Department: School of Design
Degree programme: Product and Strategic Design
Author: Katja Battarbee
Title: Co-experience: understanding user experiences in social interaction
Level: Doctoral Dissertation
Number of pages: 217


The topic of the article-based dissertation "Co-experience: understanding user experiences in social interaction" is the definition of user experience in user centred design. In particular, the work discusses user experiences in social interaction. To provide a framework for understanding these experiences, the concept co-experience borrows from symbolic interactionism, a theory of meaning in social interaction. The work in general follows a pragmatist philosophy. The cases in the study include one large field study on mobile multimedia messaging, one smaller field study of a new product and examples from a few concept design cases. The dissertation consists of an introduction part and six published articles.

The aim of user centred design methods is to support the interaction between designers and users to inform the design process about the users needs, emotions and experiences. Previously, design literature has approached the subjective and individual phenomenon of user experience mainly from an individualistic viewpoint. However, the individualistic models are insufficient for accounting for what happens in the cases it is not possible to separate user experiences from the social interaction and doing together that happens. In social interaction, the recipient is used as a resource for the interaction. Actions and communications are designed to support a particular, often favourable, interpretation of self by the recipient. The study describes how the meaning of user experiences can also be subject to the same process.

The interpretation and evaluation of user experiences and their meanings takes place in social interaction, but it is also motivated and shaped by social interaction. Interpretations are made for others but also evaluated according to the situation they are received in. New ways of interacting with others emerge as the user begins to define the meaning of the product for him or herself.

Iterations in process and prototyping are the cornerstones of user centred design. Typically early models are rough and sketchy and later models are more functional and refined. Even if the existing situation is well understood, it is difficult to predict how peoples behaviour will change in response to a new solution. This suggests conducting field studies and letting users spend enough time with the experience prototypes. In order to design for co-experience, field prototyping and empathic observations need to be present in the early user research stages of concept design.

Materials: Book & PDF
Keywords: user centred design, user experience, social interaction, user study
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