Social scientist 2.0 in the domain of Human-Computer Interaction

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The proliferation of advanced technologies, social networks and digital media is radically touching upon many aspects of our daily life. Technology is everywhere; it is increasingly mediating our social activities and affecting the way we experience our lives, the world and each other. These evolutions have urged the need to revitalize the debate on the contribution social sciences may provide in shaping our digital future. Social sciences have always been characterized by a multiplicity of directions. Bieke Zaman's presentation is dedicated to exploring the relationship between social sciences and contemporary human-computer interaction.

In studying the complex interaction between technology and people, Bieke will argue that it is not only instructive to question how technology is shaping the way we behave, think, interact and socialize, but also how we are shaping technologies. Acknowledging that many properties of technologies and design choices are not value-free as they elicit certain benefits or harms for the stakeholders involved, Bieke will advocate to pursue value-sensitive design and explain how social sciences can play a major role in complementing the more traditional focus on instrumental rationality in our interaction with technologies with reflexive analyses and discussions of values, interests, experiences and context.

// Presentation at IMS Brown Bag Seminar (KU Leuven) : http://instituteformediastudies.wordpress.com/

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  • Context (technology):
    Command and form-based interactions for the first time being used by not computer specialists

    Concept of the user
    Idea of a human factor who is limited in its capacity to process information
  • Context (technology)
    Graphical user interfaces + internet!

    User
    Active, autonomous agent with individual motivation, member of community of workers

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/boarderland/4324389227

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/rob_cornelius/16926104/in/photolist-6NAfAC-75ER2a-mSFydV-9JoqSx-npDdF-aGwQ9-mgW78M-66vB6L-aTax9-6tcUDZ-2uKxo-uVicS-bY8VwQ-6DfzYh-npDu1-npEup-bo8pG4-bf4qS6-492BR-8X4uZP-hT9x2J-eiL5Jx-hHmW9w-7xvzn-3gXSyw-jWkKMr-65dR8k-idUnZ3-eb8qpP-xZWvj-5UiXCa-eaY8J5-npEdA-4pNqwt-h3WZUq-iFNdfq-mScoit-fNXn6F-diZWA-gj4TkK-hR8ne-km1m5-5XxKVN-gGDR9G-2SSsyC-5KSyLM-fsDmaM-eyoMnj-hHLsV6-4tfnPj
  • More attention to the process of design (iterations instead of design that proceeds from a set of fixed requirements without interaction and without involvement of the users)
    from individual to groups (support office workers in their activities rather than building office automation systems)
    from the laboratory to the workplace (less experimental, more attention to contextual cues, in situ studies)
    from novice to experts (not only focusing at the ‘naive’ first time learners)
    from analysis to design (not only analysing systems after they have been built, but also know how to build new: design science: “design is where the action is” (Allen Newell)
    from user requirements specifications (cf. Measurable usability criteria, usability engineering) to iterative prototyping
  • More attention to the process of design (iterations instead of design that proceeds from a set of fixed requirements without interaction and without involvement of the users)
    from individual to groups (support office workers in their activities rather than building office automation systems)
    from the laboratory to the workplace (less experimental, more attention to contextual cues, in situ studies)
    from novice to experts (not only focusing at the ‘naive’ first time learners)
    from analysis to design (not only analysing systems after they have been built, but also know how to build new: design science: “design is where the action is” (Allen Newell)
    from user requirements specifications (cf. Measurable usability criteria, usability engineering) to iterative prototyping
  • Designers can no longer anticipate all future users and meanings – users shape the technologies in response to emerging needs
  • Turn to emotions and qualities
    Turn to design as a theoretical concern: how to interpret design (interpretively flexibility) – how to be accountable (responsible) for what you examine and design and how – how you create spaces that promote certain life values
    Turn to the wild

    Empowering users, achieving a positive impact on people’s lives
  • Secondly, in studying the context in which everyday human activities unfold, social science analyses are especially appropriate (Flyvbjerg, 2001). Through qualitative studies like contextual inquiries (see e.g., Whiteside, Bennett, & Holtzblatt, 1988), ethnography-inspired fieldwork (see e.g., Hughes, King, Rodden, & Andersen, 1995; Blomberg, Giacomi, Mosher, & Swenton-Hall, 1993) and semi-structured qualitative studies (Blandford, 2013), we are able to study context-dependent practices of technology use, answering both “how?” and “why?” questions. To illustrate, it may provide an understanding in terms of who gains and who loses when introducing a new technology, the way technology is influencing everyday practices, how technology impacts our experiences, identity, social relationships, or whether the outcomes are considered as desirable or not. It allows us to clarify the deeper causes behind a given situation, disclosing its underlying rich ambiguity. Rather than contending an idiosyncratic moral or a personal preference, these social science analyses should help to arrive at a context-dependent common worldview shared among a specific reference group. This knowledge is to be achieved through a bottom-up process in which the voices of the various stakeholders are heard without a priori championing one’s view over another, but by encouraging and facilitating dialogues and reflexivity instead. Eventually, the more voices are being heard, the more perspectives that are being considered, the more complete our understanding of the phenomenon being studied will be (Flyvbjerg, 2001, p. 139).
  • Moral reasons: Involving the people who will eventually be affected by the design – empowering the user”
    Practical reasons: creative techniques because tacit knowledge – hard to verbalize; participator design to bring the more unconscious aspects of our lives to conscious awareness and decision making

    Value-sensitive design benefits from using creative - visual and/or generative - and participatory techniques because the type of tacit knowledge studied is often hard to verbalize (Sanders, & William, 2001; Vissers, Stappers, & van der Lugt, 2005). The selection of participatory techniques (Spinuzzi, 2005) in empirical analyses is then primarily advocated from the moral belief that the people who will eventually be affected by the design, have the right to be involved in the creation process (Borning & Muller, 2012). This empowerment of the user is likely to destabilize existing power structures, giving voice to people who are typically not consulted in research practices (Vines, Clarke, Wright, McCarthy, Olivier, 2013), such as people with specific health or emotional needs (Balaam et al., 2011; Lindsay et al., 2012). Additionally, participatory design also brings pragmatic advantages in establishing ways to bring the more unconscious aspects of our lives to conscious awareness, and hence be available for conscious decision-making (Sengers et al., 2005). From this perspective, we consider the stakeholder as an essential source of meaningful and fundamental information for design and as such an indispensable participant in the design process (Caroll & Rosson, 2007).
  • Finally, in order to critically engage with the latest aesthetic, emotional, expressive, sociable and value-centered concerns in HCI research, analysis techniques from the arts and humanities have become especially instructive (Bardzell, 2011). Whereas (post-) positivist practices worked well in traditional HCI research concerned with striving for objectivity and analytical precision as regards pragmatic issues like efficiency or effectiveness, arts and humanities can now provide us with rigorous inquiry techniques and richly interpretative schemes to research the subjective cultural qualities of interactions which are difficult to measure (Bardzell, J. & Bardzell, S., 2008). Additionally, the latter artifact-centered approaches would also complement the empirical, human-centered strategies derived from phenomenology and social sciences.
  • Because the contribution of social sciences and humanities in offering a reflexive analysis of values, context, experiences, needs and practices complements the analytic, technical and instrumental rationality that has primarily been provided by disciplines as engineering and computer sciences.

    // examples: `
    - Privacy settings social media
    wild time
    Ict in education
    Environmental
    fitbit

  • This research proposal carries the title “The Social Scientist 2.0 as Value-Sensitive Design Critic” because it resonates with important characteristics of the Web 2.0 concept including but not limited to aspects of participation, user empowerment, collaboration and rich user experiences.

    Just like Web 2.0 has evolved as a response to cumulative changes in today’s social and technological environment, so too has this research proposal emerged from the urge to reconsider the role of social scientists in shaping our digital future. Making design choices when developing new technologies necessitates a critical awareness of the power of technology and the underlying forces that determine design decisions. It is in this context that insights from social sciences can help designers in becoming more accountable for the value choices they are making in shaping technology in a particular way and to help them serve certain interests. Mirroring the participative value inherent to Web 2.0, this research proposal also argues for active involvement of designers, researchers and user stakeholders in value-sensitive design. Rather than considering the end-users of technology as passive human factors who confine themselves to processing bits and bites, we consider the end-users of technology as actors in new human networks made possible by today’s digital connectivity inasmuch as we perceive them as creators who contribute to shaping the meaning of the interaction with technology in response to emergent values.
     
    Further, the title also hints upon the need to explicitly complement the dominant thinking of science 1.0 that focused on controlled experiments and instrumental rationality, with the body of discourse that science 2.0 practices provide through studying social interactions in the real world. Or as Ben Shneiderman greatly specified in an article provided by the University of Maryland (2008):
     
    "Science 1.0 remains vital, but this ambitious vision of Science 2.0 will require a shift in priorities to combine computer science with social science sensitivity. It will affect research funding, educational practices and evaluation of research outcomes."
      
  • Social scientist 2.0 in the domain of Human-Computer Interaction

    1. 1. THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST 2.0 IN HCI @BIEKEZAMAN
    2. 2. Anno 2004 CUO: CENTRE FOR USABILITY RESEARCH
    3. 3. Anno 2014 CUO: CENTRE FOR USER EXPERIENCE RESEARCH
    4. 4. WHAT IS HCI? Human-Computer Interaction = interdisciplinary field concerned with: “design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them” Hewett et al., 1992 ACM definition
    5. 5. PERIODIZATION OF HCI RESEARCH Three major intellectual virtues Never replaced one another Co-exist, sometimes overlap Good rhetoric to describe major shift from researching what is technically feasible, mitigating people’s shortcomings to a thorough consideration of what is desirable, empowering users in living a valuable life
    6. 6. • Early ’80s • Computers for computation and individual productivity • Cognitive science • Predictive and prescriptive knowledge • Towards a dominant interpretation for the interactive system FIRST WAVE
    7. 7. • Controlled lab experiments • Rigid guidelines • User requirements CUO & FIRST WAVE RESEARCH
    8. 8. • Late ’80s, early ’90s • Computers in a network, for communication and collaboration • Social sciences • Holistic, in-depth descriptive accounts of the situated action • Acknowledging that “computation is part of a richer fabric of relationships between people, institutions, and practices SECOND WAVE Picture Flickr Rob n Rae Cornelius Picture Flickr Oriol Salvador
    9. 9. • Studying work practices in context • Participant observations • Contextual inquiries • Understanding why & how CUO & SECOND WAVE RESEARCH
    10. 10. • Iterative prototyping • User-centered design CUO & SECOND WAVE RESEARCH
    11. 11. • Late nineties - present • Ubiquitous computing • Non-work, non-purposeful & non-rational settings, pursuing healthier, more meaningful lifestyles • Influences from various disciplines, incl. critical reflection insights from arts and humanities • Designers can no longer anticipate all future users and meanings THIRD WAVE Picture Flickr Rain Rabbit Picture Flickr Emmanuel Gadenne
    12. 12. • Focus on emotion-related phenomena, hedonics, motivational aspects • Critical reflection, accountability • Starting by understanding the human values that the technology will be designed to serve • Empowering users in and through design CUO & THIRD WAVE RESEARCH
    13. 13. THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST 2.0 IN HCI Social scientists can complement the first wave study of rule-based behaviours with reflexive analyses and discussions of values, interests, experiences and context. Link with the social and cultural virtues of resp. second and third wave HCI
    14. 14. HOW? Studying interactions between people and technology in a holistic, interpretative way, revealing aspects of intuitive decision-making and contextual practices Bottom-up, ethnography-inspired research practices
    15. 15. HOW? Consulting the voices of the various stakeholders, revealing tacit knowledge and empowering the users Participatory design, creative (visual and/or generative) techniques
    16. 16. HOW? Researching the subjective cultural qualities of interactions with technologies Artifact-centered techniques from the arts and humanities Figure source: Bardzell & Bardzell, 2008
    17. 17. WHY? Because… it is not only instructive to question how technology is shaping the way we behave, think, interact and socialize, but also how we are shaping technologies Many technologies and design choices are NOT VALUE FREE
    18. 18. THE SOCIAL SCIENTIST 2.0 AS VALUE-SENSITIVE DESIGN CRITIC Resonating with Web 2.0 … coming as a response to technological and social changes … sharing similar characteristics: participation, user empowerment, collaboration, rich user experiences Instrumental rationality remains vital, but it is time to complement Human-Computer Interaction 1.0 research with social science sensitivity.
    19. 19. THANKS @BIEKEZAMAN

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