From the Ground Up: Designerly Knowledge in Human-Drone Interaction
Licentiatavhandling, 2023

There are flying robots out there — you may have seen and heard them, droning over your head. Drones have expanded our human capacities, lifting our sight to the skies, but not without generating intricate experiences. How are these machines being designed and researched? What design methods, approaches, and philosophies are relevant to the study of the development (or decline) of drones in society? In this thesis, I argue that we must re-frame how drones are studied, from the ground up, through a design stance. I invite you to take a journey with me, with changing lenses from the work of others to my own intimate relationship with this technology. My work relies on exploring the fringes of design research: understudied groups such as children, alternative design approaches such as soma design, and peripheral methods such as autoethnography.

This thesis includes four articles discussing perspectives on designerly knowledge, composing a frame surrounding the notion that we may be missing out on some of the aspects of the wicked nature of human-drone interaction (HDI) design. The methods are poised on phenomenology and narratives, and supported by the assumption that any subject of study is a sociotechnical assemblage. Starting through a first-person perspective, I offer a contribution to the gap in research through a longitudinal autoethnographic study conducted with my children. The second paper comes in the form of a pictorial expressing a first-person experience during a design research workshop, and what that meant for my relationship with drones as a research material. The third paper leaps into a Research through Design project, challenging the solutionist drone and offering instead the first steps in a concept-driven design of the unlikely pairing of drones and breathing. The fourth paper returns to the pictorial form, suggesting a method for visual conversations between researchers through the tangible qualities of sketches and illustrations.

Central to this thesis, is the argument for designerly approaches in HDI and championing the need for alternative forms of publication and research. To that end, I include two publications in the form of pictorials: a publication format relying on visual knowledge and with growing interest in the HCI community.

design epistemology

sociotechnical systems

human-drone interaction

first-person methods

Torg Blå, Hus Patricia Forskningsgången 6, Lindholmen
Opponent: Audrey Desjardins, University of Washington, USA


Mafalda Samuelsson-Gamboa

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Interaktionsdesign och Software Engineering

Living with Drones, Robots, and Young Children: Informing Research through Design with Autoethnography

ACM International Conference Proceeding Series,; (2022)

Paper i proceeding

Conversations with Myself: Sketching Workshop Experiences in Design Epistemology

ACM International Conference Proceeding Series,; (2022)p. 71-82

Paper i proceeding

Wisp: Drones as Companions for Breathing

ACM International Conference Proceeding Series,; (2023)p. 1-16

Paper i proceeding

Conversational Composites: A Method for Illustration Layering

ACM International Conference Proceeding Series,; (2023)p. 1-13

Paper i proceeding

The Rise of Social Drones: A Constructive Research Agenda

Marianne och Marcus Wallenberg Stiftelse (M&MWallenbergsStiftelse), 2020-01-01 -- 2023-12-31.



Övrig annan humaniora




Torg Blå, Hus Patricia Forskningsgången 6, Lindholmen


Opponent: Audrey Desjardins, University of Washington, USA

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