Francesca Alby, Cristina Zucchermaglio

Designing technology as social practice

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This paper describes some of the results of a research project that studied web design practices in an Internet company. In this work setting, technology acts as both the instrument of mediation, which supports the shared realization of work practices, and as the product of that work activity. For this reason, of particular importance are the social practices by which the designers 1) incrementally and jointly imagine the portal that they have to develop; 2) make visible hidden parts of technologically mediated activities supporting processes of interpretation of user-interface interactions. The results show that these design practices are essentially realised through sociomaterial arrangements of designers and technologies (talk, body, computer, whiteboard, space, etc.). Designers use these arrangements to make phenomena collectively visible and tangible in relation to the aims of the design activity. These results highlight that design is a complex, situated and distributed phenomenon to be studied as a rational and individual task whose features emerge only with detailed analysis of the group's work practices.

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