Reflection for provoking alternative futures

August 2012

How can we improve an individual's reflection on current and past experiences that provoke alternative futures?

I have been thinking about my current project, and the associated research. I am interested in capturing unfamiliar and familiar aspects of an experience and representing them in ways to elicit reflection on the current state of “what is” that is embedded in the experience itself. It is envisioned that the action of reflecting on the experience may prompt insights into alternative futures. These alternatives are outcomes from the formation of mindfulness on the experience one is reflecting upon.Traditionally, mindfulness is associated to bringing awareness to the present experience at hand while being nonjudgmental in the approach. It is in this action that new ways of seeing the world may be invoked that lead to alternative futures. By using technology and design to create favorable conditions for reflection, being mindful of one own experiences – people, things, and practices, helps form a dialogue for questioning concepts such as the status-quo, “why are things like…”, and potentially may lead to, as in the case of the Community-Based Innovation project, product and service innovations, or ultimately improving ones life. Donald Schön defines the concept of reflective practice as “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” and problem solving. He further defines reflective practice into two perspectives: reflection-on-action as a process of using the notion of repertoire to reflect on an action that has taken place in the past; and reflection-in-action as the process that “reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on the prior understands which have been implicit in his behavior”. This is sometimes described as “thinking on our feet”. I plan on invoking the two perspective of reflections in our designs using various experimental methods and approaches. In recent times, the design community has coined the approaches of reflective design to achieve various goals for reflection: value-sensitive design concentrates on awareness of adjusting the priorities of an individuals values (i.e. sustainability) and in most cases resulting in an outcome of behaviour change – temporality or permanently; while critical design seeks to stop at provoking the individual by highlighting negative consequences on a statement regarding the status-quo. The intentions of this exploratory research are not to result in value provoking behavior change, or challenging statements of the status-quo without any clear post-reflection results. Instead, I believe there is a lack of research focused on reflection happening more aligned to the actual experience an individual has had in relation to the world around them. It is by reflecting on the qualities of that experience – at the same time enhancing mindfulness and creating a closeness to the individuals own life – that will potentially result in a new approach for design in fighting the status-quo, changing behaviour, or generally increasing the output of new ideas. I see there are several starting points for approaching this research: from the actors involved (individual to collective, or community) and their relationships to oneself and each other and the possibilities of “co-reflection”, provoking statements regarding an element of the status-quo, and from a technology explorations viewpoint (what is available to explore using technology and how that may shape what is captured and represented). These approaches are not mutually exclusive and may be applied in various combinations. In addition, the concepts that are conceived during this research will take on broad design principles that invite closeness to the experience – meaning the in-situ aspects of temporality and physicality; new forms of representation that invoke a kind of 6th-sense that will help create loose connections to past and current experiences, and repertoire; and harnessing human capabilities beyond the visual sensory system.

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