Action Research or Design Science Research as Methodology for the Development of a Historical Digital Graphical Novel? A Critical Systems Perspective


  • Diane-Lee Pretorius North-West University
  • Roelien Goede North-West University
  • JT Terblanche North-West University


Critical social heuristics, graphical novels, design science research, action research


The legacy of Nelson Mandela is part of the lives of most South Africans. His story inspires South Africans and people around the globe to forgive and work hard to achieve freedom from oppression and poverty. For this reason, we need to keep his story alive and teach young people about the sacrifices he made to achieve his goals. Funded by an international consortium, a project called Mandela27 was launched to educate people around the world on the life of Nelson Mandela. Part of the project involved the development of a digital graphical novel depicting life in the prison where he served a 27 year sentence.

This paper investigates action research and design science as design methodologies for the development of the digital graphical novel.  The development of the digital graphic novel was commissioned to the Serious Games Institute of South Africa (SGI-SA) based at the North-West University.  A serious game is a computer game that aims not only to provide entertainment but also to provide an educational experience to the user.  

The SGI-SA often uses design science research as research methodology when developing games. Design science research (DSR) is a methodology used mostly by engineers to develop artefacts. DSR aims to provide scientific rigour in the process of designing, developing, and evaluating artefacts. Its epistemological stance is that knowledge is created through the making of an artefact and evaluating the success thereof.  Many different approaches are documented but most often the following cyclic phases are proposed:  Awareness of the problem, suggestion of possible solutions, development, evaluation of artefact, and conclusion.

Since these phases are comparable with typical AR phases (diagnosis, action planning, action taking, and specifying learning) the developers of the digital graphic novel had to reflect carefully on AR and DSR to select an appropriate methodology for the project. Both these methodologies use existing theory to guide the development process. Critical systems thinking promotes holistic thinking, pluralistic problem solving, emancipation, and reflection. This paper provides a reflection on the design of the digital graphical novel from an AR and DSR methodological perspective within the framework of critical systems thinking.

Author Biography

Roelien Goede, North-West University

Professor of ITSchool of ITNorth-West UniversityVaal Triangle CampusVanderbijlparkSouth Africa



How to Cite

Pretorius, D.-L., Goede, R., & Terblanche, J. (2016). Action Research or Design Science Research as Methodology for the Development of a Historical Digital Graphical Novel? A Critical Systems Perspective. Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2015 Berlin, Germany, 1(1). Retrieved from