Activity-Instance Modelling: A Design Lens to Examine Everyday Activities at a Granular Level.

Montiel Arroyo, Miguel
Sosa, Ricardo
Hocking, Darryl
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

Everyday activities (EAs) can be broadly defined as the practices that people carry out as part of their daily lives. This doctoral investigation focuses on the examination of EAs from a design viewpoint. Specifically, the primary objective of this investigation was to develop a new framework for examining EAs at a granular level, that is, focusing on individuals’ views and experiences when performing these practices.

The above framework, eventually named Activity-Instance Modelling (AIM), was developed through a bricolage approach. In other words, the development of AIM involved the adaptation and integration of methods commonly used in design with methods from areas where systematic data analysis is prioritised.

The areas from which methods were sourced to develop AIM were Multimodal Interactional Analysis (MIA) and Social Network Analysis (SNA). The choice of these two areas (MIA and SNA) was based on the ontological and epistemological similarities they have with the design. Both MIA and design are concerned with the practical and symbolic interactions that people establish with artifacts. On the other hand, both in SNA and in design, visual representation techniques are used to develop a better understanding of interactions between different types of artifacts and actors.

The specific methods that served as building blocks to develop AIM were the interview (from design), multimodal transcript (from MIA) and network visualisation and degree centrality indicator (from SNA). The adaptation and integration of these methods was carried out throughout three empirical studies on EAs. Each of these studies served a specific purpose in the development of AIM.

The first study served to establish the analytical foundations of AIM. The second study was conducted to ensure that AIM would allow for effectively collecting and analysing primary data on EAs. The third study served a dual purpose. On the one hand, the third study served to incorporate a data visualisation component to AIM, thus more closely aligning it with designers’ forms of inquiry. In addition, the third study served to confirm that AIM allowed for examining activities other than the one used to establish its foundations.

The three studies above were supplemented by a design exercise. It is pivotal to underscore that this exercise was not intended as a seminal contribution to design nor to showcase the utility of AIM as a design tool. Rather, the design exercise was conceived as a crucial step in the very process of developing AIM. Specifically, the design exercise was viewed as a diagnostic effort to identify aspects of AIM that might require further refinement before the framework could be used in real design scenarios.

Together, the three empirical studies on EAs and the design exercise resulted in a framework that allows to systematically examine the realisation or physical description of EAs following a qualitative-inductive approach.

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