Scaffolding shared imagination with tangible design

Maarten L. Smith, Sander van der Zwan, Jelle P. Bruineberg, Pierre D. Lévy, and Caroline C. M. Hummels. 2021. Scaffolding shared imagination with tangible design. In Fifteenth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI ’21), February 14–17, 2021, Salzburg, Austria. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 9 pages.


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We follow up on a prominent line of work in which principles of embodied cognition are employed to not only account for skilled coping but also for more intellectual activities such as remembering and imagination. Imagination then, is not a reflective activity an individual does by herself, but a shared and embodied activity scaffolded by tangible design. We present a case study in which we designed a toolkit to facilitate imagining the Netherlands in 2050. We wrote speculative stories of people living in 2050 and designed an assortment of objects. We held several workshops to use the toolkit for shared imagination for our client, Rijkswaterstaat. We analyze how, in the context of the workshops, the stories and objects provided affordances for shared imagination. We thereby hope to have demonstrated that it is possible to design for more intellectual activities in a tangible and embodied way.