Posts about: research

Reading group: Harrison et al, The Three Paradigms of HCI

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Notes from today’s reading group, where we discussed the following paper:

Harrison, S., Tatar, D., and Sengers, P. The three paradigms of HCI. In Alt. chi. Proceedings of CHI ’07. ACM Press, NY, 2006.

(Click for a big version)

Sketchnotes from reading group meeting for the paper "The Three Paradigms of HCI"

They list six intellectual commitments of the ‘situated perspective’, which is the third paradigm of the title. These are:

  • The construction of meaning as a central focus and seen as constructed on the fly by people in specific contexts through interaction.
  • Putting users in their place entails seeing the understandings that people have of their world are strongly tied to and informed by their varying physical and social situations. Understanding the local, situated practices of users.
  • Putting interfaces in their place means recognizing that the specifics of the place where interaction with interfaces takes place is a strong determinant of the meaning that people make of those interfaces.
  • Putting researchers in their place means also seeing the knowledge of researchers as situated within their own particular practices and, following from this, opening up for a diversity of research traditions to be brought together to understand a phenomenon of interest.
  • Explicit focus on values in design means a widening (and plurality) of possible criteria by which the worth of a design might be judged, including political, emotional, aesthetic and value-based criteria.
  • The necessity, but inadequacy, of theory entails a position toward theory that sees it as a useful lens for making sense of a setting, but at the same time as contingent upon the meaning that emerges through a process of design in a setting.

Materialities Influencing the Design Process Workshop

Friday, September 3rd, 2010


The week before last, I was at the Designing Interactive Systems conference. I was there as one of the organizers of a one day workshop on the topic of ‘Materialities Influencing the Design Process’. We haven’t managed to make much of a synthesis of the outcomes of the workshop yet, but I have got the documentation for the day up on line:

And here’s the abstract from the workshop website:

The use of material artefacts within the design process is a long-standing and continuing characteristic of interaction design. Established methods, such as prototyping, which have been widely adopted by educators and practitioners, are seeing renewed research interest and being reconsidered in light of the evolving needs of the field. Alongside this, the past decade has seen the introduction and adoption of a diverse range of novel design methods into interaction design, such as cultural probes, technology probes, context mapping, and provotypes.

Yet, interaction design does not have a cohesive framework for understanding this diverse range of practices. Such a framework would assist practitioners in comparing and choosing between methods across the different stages, contexts and stakeholder relations within a design process. It seems that one fruitful place to start in addressing this lack is to focus in on the common characteristic that these practices share of materialities influencing the design process. This workshop proposes to bring together practitioners, educators, and researchers to discuss and begin the development of a shared understanding around this theme.

Central Heating Interfaces

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Design Monday #1 – Central Heating (short version) from Rattle on Vimeo.

Interesting little presentation and blog post about central heating interfaces and how they could be re-designed also

Central heating systems have interfaces, and many of us interact with them every day, even if only by experiencing their effects.

[Via: Heating debate :: Dan Lockton]

Diagramming Action Research

Monday, February 9th, 2009
Diagram of action research cycle (from Checkland & Holwell, 1998).

Diagram of action research cycle (from Checkland & Holwell, 1998).

We had a little snow last night and it was quite cold outside this morning. It felt colder than it was, because of the wind and the slight sad drizzle. There’s a thermometer on the bridge that I check when it’s feeling especially cold, when I checked it today I was disappointed to find that it only read 0°C. I was hoping for something a bit more dramatic, -8°C would have been acceptable.

Above is a diagram I put together this morning for my thesis revisions. It describes an approach to research called ‘action research’, which is a form of research where the researcher engages directly in processes of change in a situation to enquire into a research theme of interest. The diagram is adapted from one presented in a paper by Checkland & Howel (1998), which describes the action research approach and points out some key challenges that action research practitioners must be aware of. Key among these, according to the authors, is that researchers must declare their research framework and methods before entering into a change process. This allows for researchers to ‘keep their intellectual bearings’ and provides a starting position against which to situate subsequent learning.

Action research is a controversial approach and it does raise difficult problems for the researcher, but nevertheless, it does provide a way to approach certain research questions which would be very difficult to address otherwise. Many research questions surrounding design are amenable to an action research approach.

Other happenings this week

  • Monday – discussing ‘provotypes’ with Jesper for Indoor Climate project.
  • Tuesday – design specialization student presentations.
  • Wednesday – teaching HCI: Motor behavior models for HCI.


Checkland, P. & Holwell, S., 1998. Action Research: Its Nature and Validity. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 11(1), 9-21. 

Happy Australia Day

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
My first every pavlova

My first every pavlova

We had some friends over for a little Australia Day party on the weekend. My contribution was a pavlova, pictured above. It’s the first time I’ve ever made one and it came out pretty good. There were also Tim-Tams, vegemite rolls and a bottle of Hardy’s – all courtesy of Ben and Sarah.

I haven’t posted much about work in the past couple of weeks. It’s been pretty busy. Last week we had a research seminar at Sandbjerg for the SPIRE centre. It ran on Tuesday and Wednesday, but I only joined for the second day. Wendy and I ran a little workshop to tighten the proposal for our edited volume. The results were encouraging and we will meet later this week to put together a call for participation for the people who could not attend. I also introduced the SPIRE blog, which I recently set up. Hopefully it will turn into a place where we can start to build more of an online identity – something that’s been sadly lacking so far.

On Thursday, the first and second year students presented the results of their Design Specialization course. This is a three week course where the students are able to set their own topics and objectives. They are free to either work alone, or in a group. I think it’s a pretty interesting concept for a course and the results were very impressive. I supervised two of the groups that presented, one was called ‘Software as a Design Tool’, where the aim the students had was to get some hands-on experience using software such as Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere. The students decided to combine their efforts to produce a video for the Segway track at Danfoss Universe, a local science park. The other project was called ‘Scrumgy’ and the purpose was to redesign an existing product (a networked media player) and rebuild it as a working prototype. It was really wonderful to see the dedication that all the students brought to their projects and the quality of the work that they produced in such a short period. We took some videos of the presentations they gave with the plan to put them up on YouTube, so once they’re up, I’ll add a link.

The week before last, I had a three-day teaching seminar organized by the University for new teachers. It was also at Sandbjerg, so I feel like I’ve almost spent as much time out there as I have at my office in the last two weeks. Learning about teaching is very important to me and the content seemed good, but unfortunately, the whole course is run in Danish and my Danish skills weren’t really up to the task. Hopefully the later parts of the course, where a mentor comes and works with us personally on our teaching will be more valuable.

There’s also quite a bit happening this week. Today and tomorrow, some researchers are coming down from the Interactive Institute Design Research Unit for a workshop titled “intangibles of everyday living”. The idea is to look for common research interests and possible cross-overs across some current and upcoming projects. Should be interesting.

…And of course, the thesis continues.

Translate Doc to Dansk

Monday, January 5th, 2009
Danish - English Dictionary

Danish - English Dictionary

Jeg taler ikke særlig godt Dansk (I don’t speak particularly good Danish), but I work in a Danish university. Therefore, I often use Google Translate for translating emails from Danish to English. That works well, but it falls down a bit when I need to translate a document with formatting such as headings or tables.

Today I found a nifty way to translate these kind of documents too. You need an account with Google Docs and you need to be prepared to publish your document as a webpage.

  1. Upload the document to Google Docs. If it’s in the new docx format, you’ll need to save it as something else first. I’ve tried with html.
  2. For languages that use characters other than the basic latin alphabet (e.g. æ, ø, å), check that these haven’t turned into some other character in the process of being uploaded. I found that æ turned into ¾, ø turned into ¿, and å turned into Œ. Use the find and replace function to revert to the proper characters.
  3. Choose the ‘Publish as web page…’ option from the share menu.
  4. You’ll be taken to another page with a publicly accessible link to your document. Copy this link.
  5. Go to Google Translate and paste the link into the text field.
  6. Choose the languages to translate from/to and click translate.
  7. You should see a translated version of your document with the formatting basically intact. Copy the url at the top and you should be able to share it with other people (as long as the document remains published).

Here is an example of a document that I translated this way.

If you have an account with some other online document editor (e.g. zoho writer) I guess a similar procedure could be used there.

Don’t Stay Still

Monday, January 5th, 2009
Snowy Bicycles at Alsion

Snowy Bicycles at Alsion

We had the first decent snowfall of the season last night. Because it started snowing as the sun was going down, I did not realize how much snow there was until this morning. When we went outside, it was an exciting surprise to find enough snow for a quick snow-fight before we all headed off for school and work. It’s very beautiful and lots of fun, but cold! My coat is not warm enough for this weather, so I need to keep moving around. The ground is slippery too; slick with ice in places. Cars were skidding on the slope from the bridge up to the church.

Despite the unusual weather, the office feels normal again today, with the usual background morning coffee chatter. It’s a nice change from the ‘I Am Legend‘ atmosphere of last week. It’s not motivating to come in to work and sit completely alone.

My main task for this week is to continue with thesis revisions. As well as that, I will give some thought to the three-day teaching course I’m to take next week and follow up on some student contact. But the most important thing is to keep that darn thesis moving.

Gathering, Showing, Reflecting

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
Workers on the waterfront of Alsund

Workers on the waterfront of Alsund

A still grey day today. Across the water, workmen are slowly moving. Seemingly, their work requires a boat, a front-end loader and a flat-deck truck. I have no idea what they are doing.

Its a busy week for the students of User Experience Design; Their final week. There’s an exhibition today (Tuesday), an exam on Thursday and on Friday we will hold a course reflection session. Everyone has remained focused over the last week, so they simply need to put in a final effort now to gather all the threads of their project into a coherent story.

The purpose of the reflection session on Friday is to look back at what we did in the course, highlight the things that worked well, and suggest changes that we could make to the course for next year. I hope for a positive and constructive dialog with the students.

Otherwise, work continues in other areas:

  • On Monday, Wendy and I met to hash out a rough structure for an edited volume of research papers that are emerging from the SPIRE centre.
  • On Wednesday, Trine, Carsten and I will meet with Lars Bo and other representatives from FOCON to discuss progress on a Delphi Survey we are running as part of the Tracker project.
  • Today, I’ll set up a wordpress blog for the SPIRE centre so we can start writing about who we are.
  • …and the thesis revisions.

Winding Down, Winding Back Up

Monday, December 8th, 2008

It was snowing here last week. The days are getting shorter and darker. There seems less time in each day than the one before.

Last week, on Friday we went to visit Thomas at Bagsværd Sø. The students put a lot of work in to making sure that their prototypes all worked and could be tested with Thomas and the rowers. After an intensive week like that, the tendency is sometimes to relax and recover a bit. I hope the students don’t do this, because next week is the final week for the course and there simply isn’t time to rest right now. What I need to help them do this week is very quickly transform their experiences and feedback from the visit into an improvement on their design that they can implement in time for next week’s exhibition and exam.

Now that User Experience Design is (like the year) drawing to a close, other projects are rumbling and grumbling back to life. The edited volume with Wendy needs to be given an initial shape, and the Delphi survey with Trine and Carsten (and soon Tamim) requires a push through to completion. And somewhere deep down (growling, howling) is the thesis. It needs to be brought back to an everyday-work-routine.

Animated Gesture Data Plots

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
3D plot of gesture data

3D plot of gesture data

I was going through some old files today and found some 3D plots I’d made of acceleration data recorded from gestures as part of my PhD work. I used gnuplot to create a series of plots from lots of different angles so I could join them together into a movie that would show the cloud of data rotating in space. Unfortunately, the movies didn’t work very well on my computer when I tried to open them today. Quicktime complained about requiring additional components to watch them, but then gave me no clue as to which component I needed.

I was a little disappointed until I realized that I could take the series of original image files and replicate the effect fairly simply in JavaScript and even add some interactivity (I’ve only tested it in Firefox).

I don’t really know what the use of these plots is, but they’re somehow intriguing. If I can find the original image files for the other gestures I recorded, I’ll put some of them up too. It’s very interesting to see how the gestures have different patterns of acceleration.