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Using situation theory to model information flow in design

Wu, Z. and Duffy, A.H.B. (2001) Using situation theory to model information flow in design. In: 13th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 01), 2001-08-21 - 2001-08-23.

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Information flow is intensive during a design process, where delivering timely and appropriate information is required. Sonnenwald [2] identified 13 communication roles that emerged during four multidisciplinary design situations in the USA and Europe. She stated that participants from different disciplines, organisations and cultures come to the design situation with pre-existing patterns of working activities, and specialised work languages. Different methods to represent information flow activities are used, varying in different companies, different disciplines, and different teams, which may cause misunderstandings particularly among design teams composed of different organisations. In this sense, it is important to present information flow in a rigorous way. Eastman and Shirley [3] developed a model of design information flow. The model dealt with design information management, reflecting entities, constraints, design states, design document accessed modes, transactions, and version identifiers. But, the development of their model was not based upon a theoretical foundation. In this paper, we develop an alternative model to present information flow in design based on a foundation of situation theory. The model may serve to analysis design information system and provide a basis for investigating the situatedness of design information flow. To be able to represent information flow we should firstly study its phenomena. Based on Sim's formalism of design activities, the theory of Speech Acts, Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW, and other works studying information flow, an example model for information flow in design is developed. A discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this representation method is carried out.