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Methodological Diversity in Design Fixation Research

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Design fixation occurs when designers’ prior experiences limit their imagination, leading to a restricted interpretation of the design problem or the repetition of prior solutions. As a research area focusing on human behaviour it is unusually restricted in its methodological choices, primarily adopting an experimental approach, much of which follows the example set by studies conducted in the 1990s. This gives rise to concerns that design researchers are themselves fixated, unduly repeating a prior solution (a method to study a phenomenon) and exhibiting a restricted interpretation of the problem (what that phenomenon is). The low level of methodological diversity limits our ability to interpret the relevance of prior work, plan new studies and impact practice. Where researchers in other disciplines have made similar observations, there have been calls for change, the barriers to change have been identified and the routes to overcome those barriers have been proposed. Some of those arguments make two points that are especially relevant for fixation research: (1) that research is a creative activity which can be framed and approached as a design project, and (2) that academic disciplines should apply their own domain knowledge to better understand how their disciplines are behaving and how they should behave. In the case of design fixation research, these two points overlap and yet that seemingly hasn’t stopped the community who study design fixation from exhibiting behaviour that their own research (and also research into how research is done) would warn against. This talk will address these issues with the hope of encouraging discussion and debate, not just about design fixation research but also other research topics.

This talk is part of the Arts and Creativities Research Group series.

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