Homes for Life & Other Stories The Use and Evaluation of Design Fiction as a Means to Understand Sensitive Settings: a Case Study of Exploring Technologies for Dementia Care

in Thesis / Dissertation


Design fictions are used in HCI to position emerging technologies in fictional future worlds, through which the complexities of our relationships with technologies can be represented, explored and experienced. They promise to stimulate discussions about sensitive topics, such as the future of technology-enabled care, a complex area with contrasting emotional, social and practical views and wishes. However, the term design fiction is currently associated with a wide range of uses, and artefacts. It is also linked to contrasting philosophies and frameworks, which are often not made explicit, as I show in an initial survey with practitioners. This makes it difficult to identify what makes a design fiction good or effective for different purposes.
This thesis aims to answer the research question: How can design fiction be used and evaluated in understanding sensitive settings? I turn to the Constructive Design Research framework and adapt it to classify how design fiction is used in HCI. I outline how design fiction can be used in the showroom approach, where it is most commonly placed, but also how it can be used as a lab and field approach to gather insights into the responses to design fictions. I developed design fictions and explored how they can be used to further discussions around the use of monitoring technologies in dementia care: an area challenging to research because of ethical issues associated with deployment studies of prototype technologies.
The contribution of this thesis is threefold: first, a methodological contribution into the use of design fiction in HCI and an evaluation of the Constructive Design Research framework as a means to classify research through design fiction. Second, insights into participants' views and wishes about technology-led care in regards to dementia. Third, a design contribution of artefacts that can be used to stimulate further debate around the topic.