Sun, 11 Feb 2007

Hi, I moved
The blog is now at:, the RSS feed is:

/ //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Wed, 26 Jul 2006

HCI Remixed
This is cool: HCI Remixed

//CSCW //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Wed, 21 Jun 2006

Implications for Design - Dourish 2006

CHI 2006: I missed attending one of the more provoking presentations of the conference -- Paul Dourish's Implications for Design. So, I was forced to read the paper instead.

What did this paper say?

CHI papers that report on ethnography have a common closing section: "Implications for Design". CHI reviewers are evaluating the quality of ethnographies based on this closing section. Dourish critiques this measure of ethnography. He proposes that ethnography has more to offer the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) than a list of design ideas. (Worse, ethnographies are not tools that are meant to find "gaps" or unfulfilled technological needs. This means ethnography does not lend towards design solutions.)

What is ethnography good for? One, Dourish does not dismiss design implications outright. What he does is to ask researchers to articulate why they thought of a particular design implication: "the analytic and conceptual work that lies behind ... is often where the substantive intellectual achievement is to be found." This is because ethnography is not just a fact-report, it involves interpretation and perspective. Explicitly writing out one's interpretations and perspectives is a lionshare of what an ethnography is. One ought to include this analysis; and, if one draws design implications from this ethnography, one should detail the rationale that connects the analysis to the design implications. Design implications are weaker if they lack a strong connection to the observations.

Second, Dourish points out that ethnographies are very valuable in themselves. An ethnography is an ethno-graphy. That is "people/race/culture"-"writing". It is a written perspective of a culture. Because of this, implications of design do not simply fall out of an ethnography. This leads to the first point above (requiring researchers to be explicit about their steps of analysis). This also leads to the point that there are other benefits of describing and analyzing an ethnographic site. For example, Dourish suggests that you can have implications for non-design ("we've discovered that you shouldn't use IM here"), implications for policy (rather than technology design solutions), and implications for the nature of design itself (revisiting the traditional idea of designer versus user). Notice that all the benefits I list here ultimately result in design-related decisions.


Despite Dourish's critique of "implications for design", I still see this paper in accord with the basic goal of the CHI/HCI community, which is to engage in design. ("CSCW is basically a design oriented research area." - Schmidt and Bannon 1992) I do not believe this is a paper that says, "Design implications are evil". Nor do I believe it is a paper that says, "We should not care about design; we should care only ethnographies for their own sake." This paper still accepts the HCI desire for change (i.e. 'design'). Although Dourish has noted that sometimes we should just leave the people we study alone; and, that design implications we learn from studying them don't have to apply to them - maybe to other people instead.

Also, I am interested in seeing how ethnography can really change our understanding of design. Perhaps there are more complicated categories than "designer" and "user". (I guess its time to read about participatory design and etc...)

Overall, it ought to be interesting to see the direction of HCI as the roles of "designer", "builder", and "user" get redefined.

Schmidt, K., & Bannon, L. (1992). Taking CSCW seriously: Supporting articulation work. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 1, 1-2, 7-40. PDF:

Related posts:
Intuity, pasta&vinegar1,pasta&vinegar2,chimerically, (posse sticker),technotaste (anthro pov)

//Methodology //CommentsorTrackbacks: 12 //permanent link

Mon, 12 Jun 2006

Currently Reading: The Discovery of Grounded Theory by Glaser and Strauss
The Discovery of Grounded Theory

Just a note from Chapter one so far:

In contrasting grounded theory with logico-deductive theory and discussing and assessing their relative merits in ability to fit and work (predict, explain, and be relevant), we have the position that the adequacy of a theory for sociology today cannot be divorced from the process by which it is generated. Thus one canon for judging the usefulness of a theory is how it was generated--and we suggest that it is likely to be a better theory to the degree that it has been inductively developed from social research.

"likely to be a better theory". I will dwell on this for today. Is it reasonable to pick and choose among methodologies for theory-generation? What if I wrote a purely conceptual paper, say on patterns of CMC communication or comics-information behavior--whatever, and stated clearly what is my method of theory-generation (say, logical deduction or some kind of conceptual exercise). Would that be acceptable? I think that the answer is, "If your audience agrees with you, then so be it."

If so, then what if I considered myself a very flexible theory-generator? Today, I will generate a theory using the principles of grounded-theory. Tomorrow, I will use a purely logical argument. Thursday afternoon, something else. Thursday evening, grounded-theory again. Is that possible? Why or why not?

As a footnote, what are other methods of theory-generation?

//Methodology //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Sun, 11 Jun 2006

Graduate Student Symposium in Irvine
Last week I went down to Irvine, CA to give a talk on Comics and Online Communication. You can see the paper here. In any case, it was interesting to be the most qualitative person on the block for once. After the graduate student symposium, we attended the ISR Research Forum. The topics here varied. They included:

  • Trying to model work processes.
  • As usual, this is a very hard problem. John Noll sought to make systems that support work processes more flexible by programming software that had softer restrictions on users. Still, those soft restrictions were too restrictive for expert users.
  • HCI and programming.
  • Professor Van Der Hoek is quite enthusiastic. He has a variety of projects that make programming better.
  • A panel on Knowledge Management.
  • (reminded me of Jeff Kim's course, and of course, Jeff Kim hails from Irvine),
  • Digital Arts.
  • Sheldon Brown's work is exceptionally well-crafted. He made two interesting statements. I will present them as I remember them. One, that the medium of art is now subject to Moore's Law, meaning that a digital artist's tools change as fast as technology does. It's an interest claim. Second was advice for these cutting-edge artists: make your art so that twenty years from now, when the underlying technology is obsolete, it still looks good (Warning, this statement has been radically reinterpreted).
Overall, it was a good trip. I think I'm learning the trick of meeting new people at conferences: (1) raise right hand. (2) extend to opposite party. (3) grasp the hand of opposite party. (4) shake with confidence. (4) unclasp hands. (*) The end.

//Trip Report //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Tue, 23 May 2006

Moodviews and Rhythms
Reminder reference.
(via Technometria)

Blogs are one of the places on the web you can reliably find people's writing about their moods. Krisztian Balog presented a paper called "Decomposing Bloggers' Moods: Towards a Time Series Analysis of Moods in the Blogosphere." This can be used to produce interesting data. For example, MoodViews tracks a stream of mood-annotated text from LiveJournal. MoodViews tracks, predicts, and analyzes moods on blogs.
This also reminds me of the CSCW work on temporal rhythms, see a list of prior work (here). The references from this class page are:
Wild, Helga, Chris Darrouzet, Ted Kahn and Susan U. Stucky (1995) Rhythms of Collaboration. In Communications of the ACM. Vol. 38, No. 9 p. 45.

Fisher, Danyel, and Paul Dourish (2004) Social and Temporal Structures in Everyday Collaboration. In Proceedings of the 2004 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI04). pp. 551-558.

Begole, James "Bo", John C. Tang, Randall B. Smith and Nicole Yankelovich (2002) Work Rhythms: Analyzing Visualizations of Awareness Histories of Distributed Groups. In Proceedings of the 2002 ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW02). pp. 333-343.

Reddy, Madhu and Paul Dourish (2002) A Finger on the Pulse: Temporal Rhythms and Information Seeking in Medical Work. In Proceedings of the 2002 ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW02). pp. 344-353.

//CSCW //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Wed, 17 May 2006

Censor this
One can argue that Internet censorship is prevalent because, in the end, everything comes down to a server that someone owns in a country where laws are in place. The government can pressure an ISP; the ISP will pressure the community leader (or forum moderator); and this person will censor speech: deleting messages, etc... Therefore, free speech in Virtual Communities is not free.

My question is: does this kind of censorship apply to pod-casting (or the recently ridiculed text-casting)?

How do you "delete" a file that exists in a P2P network? Computer Science systems researchers have been grappling this technical issue at least for a few years. I think its still an open research question (see Berkeley's oceanstore for one example of a distributed file system. Note the comment, "only a global-scale disaster could disable enough machines to destroy the archived object.")

My contention? It sure sounds hard to stop.

//Information Policy //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Mon, 15 May 2006

Appreciating the iSchool

CHI ran a panel on HCI and the Information School project. Being from an iSchool myself, it was my duty to listen in. Each panel member had a few moments to sell their vision of an "information school" . Some schools sat closer to the computer science perspective; others didn't. Jon Carroll presented the most popular view: the classic triangle of information, technology, and people. In general, panelists also talked about how important HCI is to the information schools and how important the iSchool is to HCI. Also, some raised the suggestion that computer science departments might not always support the HCI community. I am not convinced that anyone really believed that HCI would disappear from computer science or information science (correction: excepting individual departments, I guess). The thought-exercise, however, helped me get a sense of the different strengths of the computer science and the information science perspective.

This panel made it clear that the information school was easiest to explain by describing its parts rather than pointing out some unifying definition. I feel that this is in contrast to other disciplines. For example, computer science has the Turing machine at its centre. The information school has a something else at its centre, a word (with more than one definition at that): "information". I know that Carroll mentioned the triumvirate [information, technology, people], but a quick glance at the various areas of information science suggests that information is more central than technology or people.

On a high level, one can say information science is the study of everything related to information and under all the definitions of information: information as thing, information as process, information as knowledge. However, I don't perceive that people can see the kind of research that gets done in information schools according to that definition. Instead, I find myself rattling off a list of areas until my audience nods their heads: "Library Science", "Information Policy" (Law, regulations, free speech), "Information Systems". And maybe I'm mistaking their bobbing head for understanding rather than friendliness, but I'd like to imagine that it is easier for them to think of what information scientists are interested in and what they study after hearing a list like that.

My own take-away reflects the same take-away from all of CHI. Information Science is a good home for HCI because it will pull HCI research into examining better the social peculiarities around an artifact, this will inform design. For example, I think an understanding of information policy and regulation can certainly affect the use of a system. It will be valuable to HCI to explore the connection.

Finally, I noticed that HCI is not completely interested in everything that information science has to offer, but I won't say how.

In sum, it was interesting - and yes, I'm appreciating the iSchool perspective - even if I may rarely ever do research away from a technological artifact. But, if I wanted to, I could, and no one would stop me - that's awesome.

//CHI2006 //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Mon, 01 May 2006

How Universities Should Look at Facebook
How University Administrators Should Look at The Facebook

//Virtual Community //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

My First Chi.

I want to run a blog on my research interests. It is appropriate, I think, to start with a trip report on my first visit to the conference on computer human interaction (CHI 2006). This conference is what I perceive to be the most well-known conference in the field of HCI. This year, it was held in Montreal and I attended as a student volunteer.

There are a number of things that I enjoyed doing at CHI. First, I got to see the world outside of the Information School at the University of Washington. My school has its merits, but I hadn't really seen the outside world since I started. Good. Second, I got to meet colleagues. CHI is big; people are busy, but I shoke some hands, saw some familiar faces. Kewl. Third, I learnt stuff. Fourth, b/c the conference was in Montreal and near Chinatown, I had opportunity to exercise three languages. English (duh.), French (I ordered in French... at Burker King), and Chinese (some guy offered me a discount on pirated DVDs because I spoke Canto).

The next few posts will be about the "stuff" and the "learnt" as mentioned above.

//CHI2006 //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

Sat, 29 Apr 2006

I went to CHI2006
More to come. I promise a trip report.

//CHI2006 //CommentsorTrackbacks: 0 //permanent link

RSS Copyright 2006/Gifford Cheung