Research methods

There are a range of data collection methods that are appropriate and useful in the context of organic waste and UTS. Briefly, here are some examples and how they might be relevant in this context.


Physical audit: as used for the posts in Category A, when dealing with the products of a process, a simple and reliable method of collecting data on those products is to record them, eg. at the point of disposal. This can be done for an individual, as in the blog posts, or through observation for a large sample or population or through semi-automated solutions such as bottle recycling bins that count the number of bottles deposited into them.

Literature review: as used for the posts in Category C, literature reviews are critical to gaining an understanding of research that has already been done in the focus area – and therefore areas of study that may not need to be duplicated. (Medialab Amsterdam) Additionally, a literature review can provide the building blocks for further research, by shedding a light on areas that might not have been considered fully before. In terms of this project, through my own literature review I have discovered that definitions, methods, technologies and mechanisms for organic waste management vary widely across the world and even between jurisdictions in Australia, making a literature review valuable simply from the perspective of identifying the range of what is possible in designing waste management solutions.

Surveys and interviews: moving from the system and technology design side of waste management to the critical question of user interaction, surveys and interviews are critical to gaining a current and grounded understanding of how people interact with existing waste management systems and how they might react to potential new systems and designs. I believe one of the key challenges we will face in creating a design intervention for organic waste management at UTS is in engaging the university community in efficient use of the system, for example, waste separation at the point of disposal.

Environmental scanning: researching and assessing waste management from a design perspective requires us to also step outside our discipline to a degree and look at as much of the existing system as we can in order to understand where we might exert meaningful influence, or how the area we are working on will be affected by other dynamic parts of the system. Environmental scanning is a design research method that helps us achieve this by providing a loose framework to consider a wide range of attributes of a system, including social, political, ethical and organisational context. (CFC Medialab)


Author: Erland Howden

Designer, photographer & facilitator. Vego foodie. Passionate about environmental justice, community organising & travel.

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