Redström | Definitions of use

Literature review: Redström, Johan. “RE: Definitions of Use.” Design Studies 29.4 (2008): 410-23. Web.

My thesis advisor sent this article to me after I told him that I was interested in studying interaction design in use in the same way that sociolinguists became interested in studying language in use instead of just looking at semantic meaning.

But anyway, however I got this article before me, I really enjoyed it. It makes some important distinctions in order to bring some precision to a blanket term. Redström comes from the understanding that “designing a technical object is also typically entails designing, or prescribing it’s use” so we must always consider its context (411). He then makes distinctions between intended use and actual use.

Some of the main points were…

Thing-design vs use-design. We design an object, a chair, to do a a particular thing: sit. He points out that this is different from form & function because we’re talking in terms of how we use it, now not on the thing.

use through design: “what one does when expressing a specific notion of what it is to sit through how the chair is design”

use through use “When someone defines what a given thing is by using it in a certain way.” For example, a person might actually sit a completely different way.

before use: designing things before it’s actually tested and used by a participant. Like a prototype? What designers do when they’re creating a new product

After design: How the product is actually used, or defining use by use after design (416).  They describe how this can be a continuous process whereby the participant uses the designed object in different ways and so the design should always be considered unfinished works or ‘continuous designs’ (417).

use-design: Not just designing the thing (thing-design) but prescribing its intended use.

Why is this is relevant to my thesis?

Well, I don’t think this is what I was exactly looking for when I was writing about my project, but regardless I thought it was a super interesting article and I’m glad I read it. It kind of describes the relationship that I’m interested in design—that it’s not a finished product where you’re coercing a user to behave a certain way, but that it’s a negotiated process where the heart of the action actually in how a person interact with your…interaction design. I waffle between thinking that this is extraordinary to “duh.” Regardless, it was a really well written paper with a solid summary of similar works that I know will marinade in how I view design even if I don’t use it for my thesis directly.


Thoughts? Discussion? I'd love to hear 'em!

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