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Sensory Insights for Design: A Sensory Anthropology Approach to Industrial Design


Sensory Insights for Design: A Sensory Anthropology Approach to Industrial Design

Frankel, Lois Diane (2015) Sensory Insights for Design: A Sensory Anthropology Approach to Industrial Design. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This study explores how sensory anthropology perspectives can provide empathic and sensory knowledge for designing wearable technologies with and for impaired older people. The investigation draws from the fields of gerontology, design, anthropology of the senses, and wearable computing. It is driven by the main question: How can designer researchers gain insights for designing wearable technologies for an older population?
The participants included students enrolled in an Industrial Design course at Carleton University in Ottawa and older people attending special fitness classes at the Churchill Senior’s Recreation Centre in Ottawa. Data was gathered in-situ over six months. The methods for data collection included ethnographic Participant Observation, Co-design exercises, and Exploratory Technology Probe activities. Data analysis took an open-coding approach leading to thematic categories following Ackoff’s Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom (DIKW) Model.
The themes that emerged include: the Setting, the nature of fitness instruction, Participant’s Worldviews, Bodily Ways of Gathering Information, Interaction between the Senses to achieve fitness goals, and the Sensory Roles of Artifacts. These sociocultural themes about the sensory practices of the older exercisers are described in narratives that can stand alone as a contribution to the field.
Additionally, the findings from the Co-design workshop provide insights into the nature of the design process. They highlight an unanticipated empathic finding about the use of gestural language in Co-design activities. The gestures are organized into three categories. The discussion also tracks the influence of participants’ gestures on the artifacts developed during and after the Co-design workshop.
The insights arising from this study are presented as two major contributions to the field of participatory design research. The first is a set of Guidelines for exploring Sensory Contexts for generating Design Insights with five categories: Participants’ Worldviews, Sensory Practices, Sensory Interactions, Sensory Role of Artifacts, and Gestural Language. The guidelines are relevant for a wide variety of user-centered design investigations and not specific to designing wearable technologies for older people. The second contribution is specific to the issue at hand and provides seven insights for designers to consider when developing assistive technologies for fitness for older adults.

Divisions:Concordia University > School of Graduate Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Frankel, Lois Diane
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Individualized Program
Date:17 January 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Howes, David and Racine, Martin and Berzowska, Joanna
Keywords:sensory anthropology, industrial design, wearable computing, co-design
ID Code:979641
Deposited By: LOIS FRANKEL
Deposited On:16 Jul 2015 15:01
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:49
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