B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1967
University of Heidelberg, Germany, 1968
M.A., Northwestern University, 1971
University of Frankfurt, Germany, 1973
Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1975
M.S., University of Colorado, 1990
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirement for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Department of Computer Science
This dissertation for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by
has been approved for the
Raymond J. McCall, Jr.
Date: August 5, 1993
Gerhard Fischer, Computer Science (co-chair)
Raymond McCall, Environmental Design (co-chair)
Clayton Lewis Computer Science
Mark Gross Environmental Design
Michael Eisenberg Computer Science
Wayne Citrin Electrical and Computer Engineering
Stahl, Gerry (Ph.D., Computer Science)
INTERPRETATION IN DESIGN:
THE PROBLEM OF TACIT AND EXPLICIT UNDERSTANDING
IN COMPUTER SUPPORT OF COOPERATIVE DESIGN
This work analyzes the central role of interpretation in non-routine design. Based on this analysis, a theory of computer support for interpretation in cooperative design is constructed. The theory is grounded in studies of design and interpretation. It is illustrated by mechanisms provided by a software substrate for computer-based design environments, applied to a sample task of lunar habitat design.
Computer support of innovative design must overcome the problem that designers necessarily make extensive use of situated tacit understanding while computers can only store and display explicit representations of information. The automation techniques used for routine design are not applicable: techniques are needed to support creative, tacit human understanding with explicit computer representations.
The process by which designers transform their tacit preunderstanding into explicit knowledge is termed "interpretation". Interpretation is necessary for solving design problems and collaborating with other designers. Considerable explicit knowledge is thereby generated in the natural course of designing. Often this knowledge includes the most valuable information that can be presented to designers who revisit these design projects or undertake similar projects in the future. If representations of this knowledge have been defined using computer-based design support systems, then the representations can be captured by these systems for the support of subsequent design work.
A theory of computer support for interpretation in design is presented in three stages. First, the role of interpretation in design is explored by reviewing descriptions of design by Alexander, Rittel, and Schön; by conducting a protocol analysis of lunar habitat design; and by applying Heidegger's philosophy of situated interpretation. Second, this analysis of interpretation is extended to define a theory of computer support. The features of this theory-support for the situated, perspectival, and linguistic characteristics of interpretation-are used to evaluate previous work on software design rationale systems. Third, design principles are discussed for HERMES, a prototype hypermedia substrate for building computer-based design environments to support interpretation in tasks like lunar habitat design. The hypermedia integrates a perspectives mechanism and an end-user language to capture and modify representations of the design situation, alternative perspectives on design tasks, and terminology for conceptualizing design issues.
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