Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2013

Embargo Period

9-2-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes)

Department

Design

Advisor(s)

John Zimmerman

Abstract

Abstract. Technologists, designers and researcher are constantly working towards digitization of physical materials. Consumers today can read and display books on virtual bookshelves; access news from around the world instantly on their smartphone; archive and share photos with their friends on social media platforms. This represents both a gain and a loss for the consumers: losing the joy and meaning of physical objects but gaining the immediacy, dynamism, and accessibility of the digital. Users have to constantly navigate between their physical environment and digital objects. The industry treats these the physical and the digital experiences separately and this creates a tension for interaction and complicated user’s understanding of products and services rooted in the physical. Designers end up designing disjointed experiences for their users as there is no existing framework in the community to help designers span this divide. In this master’s thesis project I seek to understand if Critical Design can be used as a design method to investigate the digital–physical divide. Further, I use critical design to explore the design opportunities associated with the digital–physical divide by creating and deploying a probe in two libraries in Pittsburgh. Library patrons were interviewed post interaction with the probe. Findings are presented in this document.

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