In Search of a Unit of Analysis for Designing Instruments

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Pascal Béguin


A welcome topic of the new journal Artifact is to promote as a distinct academic field the transdisciplinary approaches centered on design research. One of the conditions for such a transdisciplinary approach is that the different actors recognize the specificity of the contributions of other actors and the complementary nature of their respective productions. In this essay, I will argue that the different contributions of experts in design must be completed by users’ constructive activity. More particularly, my focus is to search for a unit of analysis that helps to build shared references between users and designers. I will proceed in two steps. In the first, I will suggest that an instrument cannot be confused with an artifact, and that it is the user or the worker who gives to an artifact the status of an instrument. In a second step I will describe the design process as a dialogical process in the Bakhtinien sense. I will conclude with comments on “what is an artifact?”

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