Re-Representation: An Active Agent and Mediator in Team-Based Design Thinking

PI: Professor Larry Leifer


Between an idea and an optimized product, service, or software, the sole means of conveyance is re-representation (Latour 1987:246). The choice of media and the resolution of a model have enormous impact on group interaction. Low resolution models incite generative, divergent conversations while high resolution models incite convergent conversations (Tversky 2006 and Edelman 2008). To move Marshal McCluhan’s famous dictum, "the medium is the message," (McCluhan 1964) to the next step, we propose that the medium is a cognitive tool which extends and modifies our ability to perceive, think and communicate. Simply stated the type of model and its resolution conditions both the conversations and characterizes the thinking in which team members engage. This assertion is in keeping with contemporary work in cognitive science regarding representation, tool use and cognition.  

Previous work at Stanford’s Center for Design Research correlated conversational parameters with performance in team based design.

We propose that media can be used to control conversational parameters in order to improve design performance. To facilitate this work, we introduce the concepts of media models and media cascades.