  The challenge for the craftsperson is to demonstrate that craft thinking can add to the field of interaction design through the application of knowledge and understanding of the cultural and personal significance of the worn object and an understanding of materials and processes.

The researchers have employed methods from their individual practices as a jeweller and multimedia artist and to produce physical objects interfaced with digital media as a vehicle for exploring user response. A hybrid of user-centred design methods, interactive technology and craft thinking are fundamental to the research. In user-centred design, the designers engage actively with end-users to gather insights that drive design from the earliest stages of product and service development, right through the design process (Black 2004). The value of the jeweller and multimedia artist collaborating as researchers is in applying the specific skills, knowledge and sensibilities of craft and interactive media to conception and making. However, within craft and multimedia art, evaluation frameworks as understood within other disciplines such as human computer interaction (HCI) and product design, simply do not exist: analysis of objects and their reception by wearers is based on implicit knowledge and subjective assumptions.

The combination of methods from within and without craft has enabled the researchers to suggest new ways of synthesising jewellery and technology and suggested new areas for further research in terms of engagement and functionality.

The synthesis of methods from outside the traditional domain of craft, in particular from user-centred design has resulted in a new methodology for craft practice, repositioning the craftsperson from a guardian of tradition to an agent of change.

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