This research investigates mediating artifacts as probes that have been used to explore current and future user needs in knowledge exchange between design researchers and the users of future products and services. Four types of mediating artifacts as probes are reviewed: Design Games, Cultural Probes, Generative Techniques, and Behavioral Prototyping. Design researchers variously found the following methodological advantages of mediating artifacts: (a) eliciting situated user needs, (b) eliciting divergent perspectives and needs, (c) supporting participants’ idea generation that leads to design solution ideas, (d) documenting elicited concrete and abstract types of knowledge, (e) revealing propositional, practical and sensuous knowledge, and (f) facilitating communication between participants and design researchers. The advantages articulated above are partly relevant to the abstractness of the artifacts. Abstractness in this research is characterized as either a general quality shared among a set of things and events, or a representative quality which shows designated aspects of things and
events. Abstractness can shape the physicality and interactivity of mediating artifacts to allow for (1) providing clear structures of problem spaces, (2) supporting easier manipulation of design solution ideas with tangibility, (3) enhancing the communicative qualities of probes to explore problem spaces and design solution ideas, (4) eliciting various perspectives and diverse design ideas afforded by degrees of ambiguity, and (5) enhancing adaptability of probes, models, and prototypes to multiple contexts. This research will be expanded further to investigate abstractness of the mediating artifacts as probes by designing participatory design games for a hypothetical design project with abstractness as a key characteristic

Full Text: