Theatre, PlayDoh and Comic Strips: Designing Organic User Interfaces with Young Adolescent and Teenage Participants

Read, Janet C orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7138-1643, Fitton, D. and Horton, M. (2013) Theatre, PlayDoh and Comic Strips: Designing Organic User Interfaces with Young Adolescent and Teenage Participants. Interacting with Computers, 25 (2). pp. 183-198. ISSN 0953-5438

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This paper presents the process and outputs from a participatory design activity with secondary school children whose task was to design organic user interfaces (OUIs) for use in energy-aware applications. Although experienced in participatory design sessions with children and teenagers, the design team faced three new challenges in this work: how to convey the idea of OUIs, how to facilitate the pupils to design OUIs and how to interpret the OUI design ideas. To convey the ideas of OUI, the Obstructed Theatre method, used in other studies with children and teenagers, was used. In this work, the salient features of the OUI conveyed in the theatre were: its malleability, its potential to bend and change shape, its association with the body and its novelty. To facilitate the design, three scenarios of increasing user interface complexity were conveyed in the theatre; and three different media (i) slime and pipe cleaners, (ii) PlayDoh and small Lego bricks, (iii) fabric and sticky shapes that afforded the creation of designs representing future organic interactive technologies were deployed. To enable the design team to make sense of the resulting designs, a Comic Strip approach was used to capture the changes in the designs as they demonstrated interaction. The paper explores this work from three perspectives; first, the effectiveness of the Obstructed Theatre approach to convey requirements of OUIs, secondly, the effectiveness of the three media used in the design sessions to encourage design solutions for OUIs and thirdly, the quality and relevance of the design ideas generated in the sessions and communicated to the design team using the Comic Strips and their applicability to other contexts. The paper concludes with some thoughts on methods and materials that could be used to encourage design ideas for OUIs and offers some of the participants more innovative ideas for the research and development community. © 2013 The Author.

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