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The meaning of near and far: The impact of structuring design databases and the effect of distance of analogy on design output

Fu, K and Chan, J and Cagan, J and Kotovsky, K and Schunn, C and Wood, K (2013) The meaning of near and far: The impact of structuring design databases and the effect of distance of analogy on design output. Journal of Mechanical Design, Transactions of the ASME, 135 (2). ISSN 1050-0472

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This work lends insight into the meaning and impact of near and far analogies. A cognitive engineering design study is presented that examines the effect of the distance of analogical design stimuli on design solution generation, and places those findings in context of results from the literature. The work ultimately sheds new light on the impact of analogies in the design process and the significance of their distance from a design problem. In this work, the design repository from which analogical stimuli are chosen is the U.S. patent database, a natural choice, as it is one of the largest and easily accessed catalogued databases of inventions. The near and far analogical stimuli for this study were chosen based on a structure of patents, created using a combination of latent semantic analysis and a Bayesian based algorithm for discovering structural form, resulting in clusters of patents connected by their relative similarity. The findings of this engineering design study are juxtaposed with the findings of a previous study by the authors in design by analogy, which appear to be contradictory when viewed independently. However, by mapping the analogical stimuli used in the earlier work into similar structures along with the patents used in the current study, a relationship between all of the stimuli and their relative distance from the design problem is discovered. The results confirm that near and far are relative terms, and depend on the characteristics of the potential stimuli. Further, although the literature has shown that far analogical stimuli are more likely to lead to the generation of innovative solutions with novel characteristics, there is such a thing as too far. That is, if the stimuli are too distant, they then can become harmful to the design process. Importantly, as well, the data mapping approach to identify analogies works, and is able to impact the effectiveness of the design process. This work has implications not only in the area of finding inspirational designs to use for design by analogy processes in practice, but also for synthesis, or perhaps even unification, of future studies in the field of design by analogy. © 2013 American Society of Mechanical Engineers.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Fu, K
Chan, J
Cagan, J
Kotovsky, K
Schunn, Cschunn@pitt.eduSCHUNN0000-0003-3589-297X
Wood, K
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Learning Research & Development Center
Date: 15 January 2013
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Mechanical Design, Transactions of the ASME
Volume: 135
Number: 2
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1115/1.4023158
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1050-0472
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2014 14:59
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2019 15:56


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