Designing contextually relevant digital interpretation for a public garden

Edwards, Liz and Coulton, Paul and Chiasson, Mike (2019) Designing contextually relevant digital interpretation for a public garden. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis is concerned with the design of digital technologies, particularly digital interpretation, to reveal the natural world and support human connection to natural places. The natural world is under an accelerating threat as a result of human behaviour and increased technology use is perceived to be part of the problem. Some philosophers have made a connection between the design of technology and the behavioural and attitudinal tendencies elicited through the use of technology. Whether or not this is true it is an interesting area of research. The research project described explores the use of criticism of technology, taken from a selection of critical theory writings, as a design lens to inform design process and the design of digital artefacts for use in nature. The research draws heavily on the work of Heidegger, Borgmann and Feenberg to inform the design lens. The first phase of the research involved drawing out design criteria from the critiques of technology. The next phase of the research which drew on Reflective Practice and Research through Design, applied the design lens to a prototype design which was intended to be used to build connection with a woodland area. The subsequent research involved a longterm collaboration with gardeners and volunteers at the Walled Kitchen Garden in Clumber Park, a National Trust property in Nottinghamshire. The research explored the use of the design principles drawn from critical theory to create and evaluate digital interpretation for the garden. The open and reflective research approach allowed for the evolution of new research questions through the process. This led to additional questions about sustaining digital interpretation and designing for active engagement. The findings suggest that the designs produced using the lens drawn from critical theory are distinct and contextually relevant designs that have a ‘family resemblance’. The research shows that the design principles drawn from critical theory resulted in an embedded, design process that was highly responsive to context. One of the contributions of the research is a set of recommendations to be considered when designing digital interpretation for organisations with an interest in environmental issues. The research also results in tentative contributions towards a digital nature strand for the primary school curriculum involving cross-curricular, multi-sensory and multi-dimensional activities to build connection to natural environments.

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Thesis (PhD)
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15 Jul 2019 08:35
Last Modified:
26 Feb 2024 00:16