When Understanding Follows `Experiencing’: A Report from Research in the Field

Bhavna Hariharan and Sheri Sheppard
Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305, USA
E-mail: bhavnah@stanford.edu, sheppard@stanford.edu

Syed Shariq
School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305, USA
E-mail: sshariq@stanford.edu

This paper describes two case studies where immersive `experiencing’ of a novel concept led to a better understanding of it. This approach helped bridge cultural and academic divides. By having a shared experience, the members of a multi-disciplinary, distributed project aimed at poverty alleviation created shared meaning. The creating and experiencing of prototypes proved to be a transformative experience. These cases suggest the engineering students, who are increasingly working on design projects in developing countries and other culturally unfamiliar situations, would benefit from learning to undertake such immersive experiencing as part of how they approach design. This argument is made in the context of John Dewey’s model of `active doing and undergoing’.


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