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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What does it take to be a haptician? : how community can empower designers and expose the many ways of being an expert Elbaggari, Hannah Rachel Yuen


Haptic design practices have grown from an engineering sub-field in the 90's to encompass areas of robotics, human-computer interaction, the creative arts, and more. Yet designing in the haptic medium remains complex and difficult to learn regardless of one’s training, in part because access to specific knowledge, skill, and tools is currently limited outside academia and certain industries. Within academia, there has been haptic design and knowledge sharing but these efforts are often accessible only to designers in the STEM-aligned, technical sphere. Technological feats have enabled the field of haptics to grow; we are hearing it discussed in our everyday devices, courses, and projects. With the barrier to entry in the field lowering, challenges of haptic design are also shifting. We explore the opportunity opening at this crux, one where we want to enable and empower hapticians to create and understand touch sensations by expanding the contexts of haptic design. We do so through a design justice framework and a feminist, participatory qualitative approach. Individuals remain experts in their own lived experiences, whether that be topical, experiential, or technical, but is there a way to embolden this specialized haptics knowledge for larger collaboration and knowledge sharing? We hypothesize that a suitably structured community resource could provide an empowering, inclusive, and reflexive design ecosystem for hapticians of diverse backgrounds. Our research took two parallel paths: understanding the perspectives of “peripheral” hapticians and designing an online resource for community building for haptic design (N=6). In our understanding path, we learned that underrepresented hapticians need support in their interest areas, specifically through a welcoming community space. Additionally, we described obstacles still faced in the field and presented eight social principles for haptic design. In our designing path, we applied our findings to create a haptic design resource (Haptics Commons) which we evaluated in a pilot study (N=6). We found that representing perspective hapticians as both practitioners (people with specialized skill) and explorers (people looking to learn) on a community platform gives promise to inclusivity and empowerment.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International