Making Representations Matter
Understanding Practitioner Experience in Participatory Sensemaking
Al Selvin

This event took place on 8th June 2011 at 12:00pm (11:00 GMT)
Knowledge Media Institute, Berrill Building, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, MK7 6AA

In this talk I will describe the research leading up to my doctoral thesis. The thesis develops and applies a method to analyze, characterize, and compare instances of participatory representational practice in such a way as to highlight experiential aspects such as aesthetics, narrative, improvisation, sensemaking, and ethics. It extends taxonomies of such practices found in related research, and contributes to a critique of techno-rationalist approaches to studying professional practice.

The thesis examines how practitioners make participatory visual representations (pictures, diagrams, knowledge maps) coherent, engaging and useful. It studies how fourteen practitioners using a visual hypermedia tool engaged participants with the hypermedia representations, and the ways they made the representations matter to the participants. It focuses on the sensemaking challenges that the practitioners encountered in their sessions, and on the ways that the form they gave the visual representations (aesthetics) related to the service they were trying to provide to their participants. The thesis places these concerns in context of other kinds of facilitative and mediation practices as well as research on reflective practice, aesthetic experience, critical HCI, and participatory design. I will also discuss of two proof of concept workshop sessions in which practitioners and researchers applied the constructs from the research to their own practice.

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