Applying living Labs in the design of emerging digital platforms: A higher education case study in South Africa

Onderzoeksoutput: PhD Thesis


In this study, the Living Labs approach was evaluated as an approach towards
co-creating the design and implementation process of specific digital
artefacts. The design process of the UDUBSit emerging digital platform at a
South African higher education institution (HEI) was simultaneously
technological and social in nature, and it deeply reflected the underlying
mechanisms and tensions inherent to the emergence of planetary-scale
computation. The single case study analysis, conducted from a Critical
Realist perspective, was the product of a four-year longitudinal research
process focused on the development of a location-based, goal-focused mobile
application as an intended emerging social networking platform and emerging
digital platform. The emerging social networking platform has been developed
using the Living Labs methodology, with a particular in-case focus on digital
inclusion and online community building using mobile technology within the
context of a higher education institution in South Africa.
The study contributes towards addressing the current gap in the extant
literature at the intersection of Design Science Research (DSR), Digital
Platform (DP) Design and the discourse around Living Labs (LL). At the same
time, it also generates potentially useful insights to designers grappling
with platform design challenges for online community building and engagement,
specifically in a developing world context and a higher education (HE)
The contribution of this study to the Information Systems (IS) body of
knowledge is defining Emerging Digital Platforms (EDPs) conceptually, and
creating, refining and validating an analysis tool and conceptual model for
the analysis of the application of LL within the context of the design of an
EDP within the HE context in South Africa. In this regard, the Emerging
Digital Platform Lenses (EDP Lenses) were proposed and applied to analyse
three iterations of a (failure) case study of an EDP where the Living Labs
approach was applied up to the end of the platform’s existence, focusing on
co-creation and iterative design, and overcoming real-life barriers
encountered. Based on our analysis and findings, we present a comprehensive
set of EDP design heuristics that may improve future LL applications in a
developing world EDP design context and a higher education context.
The process of developing this proposed design analysis tool over the three
design iterations of the case, incorporated lessons learnt about digital
inclusion, the user experience, end-user co-creation, platform
institutionalisation, the capabilities and limitations of mobile technology
in a platform design context, and user community engagement. Furthermore,
critical and previously under-researched potential design blind spots and
forced pragmatic design compromises surfaced, which may hamper the more
effective application in a resource-constrained, developing world context
and a higher education context. Our understanding of platform design gained
from three design iterations and our analysis of the LL application process
compelled us to critique the LL methodology, informing this emerging
methodology with valuable insights and design heuristics. The study also
engaged in a critical analysis of the theoretical intersection of the LL
methodology (as an emerging theoretical area) and DSR.
Originele taal-2English
Toekennende instantie
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Breytenbach, Johan, Promotor, Externe Persoon
  • Van Audenhove, Leo, Promotor
Datum van toekenning22 mrt 2023
StatusPublished - 2023


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