Building the Narrative Cloud: Reflection and Distributed Cognition in a Design Studio Classroom


Education in Human-Computer Interaction Design (HCI/d) aims to instill a human-centered perspective among its students, encouraging a designerly way of thinking that allows them to develop creative solutions that consider the implications and consequences of people interacting with technology. It has been known that a practicum (Schön, 1987) environment contributes to developing this way of thinking by means of reflection (Schön, 1987). We present in this paper a pedagogical approach based on narratives to be employed in studio-based courses for HCI/d. We discuss how oral and multimedia narratives support in conveying content-independent concepts that affect the learning experience. We propose a set of components to help the elaboration of these stories. Additionally, we introduce a conceptual space called the narrative cloud, which helps us to elaborate on the ideas regarding this approach and closely ties to the concept of distributed cognition (Hutchins, 2000). Therefore, the goal of this paper is establish a base for discussing a further development of this approach, or any framework or methods where narratives constitute a fundamental element that supports reflection in HCI/d education.

The Narrative Cloud and Content-Independent Concepts by Sosa Tzec, Beck, and Siegel
In this approach, the instructor –labeled “i” in the figure– selects one concept as an intellectual foundation for a story. The aim is to engage students –labeled “s” in the figure– into reflection (Schön, 1987) upon themselves as learners, team members, and ultimately, as agents of positive change through and by HCI Design. We call these foundational concepts Content Independent Concepts (CIC). For conveying these concepts we suggest oral and multimedia stories (e.g. video clips or musical pieces). As a result of this sensitizing process, the students start building their own stories. These stories and all the other elements of the studio –people, infrastructure, and materials– function as units for distributing cognition and conform to a bigger story, a conceptual space we call The Narrative Cloud.


Sosa Tzec, O., Beck, J. E., Siegel, M. A. (2013) Building the Narrative Cloud: Reflection and Distributed Cognition in a Design Studio Classroom. DRS // CUMULUS 2013. 2nd International Conference for Design Education Researchers. Submitted for Publication. [PDF]
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Related Material

Siegel, M. & Stolterman, E. (2008). “Metamorphosis: Transforming Non-designers into Designers”, DRS Conference, July, Sheffield, 2008. [PDF]

Nelson, H. & Stolterman, E. (2012). The Design Way. Cambridge: MIT Press. [More info]