Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Michele H. Jackson

Second Advisor

John M. Ackerman

Third Advisor

Leysia A. Palen


This thesis explores the complex relationship between communication and design practice as they occur within the development of technologies. Contemporary theories of communication and technology provide a conceptual basis for treating communication and design as reflexive structuring acts that change the affordances of an interaction situation while embedded within an environment that constitutes the situation. Drawing upon some of these theories, a design research project is undertaken to define a general infrastructure for real-time interaction that affords users reflexive capabilities for redesigning and restructuring the relational situation from within. The design solution developed here proposes a variety of strategies to model the emergence, complexity, and multiplicity of objects as the negotiated outcomes of situated human-computer interactions. In order to consider the feasibility of this design, an inquiry is performed to assess contemporary approaches to reflexive infrastructure for real-time interaction. Various existing collaboration and coordination frameworks and support environments are examined that articulate solutions to elements of the problem space outlined in this thesis. The analysis focuses on the place-based and activity-based approaches to representing dynamic interaction situations exemplified by the research systems Orbit and Intermezzo. The way that these approaches enable and constrain the development of dynamic interaction situations provides a ground for considering the feasibility of the proposed mechanisms as means for reflexively modeling responsive emergence. The design research project undertaken here results in a more concrete proposal for design of infrastructures that reflexively model complex relationality and support emergent forms of coordination and codesign.