Here are some of the areas of research that I am working on.
As a whole, I am interested in research-through-design, and how the process of designing artifacts and probes can not only be used to generate new information through testing, but can also be a source of understanding in and of itself. As such, what is presented here is a collection of not only research concepts, but also reflections on design concepts and how they created understanding.
This is the initial poster presenting the Fractured View for the Intel ISTC for Social Computing. More information about process, theory, and testing will appear in this space in the future.
Posted here to get feedback on the topic, this position paper examines skeuomorphs and the value of understanding how they could fit into practices of adoption in digital technologies. While there are a number of perspectives that see skeuomorphs as limiting, this tries to find what can be good about them.
Skeuomorphs are holdovers from previous material construction requirements of an artifact, for example building facades in concrete that maintain stylistic aspects that were required by marble or wood. Similar to metaphor, they create a comparative entry point to a new design but present a unique relationship between object and reference that forces an analysis of cultural position and meaning. This paper presents a means of investigating this through input devices, the mediation between the digital world and the physical world, and how they are understood and evaluated for creative applications.
Led by Shaowen Bardzell and Jeffrey Bardzell, the research team includes Shad Gross, Jeff Wain, and Austin Toombs.
The design is a standard electric screwdriver/drill unit that we have adapted with sensors and an Arduino to collect data about its use in the home. We named the design, the “Significant Screwdriver,” to foreground the personal significance of its use. As a research through design project, the Significant Screwdriver is intended to encourage reflection that men’s domestic labour can be seen explicitly as an act of care and love, both by themselves and members of their families. Obviously, such a change by no means will ameliorate gendered inequalities in the domestic sphere. However, the design is intended to stimulate reflection and ideally orient people towards productive change, which can be brought about in part through future designs.
The initial concept of the Significant Screwdriver was to find a way to link the use of a power tool in an everyday way (e.g., for home repair, to assemble furniture, etc.) to the traditionally female domestic expressions of love and care. We emphasize that we believe the act of doing home repairs, assembling furniture and so forth, is already in most cases a form of care and love; at stake is that the caring and loving dimension is often implicit and unstated. The Significant Screwdriver allows men to visualize these tasks in a more expressive, tangible, and aesthetic manner. These visualizations will hopefully allow both genders to better appreciate the care labor men perform in the home.
Visualizations for the device are created through Processing (www.processing.org), a free and open source language and environment that excels with graphical representations. A fundamental goal is to ensure differentiation between screwdriver work sessions and session types to generate distinct visualizations for each. Physical variables–orientation, temperature, force, and noise–recorded by the Arduino sensors can be mapped to a specific visual variable of the visualization. This not only gives us considerable latitude in exploring visualization styles, but more importantly it will allow end users, in a custom visual application, to interactively design visualizations based on their own use data, adding another dimension of expressivity and aesthetic control to users who want it.
The initial prototype of the Significant Screwdriver has been finalized, and additional prototypes are currently under construction. Once those prototypes are completed, they will be sent out as probes to six households. Screwdrivers will be given to each of the six households for a six-week period, during which we plan to conduct one interview per week to evaluate how the family used the device during that prior week and to see how visualizations from each use were used.
The study resulted in a workshop paper for the CHI 2011 Feminist Design Workshop and a paper published through BritishHCI 2011. More information about both can be found in the sidebar.
References and Attributions
(1) Sketch of visualization generated by a program written in Processing (processing.org) by Tom Carden (http://processing.org/exhibition/works/metropop/).
Our design consisted of a web-based interface that allowed users to connect with each other and track the different experiences that they had. Users are presented with two maps: a local map and a world map. The local map presents the user with a view of other members of the community that are in their vicinity, and displays upcoming events as well as events that have been attended. Attended events add to a heat-map style visualization of the different parts of the local community that have been experienced. The world map displays the different culinary experiences that have been had, referencing them to different geographical areas. By displaying events in this way, we hope to make users aware of how much more can be done, and motivate them to do so.
The two maps give a visual representation of new experiences that can be had. The events themselves are based around themes: a way for the users to further express themselves. Ultimately, the goal is to allow people the ability to organize events that create a comfortable way to gather, learn more about the other people in their local area, and how that relates to the bigger picture of the world.
From the CHI Student Design Competition: Call for Participation
[ http://chi2011.org/authors/sdc/index.html ]:
In the spirit of this year’s conference theme of “Connecting…”, this year’s challenge is to design an object, interface, system, or service intended to help us appreciate our differences. Differences come in many forms, including culture, community, age, politics, education, and abilities and disabilities. It can be hard for us to appreciate and understand the differences we see in other people but there is rich value in appreciating another person’s point of view and understanding the world through someone else’s eyes.
We began the process of tackling this challenge with an affinity diagram to help us understand which facet of the broad topic of diversity we wanted to tackle. We each wrote as many aspects of diversity that we could think of one each to a Post-it note, and then organized them on a whiteboard. After organizing the Post-its, we discovered two things: 1. We had a desire to focus on food as a means of both joining people together and 2. We had generated a lot of ways that people can be different from each other. These two things would become the core of Foodmunity.
After the affinity diagram, we began to research and sketch different ways that people could leverage food as a means to come together and share their differences. For research we conducted interviews with authorities on both food and diversity, as well as evidence of our theory that food would be useful for bringing people together and creating a comfortable situation. Each team member independently sketched a range of different ideas and interfaces, and ultimately, as a whole, took the most positive and resonant aspects from those sketches and combined them. Throughout the process, we received advice from our mentor Ammar Halabi, who gave us an indispensable perspective on both our process and where our design was heading.
We presented this first iteration of our design to the class in the form of a PowerPoint presentation of our sketches. The resulting critiques informed us of places of concern and points of further development which we used to improve our design for our second submission. From here we developed the maps as a means of informing the users of their experiences, in a compelling way, and created a PowerPoint prototype to usability test our design. Our test focused both on the usability of the system (eg. task completion, error rate) and the usefulness of the system (eg. how users felt about using it, what features they would use). From these tests, we further refined our design, improving upon the aspects that were troubling to users.
We presented our design to the class once more, this time with a full use scenario and re-iterated screen shots of the design, and received further critiques to help us polish the design. To finally prepare for CHI, we attended an event similar to one that would be created by Foodmunity and used a questionnaire to get feedback from the other attendees. We used this to further refine our design, the content of our assignment’s submission to six extended abstract pages, and submitted to CHI. Download the submission
We presented our design in the form of a poster with a five minute presentation to the CHI judges in Vancouver, BC.
It was well received, and of the 12 poster presentations, we were one of the four teams selected to continue to the finals and give a 10 minute presentation to the CHI community.