Phd: Exaptation

Children and creative technologies: an exaptive phenomenon.

December 2007. INRIA, Université Paris Sud.

M. Christian Jacquemin, comittee head
Ms. Wendy Mackay, Phd Director
Ms. Françoise Decortis, reviewer
M. Stéphane Natkin, reviewer
Ms. Edith Ackermann, examiner

Summary: Exaptation phenomena are defined as functional reconfigurations based on contingent, unpredictable rules. In a technological context, these may include, for example, episodes of technology change by their users, in rules that were not previously foreseen by the system designers.

There are two types of exaptations: modifications of existing functions to create new functions (co-opted adaptation), and the creation of new functions from non-functional characteristics (cooption). Such phenomena are difficult to study because they escape the traditional methods of examining interactive (hypothetical-deductive) systems.

These methods use an observation framework developed a priori, derived from rules defined by the designers (evaluation, prediction). They often only express properties previously defined in an evaluation grid and hide users’ creations and modifications. On the contrary, the emerging study of interaction can systematically describe functional changes in interfaces by users, in order to take these practices into account when designing technologies in the future.