The Logic of Annotated Portfolios: Communicating the Value of ‘Research Through Design’

Bowers, John. 2012. The Logic of Annotated Portfolios: Communicating the Value of ‘Research Through Design’. DIS '12 Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference, pp. 68-77. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper examines Research Through Design as an orientation to so-called ‘Third Wave’ Human Computer Interaction (HCI). A number of recent critical reflections are reviewed and the ‘disciplinary anxieties’, which this approach to HCI has aroused, are discussed. Drawing on Feyerabend’s philosophical scepticism over methods and contributions to the Sociology of Science, it is suggested that design research might build its own ‘limited rationality’ rather than be brought in line with supposed norms for good research or criteria for rigour and relevance of unfamiliar provenance. To this end, a concept of ‘annotated portfolio’ is advanced, and detailed, as a means for capturing the family resemblances that exist in a collection of artefacts, simultaneously respecting the particularity of specific designs and engaging with broader concerns. The concept is demonstrated through annotating nine well-known pieces created by the Goldsmiths Interaction Research Studio. Treating this collection as an annotated portfolio highlights, formulates and collates interaction design issues in this work in a novel manner. On this basis, annotated portfolios are proposed as a viable means for communicating design thinking in HCI in a descriptive yet generative and inspirational fashion, without having recourse to standards of ‘theory’ which fit design practice uncomfortably.

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Additional Information:

The support of the European Research Council’s project on ‘Third Wave Human Computer Interaction’ is acknowledged.


Research through design, Third Wave HCI, annotated portfolios, interaction design, philosophy of design, sociology of science and technology.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Design > Interaction Research Studio



Event Location:

Newcastle University, United Kingdom

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Date Deposited:

17 Nov 2015 12:30

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:12

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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