In the 2007 issue of Artifact Volume 1 the authors, Akama et al, explore the roles artifacts can play in doing design research. They conclude that artifacts are an appropriate methodological tool. (Akama et al) Below are three of their statements about how artifacts can be used while interviewing participants, followed by my analysis interpretation:
1. Triggers for reflection and imagination
The authors make a distinction between indigenous and introduced artifacts. Indigenous artifacts are familiar and more meaningful to the participant and can help trigger the reflection the authors speak of. Introduced artifacts can serve as a conversation starter and spark the participants imagination. (Akama et al)
2. Tools for the articulation and communication of ideas and experience
Bringing in artifacts as playful triggers can give the participants new means of communicating their ideas and experience beyond words. This can help facilitate visualization, co-creating meaning, and helps communicate relationships and interactions. (Akama et al)
3. Facilitators for participation and generative meaning-making
The authors found that artifacts can help the participants engage more with the interview process. By playing with toys and other artifacts, the participants are able to make meaning of their context, scenarios, and thoughts. (Akama et al)
What kind of information can artifacts reveal?
Artifacts can reveal behavior, cultural norms, historical influences, and much more. For example, someone who has a lot of athletic artifacts, sporting equipment, could presumably value an active lifestyle. Further investigation might reveal something else. Perhaps they no longer play those sports, or they are simply a fan of watching the sports and keep the items around as memorabilia.
Yoko Akama, Roslyn Cooper, Laurene Vaughan, and Stephen Viller. 2007. Show and Tell: Accessing and Communicating Implicit Knowledge Through Artefacts. In Artifact, Vol I, Issue 3. p 172–181.