Jen Yoohyun Lee - PhD. Design and Context

0 Projects


PhD Researcher

Jen Yoohyun Lee


PhD Title

The Effect of Narrative Formation on Design for Participation: Focusing on Group Chat Conversation as Participation and Practice


narrative formation; design for participation; group chat conversation; small stories approach; group decision-making

Research Abstract

This research exposes how the currently prevailing modes and applications of narrative in design serve to impose visions in a hegemonic way when setting context and presenting the overall intention and procedure. This occurs despite the intentions of designers to be inclusive in design decision-making processes. For that reason, this research aims to suggest an alternative to the conventional engagement with narrative in the contextualisation stage before ideation in design processes. It explores narrative dynamics in group decision-making processes to understand the capacity of participation and consensus reaching in computer-mediated communication, particularly group chat conversations. 

Based on a literature review on the shift of the narrative paradigm towards the social interaction approach, the research views narrative as social practice and probes the in-between state where narrative fragments are becoming full-fledged narratives. Systemic action research was undertaken in a group chat room of a physical community in South Korea to study how group conversations transformed into representative community narratives. Three distinctive narrative formation processes were identified as case studies. The non-linear conversational narratives were analysed through mixed methods at three levels of sense-making: macro level, meso level, and micro level. The macro-level analysis examined the narrative formation from the conventional Labovian perspective on narrative as an attempt to draw a connection between a linear plot deduced from interviews and actual conversations that unfolded through the exchanges of messages. The meso-level analysis examined the processual aspect of narrative formation by probing event structures based on the linear plots deduced from the macro level and emergent narrative structures based on the actual exchanges of messages. The micro-level analysis turned the focus towards the interlocutors and explored the effects of interactions that negotiated the outcomes of conversations through small stories analysis and social network analysis. 

This research elucidates how contextualisation of design practice can be guided by understanding the narrative formation process and how, in turn, the narrative-conscious design practice can better incorporate participation into design processes. Ultimately, the research suggests an iterative narrative formation approach for participation in design processes for future practice, by empathising with the context and defining the challenges and approaches, to acknowledge intra-actions between different levels of narrative dynamics that allow space for negotiation and therefore participation. This is to engender and prioritise relations through talk-in-interaction, which will lead to inclusivity, emergence, and awareness in design practice, as well as engagements sensitive to the digital communication affordances that require new ways of understanding narrative formation. 

Research Methodology

The design of this research is rooted in the social constructivist perspective. Complying with the perspective that meaning is constructed through interactions, this research took an abductive approach using mixed methods to explore the narrative-formation processes and to address how the notion of narrative as talk-in-interaction becomes instrumental in reframing participation in group decision making. With reflexive PAR and digital ethnography as the main means to collect group chat conversation data, and the multilevel systems approach as the basis for analysis, the narrative-formation processes are scrutinised at three different levels. 

Results / outcomes

1. Assessment of the attributes of conventional monological narrative form

2. Scrutiny on the processual aspects of negotiation in narrative formation

3. Review of the power dynamics associated with the participatory process 

4. Development of a model that indicates a narrative formation approach for participation in the iterative design process


BFA (Hons) - Pratt Institute
MA (Merit) - Goldsmiths College, University of London


Mr. Peter Hasdell  (Chief Supervisor) Gerhard Bruyns (Co-supervisor)

Specialization / Interests

Socially Engaged Practice, Social Design, Participatory Process, Community Organization, Social Media Communication

Date of Completion

August 2022