CMNS 354 Critical Reflection

I have enjoyed the tutorial design projects that run parallel to the lecture weeks. This was a fun, applied activity, and have made these the most significant tutorials I have had during my time at SFU. They applied and solidified course content I would have taken for granted otherwise. For example, the week we covered design briefs in Lecture I admittedly went home and told my roommate “I spent three hours today listening to my professor explain why it is important to plan design before beginning design.” Weeks later when our group presented our own design brief – and weeks later still when we referred to the brief for guidance, I appreciated the time we took to carefully create one. Although we undertook the design process in a linear way, a complete understanding and appreciation of the process did not develop in me until much further down the path.

I found the first milestone to be the most difficult. Design often only makes itself visible when it breaks, so developing a problem with the topic “security” was difficult. My mind only narrowly considered online security, since it had once been a topic I spent a lot of time on as a member of the OpenMedia club. Beyond imagining a problematic design situation, all members of our group initially had a difficult time imagining a design situation without framing it within an imaginary solution. Ultimately, knowing that we were going to be handing the design problem off to another group to solve put me at ease. When we created the design brief for Terms of Service Agreements I had no idea how a group would go about improving the situation. While I felt guilty for passing along what I perceived as a problem with no solution, it helped me create a design situation I was concerned about, and was able to design the situation without any possible solution ideas weighing it down.

Resisting the urge to jump into the development of a solution was a constant urge we had to keep applying the breaks to.  During Milestone two it was difficult not to plan our way forward with guidance from ideas for solutions. I very much enjoyed the second Milestone, and was grateful to get to spend time researching the design situation, exploring the problem. Initially, however, I felt constrained by the course’s emphasis on qualitative research methods. I had wanted to base my research on broad-reaching statistics, though I am glad the course encouraged us to conduct our own qualitative research. The probe, mad-lib, and survey research we ultimately conducted broadened our perception of the issue. Rather than conducting the design process to fulfill the requirements of the process, we interacted with the people that our design intervention was for, which significantly shifted our perception of what was important and why. Conducting our own design process has definitely been a beneficial activity for me.

Just as we had struggled to resist being prescriptive during the first two milestones, we struggled similarly in module three with adjusting our goals to work towards some sort of finale solution or suggestions. Our scope had also widened significantly during our second milestone, and we struggled to suggest something plausible and tangible as a solution while not losing the broad scope we had constructed during module two. I think that our final milestone presentation did a good job of balancing the micro and macro issues of our design situation.

While I am pleased with the online nature of my process book for it’s availability and neat, modifiable structure; the photos I include throughout the process book signal my preference for physical note-taking when brainstorming with my design group. Though this initial planning would take place in person and be documented on paper, much of the work that would follow in each Milestone occurred inside google documents and presentation slides which we created and modified simultaneously. Once we had decided in a direction for each milestone our work was divided into tasks and sections. Finally, near the end of our milestone process we would meet again a few times in person or via video call in order to solidify our message into one flowing, cohesive thought. These later sessions of brainstorm and instantaneous editing are less represented in my process book. The google sharing mediums we chose to work in were not conducive to documenting the changes and versions we went through.

I think that each portion of this course is necessary, the lectures, tutorials and process book. As I reflect I appreciate the way my understanding developed over time, and the links I was able to document between course components.

My process book was documented on my personal blog under the category “cmns 354”:


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