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Designing with children: Spatial Literacy explored through Communication between Children and Spatial Designers

Sorn, Masa (2017) Designing with children: Spatial Literacy explored through Communication between Children and Spatial Designers. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

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With this PhD thesis I explore the ways in which spatial literacies are manifested and negotiated in interaction between children and designers engaged in spatial design. I do so by describing the ways in which talk-in-interaction between children and spatial designers is accompanied by gestures and the use of artefacts. By extending the theory surrounding everyday literacies and multimodal language to the field of spatial design, I draw on a cross-disciplinary theoretical framework of ‘spatial literacies’ to understand the data through the lens of ‘reading and writing space’. I use this framework as a starting point as well as an analytical lens for exploring my research interests. Within the context of three live spatial design projects, this research draws on principles of Focused Ethnography to collect data in naturally occurring interaction (Knoblauch, 2005; Wall, 2014). The case study projects took place in 2014 in Germany, Slovenia and the UK, engaging children aged 6-10 years through various design methods (sketching, model-building, making videos) with the process of designing various spaces for children (a department store café area, primary school open spaces and a primary school playground). My role in the German and English case studies focuses on being a researcher, whereas in the Slovenian case study I adopt a dual role of a designer and researcher. A novel combination of Ethnography, Autoethnography (Ellis and Bochner, 2013, 1996; Geertz, 2000) and Conversation Analysis (Antaki, 2011a; Sacks et al., 1974; Schegloff, 2007) is used to capture a unique portrayal of how two cultures – the culture of children and the culture of spatial designers – meet through the process of communication. Besides the methodological contribution to knowledge, this research adds an original contribution to the broader debate on how to support more effective communication in spatial design. Key findings show how spatial literacy can be a social, interactional and flexible process rather than an unchangeable skill that people ‘possess’. Throughout the three case studies, the designers were observed to use their talk, gestures and the use of artefacts to engage children in a creative exchange of interpreting space representations, while also expanding the children’s skills to ‘read and write space’. The designers created conditions for children to see and experience space in new ways through demonstrating the relevant skills for reading and writing space, required to express their spatial design ideas.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Spatial literacy Spatial design Design participation
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Architecture (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.720078
Depositing User: Dr Maša Šorn
Date Deposited: 28 Jul 2017 10:23
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:43
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/17893

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