Annotated portfolios and other forms of intermediate-level knowledge

Jonas Löwgren
2013 Interactions  
In a recent issue of this magazine, Bill Gaver and John Bowers address the role of design practice in academic research and provide a concrete suggestion: "We propose the notion of annotated portfolios as a way to communicate design research. In part, we do this to provide an alternative to accounts that suggest for design to become productive as research, it should engage in some sort of theory formation. While what exactly is meant by theory is not always clear, writers usually have in mind
more » ... ally have in mind some conceptual machinery that can explain and predict" [1]. Briefly, the notion of annotated portfolios entails selecting a collection of designs, re-presenting them in an appropriate medium, and combining the design re-presentations with brief textual annotations. Gaver and Bowers characterize their proposal as a methodology for communicating design research, and more specifically, a methodology that is very familiar to designers as well as artists. The idea of annotated portfolios takes its departure from a growing sense of discomfort with the way in which design practice is increasingly misappropriated by "scientistic" notions of academic research: "Rather than [finding ways for design to contribute to HCI] by mutating design to become more like "real" research, however, we believe it is better to grow design's identity as research from its existing practices and reasoning" [1]. This is a very timely proposal, given the increasing debate on design research and its relation to HCI (see also [2] and [3]). Moreover, the idea of annotated portfolios intuitively appears well grounded as well as appealing. However, the slate is not entirely clean-there are some precedent ideas that address similar concerns, and my sense is that they can be fruitfully related to the notion of annotated portfolios. Thus, my hope is to complement the work of Gaver and Bowers by sketching out parts of the scholarly context, and thereby facilitate the ongoing discussion of the role of design practice in academic research. Design Practice, Academic Research, and Knowledge In my opinion, the foundational observation to start from is this: The essence of research is to produce knowledge, and the essence of design is to produce artifacts.
doi:10.1145/2405716.2405725 fatcat:awgtjsxgl5hdxpsaggpw2h74uy