Theoretical perspectives in studying design games as interaction

The objective of conversation analysis is to marvel at our ability as humans to make sense of each other, and occasionally transfer meaning across the vast void that separates us. In my research, then, the point is to marvel at how we can engage in such overwhelmingly complex activities such as playing games and coming up with new ideas. To be truly frank, I have skipped at least two dissertations' worth of groundwork and analysis to properly understand the phenomenon I am studying, and am therefore walking carefully in the cross-section of so many intertwining discourses.

But that, I'm afraid, is the role of applied science: to attempt solving the problems that arise in the world in their natural, messy form, trying and failing to learn all the lessons that basic researchers have made available. Here are the three synthetic perspectives that I'm trying to outline, utilize and develop in my dissertation.

1. Dialogical knowedge co-creation

The motivation for studying service design games in the field of industrial engineering and management lies understanding and exploiting the ability of service design games (SDGs) to facilitate knowledge creation in organizations. In my work I have chosen to utilize an interaction analytical approach to studying SDGs and as such will utilize a theoretical framework of dialogical knowledge co-creation, following Tsoukas (2009). This focus on the interpersonal creation of knowledge is reflected in the use of the term knowledge co-creation to delineate the phenomenon of dialogical knowledge co-creation from other perspectives such as knowledge management.

My contribution to this perspective will be a continuation of dialogical knowledge co-creation using conversation analysis in a setting of intentional knowledge co-creation. The conversation analytical approach will provide further understanding and examples of the structures employed in conversation of knowledge co-creation.

2. Scaffolding knowledge co-creation

The ability of SDGs to support knowledge creation is conceptualized in my work using the scaffolding metaphor which originates from learning science and sociology. This perspective, after Wanda Orlikowski, posits that all knowing is made possible in interaction with material infrastructure which both enables and restricts us. In this work scaffolding is extended into the realm of practice knowledge, the primary definition of knowledge in this work, to propose that action is scaffolded not only by material artefacts but also conceptual artefacts such as game rules and institutions.

My work will provide a process-oriented view into the role material and conceptual scaffolds play in a game setting. The analysis explores the different use of scaffolds in different phases of the game and as a part of different interaction structures.

3. Service design games as interaction

A study of the SDGs to scaffold knowledge co-creation will, finally, require a way of analyzing SDGs as interaction. This work is informed by game studies where games and play are studied as socially constructed activities, but the primary perspective for studying games in this work is institutional interaction.

According to Drew and Heritage (1992, 22), institutional interaction has three typical features:

  1. at least one participant is oriented to a particular institutional task or identity
  2. the interaction is restricted
  3. the interaction involves interpretation frames that are typical for that context

The contribution of my work for the study of service design games in particular and of games in genera is to provide an example of studying gameplay as institutional interaction constructed by the players and afforded by the game material, rules and the larger institution of games. 

Public beta of my dissertation is out: PLAY WITH ME HERE! Design games as scaffolds for knowledge co-creation

Go directly to the public beta release of my dissertation from this link


Design games as scaffolds for knowledge co-creation

Science is the pursuit of knowledge and as I have described over one master’s thesis, three conference papers and one journal article, knowledge is created in dialogue. With that insight and the ever-growing anxiousness to make headway with my dissertation while simultaneously working full time in the industry, I am making a step I haven’t seen anyone else do and would not have thought about just a year ago.

Today I’m releasing the up-to-date work-in-progress version of my dissertation on my website at I do this to open myself to criticism and feedback from the largest imaginable audience: The Internet. If you end up reading this document, I invite you to give your piece in any form you see fit, such as the following:

  • Commenting on the document: I have opened the document for anyone to comment with a username or anonymously. This allows you to ask questions or make suggestions directly to the text. This also helps me get a “heat map” of the text about which sections provoke most responses.

  • Commenting on the blog: If you would rather give feedback in long form or provide a piece in response, my blog provides a great platform to kick off a discussion by making your comment available to others.

  • Email/IM: If you would rather give private notes you can of course send me an email to otso.hannula (at) You can also just give me the highlights on any social media you see fit. ;)

To put it bluntly in the spirit of Ed Catmull in Creativity Inc., all dissertations start by sucking. In the document you will find a lot of (almost) empty headings and bullet points standing in for interesting and well-thought ideas, as well as passages lifted verbatim from my previous publications (with apologies to co-authors). If you feel like a section is just going nowhere, skip to the next one.

So my work sucks, and it is by opening my work to the world before it is too refined that I try to take full advantage of your feedback so that one day my work might not suck. It is in this moment that I feel more scared and less afraid than ever before.

I love you.

In Espoo, September 30th 2016,

Otso Hannula