Using web 2.0 technologies to facilitate the collaborative design process among undergraduate engineering students: an actor network study.
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In this thesis I am motivated by a keen interest in design collaboration, and a belief that the quality of design interactions could be enhanced by employing a repertoire of the new and emerging collaborative technologies in the design process. In this study I employed actor network theory’s (ANT’s) methodological and theoretical framework to investigate the use of Web 2.0-facilitated collaborative design by Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering students at the Harare Institute of Technology. In line with ANT, I traced the collaborative design process by following the actors in action (Latour, 2005) when the forces of the network were at work, picking up the traces they left behind to constitute the empirical data for the study. By employing ANT analytical tools the data of the network-tracing activity reveals that the Web 2.0-facilitated collaborative process is an emergent actor network that evolves from associations created among the actors as they negotiate the alignment of interests through a series of translations that occur through moments of problematisation, interessement, enrolment and mobilisation (Callon, 1986b). As the actors went through the moments of translation, various interpretations of the design problem were translated into technical solutions and procedures to be followed in search of a satisfying design solution. The process of achieving agreement (or a stable network) is dependent on the translations that take place among the actors. The analysis shows that Web 2.0-facilitated collaborative design is an emergent process. It is a process that evolves from a translation process, during which a hodgepodge of decisions that cannot wait are taken in a complex, dynamic, fluid and constantly changing environment where actions cannot be planned or predicted in any mechanical way (Akrich, Collan, Latour, & Monaghan, 2002). Therefore, the path that the design process takes cannot be predetermined, but emerges from the network of relations that are created by the actors as they work together to achieve their commonly agreed design goals. Considering the Web 2.0-facilitated collaborative as an emergent process clearly demonstrated that it does not take place in a step by step way, as depicted by many design models. Instead, the process moves back and forth between different domains as the design problem and solution co-evolve and are continuously up for revision (Downey, 2005; Petersen, 2013). The affordances of Web 2.0 technology supported the messy talk (Iorio, Peschiera, & Taylor, 2011) that was critical to the development of design solutions. The emergent character of Web 2.0-facilitated collaborative design allows for important theoretical and practical lessons for design educators, to improve the teaching and learning of the collaborative design process. With collaborative design as an emergent process, it is no longer methods alone that produce results, but the reassemblage of the totality of translation that takes place among the actors into a stable network of relationships, and it cannot be taught outside of authentic design projects.