I’ve just spend an enjoyable two days working with the students on the IT Product Design masters course at the University of Southern Denmark in Sonderbørg. I ran a tutorial on the Critical Artefact Methods developed in my PhD, and we explored the use of critical artefacts in developing novel product ideas around the theme of indoor climate. The masters students came up with some great “crazy ideas” to stimulate debate with their groups of users and I look forward to seeing the end results of their project.
Bubbles: exploring ideas of personal and social spaces in a canteen, one of the critical artefacts produced by the group
The visit also provided an opportunity to hear more about the work of the SPIRE research centre. Their focus on participatory innovation drawing is interesting, drawing as it does ideas from the Scandinavian tradition of Participatory Design and notions of innovation from business management such as Lead Users.
Thank you to the students and staff in Sonderbørg for their hospitality, enthusiasm and stimulating discussions.
Why the wait? Aside from a particularly busy period running participatory design activities, it’s finding the time to process all the photographs. Image quality being a top issue for me, I shoot in RAW format rather than JPEGs. This means storing all the information from the camera’s sensor rather than letting its software decide how to process that data into a JPEG image (contrast, colour balance and saturation etc.). The upside being you’ve all the data to work with when modifying an image (some being lost in the creation of the JPEG), the downside being you need to ‘develop’ each of your images. An intensive two weekend’s work and they’re done. I’ve been using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 software to do the RAW conversions and majority of image processing and, for Nikon owners, can thoroughly recommend it.
* Anyone who’s travelled to Norway, or considered it, will probably have heard of the “Norway-in-a-nutshell” tour. A great way to get a taster of mountain and fjord scenery via train, boat and bus.
I ran a one-day workshop on my Critical Artefact Methods during the Nordic Design Research Conference. Seven people participated from a variety of backgrounds in both academia and industry including industrial/product design, interaction design, and ceramic art.
The aftermath of a busy workshop...
We had a busy day of presentations, discussions, making and role-play and debated the limitations of participatory design approaches when applied to innovation and the use of critical artefacts (and other designer-led interventions) for engaging people in creative thinking about novel product ideas.
A couple of months ago I took the plunge and moved back to using an Apple Mac computer at home after seven years using various machines running Microsoft Windows (notwithstanding a Sinclair ZX Spectrum in the 1980s, a funky blue PowerMac G3 was my first ‘proper’ home computer). In the main, this has been a positive experience and I’ve more often found myself grumbling about handy Mac features I miss when using Windows than the other way around. However one tool I’ve really missed is the Windows briefcase. My professional life is such that I’m sometime working at home, sometimes working at my University desk and sometimes working on the move. Windows briefcase allowed me to keep copies of all my work folders on a USB stick that then synchronised with folders on my home computer. But briefcase only works with Windows and there didn’t appear to be a viable Mac alternative, until I discovered an even better way of doing things. Continue reading →
I am running a one-day workshop on my critical artefact methods at the Nordic Design Research conference in Oslo at the end of August. Through this workshop I intend to disseminate and develop the design methods I have been developing in my PhD research, and stimulate debate about the role of ‘critical artefacts’ (the products of critical design and related practices) within human-centred and participatory design processes.
The workshop will include practical exercises applying critical artefact methods in ‘mini’ design projects alongside a discussion of their underlying methodology to enable designers to explore how they could utilise similar techniques in their own practice.
Participation in the workshop is open to all conference attendees (at an additional small cost). Register for the conference first then contact me directly (s [dot] bowen [at] shu [dot] ac [dot] uk) to sign up for the workshop. Early registration discounts end on 1st August.
Joanna and I got ourselves around the 30 miles of the Patterdale Parish boundary in a very respectable 12 hours and 45 minutes. We had a grand day out and raised money for the local Lakeland community at the same time. Thanks to everyone who supported us, and there’s still time to donate for those that want to at our Justgiving page.
I’m slowly getting through my backlog of photographs that need either scanning (for those I shot on 35mm transparency film) or RAW-conversion (for those I shot using a digital camera), then post-processing (colour balance, contrast and the odd bit of dust-removal) and keywording (for picture sales via Alamy) before making them available online. The latest images to get finished are a set I took in Turkey in April 2007. This was Joanna and my first trip to Turkey, ostensibly so I could attend the European Academy of Design conference in Izmir, but we also travelled a few days ahead so that we could explore Istanbul. We weren’t sure what to expect but Turkey was a revelation: a beautiful, vibrant country steeped in history with some stunning architecture, the friendliest of people and lip-smackingly fresh and fabulous food. Click on the image to browse the full set on Flickr.
I recently uploaded my PhD thesis as a single PDF file. I wanted to make this electronic copy as accessible and usable as possible. For such a large document (250 pages plus), this meant including bookmarks so that cross-references and table of contents are ‘clickable’ – they take you directly to the referred-to section. It also means that the document can be viewed as a hierarchy of section and subsection headings in PDF viewers such as Adobe Reader. Creating basic PDFs is easy, Mac OS X has a built-in “Save as PDF” option within print menus and there is freeware such as Cute PDF available for Windows, but this only creates simple PDFs that are effectively the output to a printer and include no bookmark information. Creating navigable PDFs is possible (there are some useful guides here and here), but turned out to be a bit more of a minefield than I expected. Continue reading →
One of my favourite ways to unwind is walking, particularly if it involves climbing up big hills. I’m fortunate that my wife Joanna shares my love of all things outdoors and we generally spend goodly amounts of time trudging up hills and mountains at home in the British Isles (and further afield when we can). We usually do this for fun, but for a change we’re about to do a big walk for charity. The Patterdale Parish Boundary walk has been running since the early 1990s in the north east corner of the Lake District in the UK, as an event to raise funds for the local school and church. As the name suggests, people walk or run the boundary parish which, being as the Lake District is the highest group of mountains in England, tends to be both rather long (30 miles) and involve a lot of uphill (10,000 feet – that’s a third of an Everest -ish). Walking the boundary takes between 12 and 17 hours, and not everyone makes the full distance. But we’re going to try (we have been training).
Joanna met one of the founders and organisers of the walk, Stephen, whilst travelling in New Zealand several years ago. He’s been asking her (and, latterly, us) to do the walk ever since. So, it’s about time we did our bit for an area we both love – we frequently enjoy its wild landscape, now we’ll try and give something back to its community. This year, the event is running on 4th July and we’ve set up a webpage for sponsorship here. We’re grateful for any support.
Following my viva in March, I have now completed my examiners’ requested amendments to my PhD thesis, which is now in its final form. An abstract and downloadable electronic copy is available on my PhD page.
I now feel that I can legitimately call myself Doctor Bowen – although only in professional circles rather than down at the pub.