Thesis Title: Augmented Design Tools, Social & Distributed Ideation: Developing speculative prototypes to explore trajectories of ambient intelligent systems in design processes to enhance insight portability & creative scope.

My research explores experimental tools for supporting design work amongst people. Specifically, through speculative prototyping, this research develops a discussion of the potentials of experimental digital tools in the context of design ideation. In evaluating the potential of ad-hoc meshes of platforms and services assembled by design practitioners specifically to support ideation, this research develops ideas of collaborative and augmented, design practice.

Initially my research presents a pilot study to develop experimental ideation tools that have embedded within them ideas of collaborative and augmented design practice. These tools and ideas are then used in a series of case studies to observe their effects and understand their potentials. Principally this practice-based research approach uses a research through design model as a method for generating insights for diverse research communities in a manner that is broadly consistent with the model outlined by Zimmerman, Forlizzi and Evenson in their paper Research Through Design as a Method for Interaction Design Research in HCI (Zimmerman, Forlizzi and Evenson, 2007). In this context, these case studies are specifically designed to explore both the effects of such systems on the creative scope of design ideation tasks, and explore emergent and embodied data types that may be collected to further develop design ideation tools and platforms.

Theoretically my research explores the intersection of ideas such as strategic design (Hill, 2012) and relational design (Blauvelt, 2013), (Bourriaud, 2002) in an applied context. For example, ideas informing the pilot study propose that enacting strategic design requires the augmentation of networked information systems to overcome the increasing effects of knowledge silos and specialisation. A conceptual framework of relational design helps to establish the ontological basis for experimental algorithmic systems and tools. Within the case studies this research specifically uses multimodality to examine the interaction of people and technology from a communication perspective. Furthermore, my research also examines the historical context for computational thinking around augmentation, examining the birth of these ideas in computer science in Douglas Engelbart’s famous paper ‘Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework’ (Engelbart, 1962) and exploring ideas from communication theorists such as Marshal McLuhan. Specifically, the ideas embodied in Father John Culkin’s McLuhanesque phrase “We Shape Our Tools, and Then Our Tools Shape Us” greatly informs the macro context of this research.

In summation my research examines how experimental digital tools for design ideation offer insight into how the specific media effects of these tools will change both the understanding and practice of design.


Bezemer, J. (2012) ‘How to Transcribe Multimodal Interaction ?’, Texts, images and interaction: A reader in multimodality, pp. 1–14.

Blauvelt, A. (2013) Towards Relational Design. Available at: http://observatory.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=7557.

Bourriaud, N. (2002) Relational Aesthetics. Les Presses du Réel. Available at: http://books.google.com/books?id=GAxhQgAACAAJ&pgis=1

Engelbart, D. (1962) Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, Contract. Available at: http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=AD0289565.

Flusser, V. (2013) Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design. Reaktion Books. Available at: http://books.google.com/books?id=d26wIxe-jsAC&pgis=1 (Accessed: 28 October 2014).

Hill, D. (2012) Dark matter and trojan horses. A strategic design vocabulary. Strelka Press.

Rogers, E. M. (2000) ‘The Extensions of Men: The Correspondence of Marshall McLuhan and Edward T. Hall’, Mass Communication and Society, 3(1), pp. 117–135. doi: 10.1207/S15327825MCS0301_06.

Zimmerman, J., Forlizzi, J. and Evenson, S. (2007) ‘Research Through Design as a Method for Interaction Design Research in HCI.’