The Food for Thought employee break room project is an experiment in what I am calling designer-centered use, or DCU. As I conceive it, it is a research methodology that compliments user-centered and participatory design, both of which involve users, to some degree or another, in the design process. DCU inverts these methodologies by putting designers, to some degree or another, into the roles of users by having them
use the technologies they create to do real work in as authentic a context as can be achieved.
As Urqhart recommends in her assessment of the state of Grounded Theory Method for information systems research (citation), I intend to apply an experiential adaptation of GTM to begin building a data-driven theory of DCU.
In doing so, one of the challenges I face is confronting the implications of self analysis. That is, because DCU require the designer to be an actual user, the data I will collect, and which I will eventually code and interpret, is data I generate based on self observation as I use and evolve the system my team designs.
One of the primary goals of DCU as I conceive it is to help designers acquire deeper, more actionable empathy for users by becoming users themselves, far beyond simply interacting with the systems they design in the insular contexts of test labs. By getting outside the vacuum of the lab and into authentic and sustained use environments, DCU aims to immerse designers in their users’ domains of knowledge and action in ways that help them develop more appropriate communicative competences for negotiating the discursive spaces between and among designers and users.
One important component of the DCU approach is to develop a sort of pidgin discourse that is driven and shaped by a user perspective rather than a technologist perspective, such as what Johnson advocates in getting away from system-centric models of design.