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Participatory Designing with Sound

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PaDS (Participatory Designing with Sound)

Período documentado: 2020-10-01 hasta 2022-09-30

In the beginning was the sound. The world around us constantly makes noise. Whether mechanical (e.g. clicks, whirrs and clatters) or digital (e.g. beeps, alarms and notifications), sonic displays play a significant role in the experience of complex environments, from cockpits, transportation systems, and workplaces to the healthcare and the lived environment in general.
Sonic displays are often introduced to augment, accompany or support human activities and consequently they must be designed to contribute to sustainable soundscape, and ultimately to a better quality life. The systemic complexity of our contemporary environments, in which humans and technology must co-exist, calls for the implementation of more inclusive, human-centered, and technology-driven approaches to design sonic experiences. However, design methods and tools to empower non-expert stakeholders in participating in the design process together with expert (sound) designers are still lacking in the field of industrial design.
The gist of the PaDS project is situated in the study of and research into the process of designing sound. To this end, the project engaged communities of professionals active in the fields of sound and design, and stakeholders in the field of healthcare and well-being.
Objectives of the project were 1) to understand how designers and stakeholders collaboratively conceptualise, express and communicate designs in which the sonic dimension acts as main driver of iterative evaluation and implementation processes, and 2) to develop sound-inclusive methodology and co-design knowledge on designing sound for complex environments, such as Intensive Care Units.
Overall, the project’s results establish the role of listening in the design process, and promote a design approach focused on the meaning and understanding of the experience driven by listening, rather than by sound. In this paradigm shift, sound acts both as issue and opportunity for innovative design solutions, in a practice that can be renamed as sound-driven design.
The project has achieved most of its objectives and milestones, with relatively minor deviations.
PaDS research methodology has developed in three interdependent phases.
A preparatory phase set the theoretical underpinning of the design activities: A literature review on participatory cultures, sound and design shed light on the current state of participatory sound design and the extent to which the field is existing and established. This work provided the understanding of how the needs of involving users manifests in the discourse of sound design, for which uses and applications, and how participatory sound design connects with and can contribute to contemporary participatory design. Further, the semantic analysis of several interviews with different professionals involved in sound and design (sound designers, design researchers, engineers, expert users - medical specialists) produced a fine-grained understanding of a design approach driven by sound, with regards to the conceptualisation of sound as mediated by the different listening cultures of stakeholders.
These results informed the phase in which the organisation of research-through-design activities with real-world stakeholders became central throughout the whole project. Several co-design workshops on sound in the context of healthcare and caregiving provided the experimental test bench for the ecological inquiry of the participatory sound-driven design process, while developing concepts and demonstrators of sound-driven design. The workshops audiovisual documentation was analysed qualitatively and quantitatively in the third phase. The final results showed the role that semantic models of team members play in the co-creation, interpretation and modification of conceptual sound-driven representations.
Exploitation of the action results and dissemination to the scientific community has occurred through the release of the sound-driven design workshops dataset with transcriptions, and the publication of high-quality scientific papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals and conferences. Non-commercial exploitation of both publications and dataset are expected to become solid references and lead to further research in sound-driven design.
Research into the process of designing sound is relatively young. Overall, the problem of designing sound, in contexts which are inherently interactive and multisensory, is to reach a consensus on the meaning of the listening experience. Investigating sound by design research relates to how stakeholders talk about sound, how they communicate and externalise the sonic experience, and conversely how sound is used, internalised and communicated as a design concept and phenomenon.
We found four prototypical characterisations of sound, whether the co-design action is oriented towards 1) the expression and aesthetics of the audible experience (designing the sound); 2) the description and creation of experiences, with sound as epistemic design means (designing with sound); 3) improving the quality of systems by conceiving solutions against unwanted sound (designing against sound); and 4) providing sound-based services for the user-listener (designing sound for). Listening, as a contextual and situated way of knowing by using sound in interaction, proves to be the red thread.
PaDS results contribute to establishing listening as non-visual paradigm for design studies, and are relevant to practitioners and professionals that want to incorporate sound in their design in a more holistic way.
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