In a map, you know where you are. “You are here” is the confirmation of your position in the landscape within which you and others are moving. Knowing your current position is crucial if you want to map a path to a particular place. This is the case in a design project, because you want to get from “here” (the now) to “there” (a desired future state) where you will have made your innovation. Successful collaborative design teams are described to be aligned in their viewpoints, so they are able to operate in a “truly interdisciplinary” fashion (Brown, 2009).

The “you are here” metaphor first appeared in a phone conversation with Danny Hope in consultation for our project. He used the metaphor of “landscape”, and we discussed the workability of this image. Landscape as a metaphor, as an image, as an artefact shaping design activity.

For our project, we are exploring mapping as a tool to facilitate our collaboration. Creating a user journey map or a user story map is based on the collecting of data about a use practice. Use practices are represented as activities, tasks, ideas, emotions, and materials/technologies used. The method we explored in detail is “User Story Mapping”, which Jeff Patton explains in a video (1). In user story mapping there is usually a chronological order (from left to right), and a hierarchy from larger activities to smaller tasks and resources needed (from top to bottom). The data feeding the map is made up of interviews, observations, own experiences and ideas, as well as technical details and business goals. The mapping activity is an arranging and ordering of data. This activity is done by the team in collaboration. The map is an artefact that ensures the representation of all data collected. Furthermore, the map enables the creation of a “here” position for the team within the landscape they are seeking to change.

The “here” is a form of validation within the team of where to begin a project. In science, the validity of data is commonly enriched by triangulation through capturing “different dimensions of the same phenomenon.” (2) These different dimensions can be understood as the different viewpoints of team members. The map is a design tool to aid the process of amalgamating these different viewpoints. People have different ideas and different understandings of things. Jeff Patton (2014) visualises these different ideas as differently shaped forms. Ideas begin to form at the beginning of a project. The ordering activity begins even before user data is collected. Each team member’s ideas are already the products of ordering processes. The map facilitates the alignment of these ordering processes that already take place. 

The mapping activity facilitates the creation of a shared understanding, through aligning individually shaped ideas. Jeff Patton theorises that through team members visualising their individual ideas in the map, the amalgamation of these individual ideas can be negotiated. The negotiation takes place through agreeing how elements on the map are arranged and ordered. Through conversations that challenge each others’ ideas mutual understandings are formed and visualised. He further describes that the conversations are experienced as a moment in time and space, and therefore last as a shared memory. The map aligns individually shaped ideas into one shared idea. Shared understanding within a project can be a useful resource for working together on a project successfully. The mapping activity facilitates the negotiation of a “here” that can be the beginning of the track towards the future.

 

Footnotes

1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AorAgSrHjKM&feature=youtu.be

2 https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_triangulation_of_data_in_qualitative_research_Is_it_a_method_of_validating_the_information_collected_through_various_methods

References

Brown, Tim. (2009). Change by design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Patton, Jeff. (2014). User story mapping: discover the whole story, build the right product. Cambridge: O’Reilly.

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