Situated Research and Design for Everyday Life


Bodil Jönsson, Lone Malmborg*, Arne Svensk

Peter Anderberg, Gunilla Brattberg, Björn Breidegard, Håkan Eftring, Henrik Enquist, Eva Flodin, Jörgen Gustafsson, Charlotte Magnusson, Eve Mandre, Camilla Nordgren, Kirsten Rassmus-Gröhn

* Malmö University, Arts and Communication

Palett och färgtuber. Färger: inspirera, observera, användare, designers, abstrakt, konkret, beskrivande,  normativ.Summary

This paper elaborates theoretical and methodological aspects of design processes in a disability context and aims to relate them to other sciences. It particularly emphasizes situated aspects of research: the need for being there, with the users in their daily lives, i.e. where the action is.

Research on different human aspects of functional limitations for the individual enhances the need to focus on functioning per se and design for functioning, be it learning and empowerment or well-being, recreation and pleasure or safety, freedom and flexibility.


Human needs, wishes and dreams are the starting points for design research in the area of rehabilitation engineering. The design of technical solutions represents in itself an interpretation of problems in a language of its own, different from the word-based analyses of observations, interviews, questionnaires, etc. The degree of benefit and enjoyment for the end users is an important benchmark for the research process.

The process begins and ends with the individual. At the same time, the method, and to some extent the language of rehabilitation engineering research is that of technology, often in a context primarily involving scientists from the natural sciences and technology [Jönsson, B., 1997].

When it comes to the area of rehabilitation engineering and design, it has more or less the same goals as medical rehabilitation – to cure, alleviate and/or comfort. However, rehabilitation engineering and design is mainly concerned with the lived ability and disability, while medical rehabilitation builds upon diagnosis-based interventions. The tools of rehabilitation engineering and design are exterior and their value is related to the action of the users, to their preferences for the future, and to the influence of and on the surroundings [Dourish, 2001; Hutchins, 1996].

It is natural for researchers within rehabilitation engineering and design to relate to the natural sciences and technology, since that is where most rehabilitation engineering research proceeds from. Which aspects of the natural sciences and technology can be included and which cannot? What should be added? Which aspects of the cognitive and social sciences, including education, make sense in this context? And how far reaching and sufficient is the current theoretical and methodological basis for design sciences? The design sciences have successfully established their own theoretical and methodological foundation over the last 20 years but without relating it to any great extent to other sciences. In this paper, we attempt to bind together the impulses from design research with those we have from other areas.

The original scientific backgrounds of the authors are in physics, engineering, computer science, design and education.

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