In today’s meeting we mainly focused on research methods. We began by discussing the knowledge I had gleaned from reading through Rose Johnsons’ (previous HCI PHD candidate at the OU) thesis. We discussed how a thesis is constructed and the different types of research methods and epistemological philosophies that might be followed. Marian spoke about positivism and constructivism and lent me a book to read about Research Design – Creswell – Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches.


We also discussed conferences and how the different major hci conferences relate to each other. Janet suggested that while conferences might have a main focus e.g. TEI on tangible interaction, CSCW on social impact, they cover a broad area and there is some crossover between them. Sometimes the emphasis of a conference will move towards a particular subject without having been initially set up to do so. It is quite an organic and dynamic process. CSCW, for example, has attracted papers that deal with social interactions of large groups of people. Things like crowd sourcing and social media are important topics.

Next, we went on to discuss two set readings:

We initially discussed the fact that this paper has framed research by design in a particular way. It is not a definitive account but an opinion. The approach did help me to gain a better grasp of what is meant by the research by design approach.

One of the most important topics we covered was the subject of communication and what the text says about this. In the paper Forlizzi et al. suggest that designs are a medium for researchers to communicate their approach to solving a problem to other researchers. This idea is captured in the statement – “Design artifacts are the currency of design communication.” The use of the term currency emphasizes how designs are a means of exchange.

Together we were less taken with Forlizzi et al.s conceptualization of research by design as the search for the right solution to a question. This frames research as the pursuit of truth. This is an epistemological philosophy that doesn’t fit well with human-computer interaction research in many cases because there is no way of defining what is an absolute truth. Many of the topics of study focus around social interaction and human behavior, which we thought fits better with a constructivist approach to epistemology. We suggested that there is no absolute truth and the focus should be on how people are perceiving the world and what their behavior tells us about them. The goal is to use design to discover which questions to ask, which can help us to scaffold a better understanding of human behaviour rather than which things to make. This is continuous task which can always be extended.

  • Rogers et al – Ambient Influence: Can Twinkly Lights Lure and Abstract Representations Trigger Behavioral Change?

We discussed the different research methods used in this paper and the process that went into building the study. One of the key points articulated by Janet was that the paper exemplifies an open approach to doing research by design where there is no set hypothesis and a broad objective. In the end the researchers find that people use the designs they made for reasons that they were not purposed for. This is just as valid an output as any other for the research. The twinkly light s attracted people who just wanted to have fun with them and this can tell us something about this type of interactive system. This kind of unchartered-for finding is valid and should be spoken about in the paper. We spoke briefly about Gaver’s work and Paul Marshall’s and how studies, like the Drift Table have been set up specifically to see how people construct their own understanding of what an objects purpose is. Ambiguous design that provokes creativity, social interaction.

The paper itself uses a mixed research method where qualitative data is gathered along with quantitative data. On of the most interesting contributions of the research comes from the comparison of these two datasets. The fact that people don’t act in reality how they perceive that they do in their own mind when it comes to ecological behaviour.

For the next meeting

How quantitative and qualitative data are combined, compared, used in parallel is one of the topics in the book that Marian lent me and I will investigate it further.

For the next meeting I will also be planning two more reading focused on HCI for mental healthcare, I will bring he sprite catcher device and make some plans for a first study.

Marian suggested that I should make a list of what findings I would like to target and then put them in an order of priority.

I also said I would continue to work on my annotated bibliography


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