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Welcome to a Playable and Inclusive Theatrical Prop Making Research Project!

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TinkerProp project partner – Extant Theatre – the UK’s leading professional performing arts company of visually impaired artists and theatre practitioners. Extant pioneered theatre practice with the express inclusion of visually impaired  performers and audiences.

About me

My name is Magdalena and I’m a User Experience (UX) researcher and a theatre artist with a background in Occupational Therapy (OT), Psychology, and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). I’m also an accessibility advocate, and I run Bepartofit Hub, which is a voluntary organisation addressing social issues in an inclusive way by creating opportunities and implications of accessible technology to champion and support people with disabilities, hearing impairments, and mental health conditions.

This project was created as a part of my MSc in Human-Computer Interaction course at the University College London (UCL). I was researching how HCI method such as Wizard-of-Oz, speculative design, and audio gamification of ideation can help blind and partially sighted (BPS) people design theatre props, formally known as property – an object used on stage or screen by actors during a performance or screen production. My interest in inclusion, employment, theatre, tinkering and “making” stems from my OT background and previous experience of working with BPS artists, designers and coders whose work and/or artistic aspirations have often gone unsupported and/or unnoticed. Thus, this research project aimed to provide a platform for raising awareness on the specific issues that BPS creatives face in relation to artistic and design-focused education and employment, and to enable aspiring designers with sight loss to work creatively with the theatre sector on improving access and inclusion.

Research Information

WHAT WAS THE STUDY ABOUT?

The motivation for this study was to enable more BPS people to enter the workplace in the discipline of prop design within theatre, TV and Film industry. It was important for me to understand people’s experience and preference for the different formats of prop design learning and support tools. The outcome of this study aimed to prototype and evaluate a tool and guidance that can be shared with the theatre industry.

The project was a collaboration between the University College London (UCL), Global Disability Innovation Hub, and Extant Theatre as a part of an MSc research thesis. This study was composed as a prop design work-based simulation where participants taking part in the design phase of the study went through a conceptual prop-creation process experimenting with ideas whilst working in line with a professional design brief.

METHODOLOGY

Qualitative and quantitative research methods were used in this study. The design for the experiment was pre and post-test questionnaires and Wizard of Oz (OZ) technique.

PARTICIPANTS

7 subject matter experts (sighted and BPS) and 8 novice designers (BPS only) participated in this study. From the 8 BPS participants, 4 were allocated to a TinkerProp condition, and the other 4 participants were assigned to a Control group using an online randomizer.

WHAT PARTICIPANTS WERE ASKED TO DO? 

Participation involved:

  • Filling in a background survey.
  • Meeting remotely with the researcher to discuss study ideas via online call using a free conversation application called Microsoft Teams.
  • Working remotely to discuss a prop design project. During the two hours, participants were inventing a prop idea for a theatre play using a 1-2 page long concept design document listing design specifications and requirements. In the concept design document, they were asked to present their basic prop idea and outline how to utilize the prop within the play, explaining and defending all choices made. Concept design documents are concise short descriptions of a prop idea, technique, methodology, or solution for specific problems in technical theatre production. The participants could use text to explain the design proposal as a response to the presented brief.
  • Optionally, the research team offered to send participants simple craft materials such as wax sticks, paper, pencil, and plasticine. They could use these to add a visual concept design to their prop design document, but only if they’d wished to do that.
  • Prop design work didn’t require any graphic design or digital design skills.
  • Two independent judges assessed the work using design themes as per the design brief and additional creative inclusive design aesthetics measurements.

All participants needed to be a novice or beginner designers or artists with little or no prior experience in prop making.

Sketching TinkerProp

EVALUATION

To evaluate the design experience and quality of generated prop concepts, quantitative measurements were taken using the following scales:

  • Design experience evaluation – (post-study – TinkerProp and Control groups)
  • Extension to design experience evaluation (Fun, Understandability and Usefulness of the mini games) – (TinkerProp group)
  • Two independent artists/designers (sighted and BPS) evaluated prop design proposals created during the study – (post-study – TinkerProp and Control groups)
  • STUDY STATUS

    Completed – publication version in progress. The thesis attained a distinction and I’m determined to further reflect upon the process and implement the research findings in practice involving an extended collaboration with the disability community and theatre sector.

    Thank you for your consideration.