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7 The second longitudinal phase: analysis and findings

7.2.3 Imbrication 3 (Human à material)

Thesis 144 An important reason for the success of the plug-in was that the digital materiality of both the existing software and the plug-in allowed the workers to manipulate with it in a relatively straightforward way. That is, they could with relative ease integrate the plug-in into the existing infrastructure created by previous imbrications (existing software and hardware and existing organizational routines). Due to these factors, the ostensive pattern of actions that the plug-in afforded, supported their goal. Consequently, the meeting participants could use this new pattern of actions as: a reliable guide for their future performances, as a way to explain and legitimize past actions to the other actors involved, and as a way to make sense of their current performances because the affordances, enabled by the plug-in, supported their goals.

1) Change in the organizational routine creates a new human agency and a new goal.

As the more immersive 3D images replaced physical models, they discovered some issues with the immersive 3D images. That is, while the 3D images provided users with a more vivid and detailed vision of future building projects, the way users perceived scale and depth sometimes hindered communication between meeting participants. In particular, clients and users had to interpret and imagine the scale and depth of the designs that the 3D images portrayed. For example, the size of a window relative to the wall can be difficult for non-professionals to assess.

And while the architects and engineers often included other items in the immersive 3D images to better show the scale and depth of building projects, for example by placing a human-sized figure next to a door, misunderstandings could arise between the meeting participants. On the other hand, the physical models, while often abstract, were physical and could thus provide a more intuitive form of scale and depth to users and clients but were inefficient, and hard to change.

As a result, the architects and engineers wanted to acquire an alternative tool that could provide a more intuitive form of understanding scale and depth to the often non-professional users and clients that were participating in the meetings.

Thesis 145 In 2014, when they started to experiment with head-mounted displays, they had just entered the mainstream market, so the head-mounted displays that were accessible to the architect office were still rather simple. The head-mounted displays were simple in the sense that they only consisted of a plastic casing with two lenses and a head-strap – but they did not have an inbuilt display.

Instead, a smartphone could be slotted into the casing and act as the display. The smartphone could then show a panoramic view by using 3D images stitched together and created by the aforementioned CAD software and plug-in they were already using in the organizational design and meeting routine.

By looking at these 3D images wearing the head-mounted display, the user got the illusion of standing in a VE and a greater sense of depth and scale – the experience became more immersive compared to the 3D images that they previously showed on a screen or on paper to the meeting participants. This is due to the head-mounted display’s ability to enable users to look at a panoramic view through stereoscopic lenses in a natural manner (proprioceptive matching), as well as its ability to provide a more inclusive experience as the users were shut off from the surrounding environment.

The head-mounted display was then enrolled in the performance of organizational meeting routine:

"…when [the clients were standing] in the middle of the church room…and looked around… [they] were very happy with that. 'Cause it gives a very different...it's already a very different spatial exterior experience than a still

image…I mean, this is obviously [just] a rendering [3D images] from the inside [of the church room], but by just being able to look around, you get a better understanding of the true size of the space. More than in a still image.

Despite obviously being the same space…” (Interview – Architect).

In short, the head-mounted display seemed especially useful during meetings where the clients and users did not have any experience with interpreting 2D drawings, 3D images, or other architectural artifacts.

Thesis 146 7.2.4 Imbrication 4 (Material à human)

4) The material agency of the technology provides opportunity for new affordance(s).

The material agency of the head-mounted display facilitated its users with a more immersive and thus intuitive experience as it allowed them to look around in a natural manner and be less aware of their surrounding environment when the display was used during meetings. Consequently, the organizational meeting routine started to change.

5) The affordance(s) interact(s) with the organizational routine, which might lead to change.

In particular, the more immersive material agency of the head-mounted display, as well as the existing infrastructure it was conditioned of, allowed the actors involved in the existing organizational meeting routine to create an alternative ostensive pattern of which the head-mounted display was part of.

In this way, their goal of providing clients and users with an intuitive understanding of scale and depth had been achieved.

This new ostensive pattern, of which the head-mounted display was a part, became an alternative pattern to other already existing ostensive patterns (e.g. the display of 2D drawings on paper and 3D images on regular displays). However, they realized that this new way of making meeting participants understand the scale and depth of 3D images shared a trait with the physical models – it was inefficient. Because of this drawback, the architects and engineers that used this ostensive pattern as a guide for their performances had a hard time legitimizing the continued use of the alternative ostensive pattern of which the head-mounted display was a part. Consequently, the actors sought for new ways to change the technology and the infrastructure of existing organizational routines and technologies upon which the head-mounted display relied on.

1) Change in the organizational routine creates a new human agency and a new goal.

As indicated in the aforementioned imbrication, the inefficiency of the head-mounted display made the actors that had utilized it for meetings question its usefulness. That is, while it had helped them to achieve their initial goal of letting especially non-professionals get an intuitive understanding of scale and depth, the resources that had to be allocated to prepare the head-mounted display for the meetings, the modelling, and the rendering (adding details) of four 3D images to create a panoramic view, were not seen as being worth the effort. Consequently, a new human agency was initiated by the architects and engineers which sought a way to make meeting

Thesis 147 participants understand the scale and depth of projects intuitively but effectively, in turn allowing them to move the project forward.