Photo courtesy of flickr:eye2eye
Congratulations to Lilly Irani on passing her Advancement to Candidacy Exam!
Thesis: Seeing Practice in Second Life and Design Life
Paul Dourish (Chair)
This work presents two projects concerned with technological practices — one of being a Second Life resident and one of being a technology designer. These projects see the cultures of Second Life and of design, like cultures more generally, as fluid, produced through everyday social interaction conditioned by history, contingency, and imagination.
Part I: Situated Practices of Seeing: Visual Practice in Second Life
Graphical virtual worlds are increasingly significant sites of collaborative interaction. Many argue that the simulation of the everyday environment makes them particularly effective for collaboration. Based on a study of visual practice in Second Life, I argue: first, that the practice of looking is more varied than it might at first seem; second, that we need to look beyond the virtual in understanding virtual worlds; and third, that implementations blend interactional practice. I detail basic tools for seeing in Second Life’s virtual world client. I then describe the diversity of cultural practices of seeing the world and seeing audience that have emerged among users, with implications for sociality and self-presentation in a virtual world. I suggest that the value of virtual worlds as sites of collaboration might lie more in their richness and openness to appropriation and flexibilities of visual practice that engenders than in their simulation of everyday interaction. Visual practice helps to understand the particular, learned, and situated ways people come to see the world in this instance, a virtual one.
Part II: Transnational Technodesign
It is well-established that technologies that make sense within one cultural context may be understood and adopted entirely differently when put into a different cultural context. In response to the many difficulties and misadventures of technology transfer, there is a growing response that calls for the export of *design methods* rather than designed objects. Equipped with proper methods, it is often assumed that people can design technologies that suit their settings and purposes. Yet there are many reasons to believe that design methods, such as usability testing, participatory design, or requirements engineering, cannot travel so easily. Prescriptions of practice that work in one cultural context may not work in another.I present reflections on a particular case of design research in an Andhra Pradesh village — a case of surprises and methodological mutation and highlight directions for future work.