Monday, April 25, 2011

Meta-Design of a Virtual Meta-Campus

"In a world that is not predictable, improvisation, evolution, and innovation are more than a luxury: they are a necessity. The challenge of design is not a matter of getting rid of the emergent, but rather of including it and making it an opportunity for more creative and more adequate solutions to problems." (Fischer & Giaccardi, 2006)

Designing a virtual meta-campus is a complex systems wicked problem. There isn't one solution, technologies are changing, goals are shifting, unexpected possibilites emerge and the results are unpredictable. Traditional elearning design principles may not be the most productive in this type of dynamic challenge where 'perpetual-beta' is often the norm.

Fischer & Giaccardi present a conceptual framework for 'Meta-Design' that addresses design-for-change issues and recommend 'co-adaptive' processes that can be used to develop an agile system that evolves with its designers, developers and users.

Meta-design uses social and technical infrastructure that isn't designed completely before use, is flexible and evolves in the hands of users. At the same time users adapt to system functionality and a dialogue is developed in which the user helps design the design process.

The Meta-Design Framework has several elements:
  • Design for change - user participation and empowerment
  • Underdesign - create flexible environments rather than solutions
  • Open systems approaches - that can be modified by users and evolve during use
  • Seeding - working components that can be evolved through small contributions of large numbers of people
  • Unselfconcsious design culture - slow adaption and error reduction

According to Fischer & Giaccardi Meta-Design approaches need to consider:

  • Interactive Art - focus on collaboration and co-creation, often exploring feelings and emotions
  • Collaborative synchnocity - allowing 'power' users to interact with the community, the project and ongoing collaborative processes
  • Social creativity - building a shared user understanding and user voice leading to new insights, new ideas, new artifacts
  • Balancing standardisation and improvisation - avoiding the disfunctional extremes of both
  • Consumers and Designers - Some users (not all, not at all times, not in all contexts) want to be designers: "engage the talent pool"
  • Ease-of-Use Revisited - Over-specialised easy-to-use systems may not be that interesting. Users will learn to operate a system if it has personal value - and is empowering, engaging and fun.
  • Motivation and Rewards - Users will persist in tasks if the 'design culture' includes simple motivational activities - particularly those that build 'social capital'.

The Meta-Design Framework includes three integrated 'Design Spaces':

  1. Designing Design - higher-order design that allows for change and even transformation
  2. Designing Together - facilitating participatory design processes
  3. Designing the 'In-Between' - supporting and creating social networks and their interaction with technology and systems. Relational, reciprocal and recursive interactions that trigger co-creation.

Participatory design requires new paradigms and cultures. Can we create the design spaces and facilitate the deign processes needed to build the virtual campus? Indeed how can we embed these in an evolving virtual campus?

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