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Meaning Reconstruction as an Approach to Analyze Critical Dimensions of HCI Research

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A critical tradition has taken hold in HCI, yet research methods needed to meaningfully engage with critical questions in the qualitative tradition are nascent. In this paper, we explore one critical qualitative research approach that allows researchers to probe deeply into the relationships between communicative acts and social structures. Meaning reconstruction methods are described and illustrated using examples from HCI research, demonstrating how social norms can be traced as they are claimed and reproduced. We conclude with implications for strengthening rigorous critical inquiry in HCI research, including the use of extant critical research methods to document transparency and thick description.

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Meaning Reconstruction as an Approach to Analyze Critical Dimensions of HCI Research

  1. 1. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AS AN APPROACH TO ANALYZE CRITICAL DIMENSIONS OF HCI RESEARCH COLIN M. GRAY1, AUSTIN L. TOOMBS2, & CHRISTIAN MCKAY2 1 Purdue University; 2 Indiana University
  2. 2. CRITICAL HCI RESEARCH LACKS TRANSPARENCY PROVOCATION
  3. 3. CRITICAL HCI RESEARCH LACKS TRANSPARENCY PROVOCATION METATHEORETICALLY: theoretical commitments METHODOLOGICALLY: complete description of method TRANSLATIONAL: how data are transformed into insights
  4. 4. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH AGENDA 1. Increase in critical and qualitative research in HCI 2. Carspecken’s critical qualitative approach 3. Demonstration of meaning reconstruction techniques using ethnographic data 4. Reflection on the contribution of such an approach to help strengthen rigorous critical inquiry in HCI
  5. 5. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CRITICAL RESEARCH IS 
 ON THE RISE IN HCI,REPORTING OF RESEARCH IS FRAMED BY HCI’S SCIENTISTIC HISTORY, AND WE LACK MEANS TO LINK DATA TO CRITICAL INSIGHTS
  6. 6. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CRITICAL RESEARCH IS 
 ON THE RISE IN HCI,REPORTING OF RESEARCH IS FRAMED BY HCI’S SCIENTISTIC HISTORY, AND WE LACK MEANS TO LINK DATA TO CRITICAL INSIGHTS Feminism 
 (Bardzell & Bardzell, 2011) Normative commitments 
 of social systems 
 (DiSalvo, 2012; Sawyer & Jarrahi, 2014; Toombs, Bardzell, & Bardzell, 2015) Ethical responsibilities of 
 designing technologies 
 (Dourish et al., 2004; Sengers et al., 2005; Shilton, 2012)
  7. 7. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CRITICAL RESEARCH IS 
 ON THE RISE IN HCI,REPORTING OF RESEARCH IS FRAMED BY HCI’S SCIENTISTIC HISTORY, AND WE LACK MEANS TO LINK DATA TO CRITICAL INSIGHTS Remnants of scientism in HCI’s history have made reporting and evaluation of critical research challenging
  8. 8. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CRITICAL RESEARCH IS 
 ON THE RISE IN HCI,REPORTING OF RESEARCH IS FRAMED BY HCI’S SCIENTISTIC HISTORY, AND WE LACK MEANS TO LINK DATA TO CRITICAL INSIGHTS
  9. 9. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CRITICAL RESEARCH IS 
 ON THE RISE IN HCI,REPORTING OF RESEARCH IS FRAMED BY HCI’S SCIENTISTIC HISTORY, AND WE LACK MEANS TO LINK DATA TO CRITICAL INSIGHTS Richer methods are needed to comprehensively document and explain the ways in which communicative acts and social norms are linked, in both temporal and 
 experiential ways
  10. 10. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CHARACTERISTICS OF QUALITATIVE & CRITICAL RESEARCH 1. THICK DESCRIPTION 2. TRANSPARENCY 3. SELF-DISCLOSURE 4. REFLEXIVITY Sufficient explanation of method and presentation of data to allow an external entity access into the mindset of the researcher (Dennis, Carspecken, & Carspecken, 2013; 
 Glaser & Strauss, 1967;
 Lincoln & Guba, 1985) }
  11. 11. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY (& THEORETICAL COMMITMENTS) CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY (CARSPECKEN, 1996) THEORY OF 
 COMMUNICATIVE ACTION J. HABERMAS SPEECH ACT THEORY J. L. AUSTIN STRUCTURATION A. GIDDENS
  12. 12. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY (& THEORETICAL COMMITMENTS) CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY (CARSPECKEN, 1996) INTERSUBJECTIVITY Mutual understanding defined by position-taking The intersubjective space forms whenever we act communicatively, and we take on multiple subject positions when communicating.
  13. 13. TWO RECONSTRUCTIVE ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES MEANING FIELDS & VALIDITY HORIZONS EXAMPLE QUOTE | MEANING FIELD | VALIDITY HORIZON
  14. 14. “IF THERE’S SOMETHING WE CAN FIX THAT DROVE THEM AWAY, THEN WE SHOULD WORRY ABOUT IT. BUT OTHERWISE THERE ARE LOTS OF REASONS PEOPLE MIGHT STOP COMING. AS LONG AS WE MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE ALL EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER THEN THAT’S THE BEST THAT WE CAN DO.” JENNIFER ON WHAT THE COMMUNITY’S RESPONSIBILITY MIGHT BE REGARDING INCLUSIVITY EXAMPLE QUOTE | MEANING FIELD | VALIDITY HORIZON
  15. 15. adapted from Gray (2014) COMMUNICATIVE ACT MEANING FIELD VALIDITY HORIZON OBJECTIVE FOREGROUND INTERMEDIATE BACKGROUND SUBJECTIVE —— IDENTITY —— NORMATIVE AND OR/AND INTERACTIVE SETTING BOUNDED SET OF POSSIBLE MEANINGS FOR A COMMUNICATIVE ACT CONTEXTUALIZED AND VALIDATED THROUGH EXTENSIVE ENGAGEMENT EXAMPLE QUOTE | MEANING FIELD | VALIDITY HORIZON
  16. 16. MEANING FIELD “If they didn’t say anything” THEN “we can’t have done anything wrong” AND “our current behavior is perfectly acceptable for anyone” BECAUSE “it is acceptable for us” AND “we should treat everyone exactly the way we already treat each other”
 
 OR/AND “Hackerspaces are not for everyone” AND “we should not feel bad if someone just does not fit in”
 
 OR/AND “we lost one of our few female members” BUT “I do not think that it was our fault” AND “I am female” AND “I feel comfortable here” THEREFORE “we are not doing anything that discourages female participation” EVEN THOUGH “there are no other females here”
 
 OR/AND “women should be treated exactly the same as men” AND “the policy here is that everyone be ‘excellent to each other’” AND “that is a reasonable policy for anyone” AND “women should not be given special treatment or attention”
  17. 17. adapted from Gray (2014) COMMUNICATIVE ACT MEANING FIELD VALIDITY HORIZON OBJECTIVE FOREGROUND INTERMEDIATE BACKGROUND SUBJECTIVE —— IDENTITY —— NORMATIVE AND OR/AND INTERACTIVE SETTING WHAT VALIDITY CLAIMS MUST BE ASSUMED TO MAKE THE COMMUNICATIVE ACT 
 INTERNALLY RATIONAL? EXAMPLE QUOTE | MEANING FIELD | VALIDITY HORIZON
  18. 18. HABERMAS’ THREE FORMAL WORLDS ACT OBJECTIVE multiple access “the world” SUBJECTIVE limited access “my world” NORMATIVE should/ought to be “our world” EXAMPLE QUOTE | MEANING FIELD | VALIDITY HORIZON
  19. 19. HABERMAS’ THREE FORMAL WORLDS OBJECTIVE multiple access “the world” SUBJECTIVE limited access “my world” NORMATIVE should/ought to be “our world” IDENTITY the kind of person I am “I” ACT EXAMPLE QUOTE | MEANING FIELD | VALIDITY HORIZON
  20. 20. “If they didn’t say anything” THEN “we can’t have done anything wrong” AND “our current behavior is perfectly acceptable for anyone” BECAUSE “it is acceptable for us” AND “we should treat everyone exactly the way we already treat each other”
 
 OR/AND “Hackerspaces are not for everyone” AND “we should not feel bad if someone just does not fit in”
 
 OR/AND “we lost one of our few female members” BUT “I do not think that it was our fault” AND “I am female” AND “I feel comfortable here” THEREFORE “we are not doing anything that discourages female participation” EVEN THOUGH “there are no other females here”
 
 OR/AND “women should be treated exactly the same as men” AND “the policy here is that everyone be ‘excellent to each other’” AND “that is a reasonable policy for anyone” AND “women should not be given special treatment or attention” CASE ONE Validity Horizon OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVE NORMATIVE IDENTITY FOREGROUND We lost a few members. It was not our fault /“shit happens.” I feel comfortable here. We should not be worried about our behavior. We should not try to change anything about our community. I am/we are good and reasonable people. MIDGROUND One of the members we lost was one of very few female members. I’m worried we did something to push them away. “Be excellent to each other”is a sufficient guiding philosophy for our community. Everyone should feel comfortable here. Everyone should be treated exactly the same. I can speak for other women’s experiences. I am an authority figure in this space. BACKGROUND Some people just don’t fit in I don’t want it to have been our fault We should ignore people’s backgrounds and personal histories. We should not try to cater to everyone. I am comforting the group.
  21. 21. “If they didn’t say anything” THEN “we can’t have done anything wrong” AND “our current behavior is perfectly acceptable for anyone” BECAUSE “it is acceptable for us” AND “we should treat everyone exactly the way we already treat each other”
 
 OR/AND “Hackerspaces are not for everyone” AND “we should not feel bad if someone just does not fit in”
 
 OR/AND “we lost one of our few female members” BUT “I do not think that it was our fault” AND “I am female” AND “I feel comfortable here” THEREFORE “we are not doing anything that discourages female participation” EVEN THOUGH “there are no other females here”
 
 OR/AND “women should be treated exactly the same as men” AND “the policy here is that everyone be ‘excellent to each other’” AND “that is a reasonable policy for anyone” AND “women should not be given special treatment or attention” CASE ONE Validity Horizon OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVE NORMATIVE IDENTITY FOREGROUND We lost a few members. It was not our fault /“shit happens.” I feel comfortable here. We should not be worried about our behavior. We should not try to change anything about our community. I am/we are good and reasonable people. MIDGROUND One of the members we lost was one of very few female members. I’m worried we did something to push them away. “Be excellent to each other”is a sufficient guiding philosophy for our community. Everyone should feel comfortable here. Everyone should be treated exactly the same. I can speak for other women’s experiences. I am an authority figure in this space. BACKGROUND Some people just don’t fit in I don’t want it to have been our fault We should ignore people’s backgrounds and personal histories. We should not try to cater to everyone. I am comforting the group.
  22. 22. “If they didn’t say anything” THEN “we can’t have done anything wrong” AND “our current behavior is perfectly acceptable for anyone” BECAUSE “it is acceptable for us” AND “we should treat everyone exactly the way we already treat each other”
 
 OR/AND “Hackerspaces are not for everyone” AND “we should not feel bad if someone just does not fit in”
 
 OR/AND “we lost one of our few female members” BUT “I do not think that it was our fault” AND “I am female” AND “I feel comfortable here” THEREFORE “we are not doing anything that discourages female participation” EVEN THOUGH “there are no other females here”
 
 OR/AND “women should be treated exactly the same as men” AND “the policy here is that everyone be ‘excellent to each other’” AND “that is a reasonable policy for anyone” AND “women should not be given special treatment or attention” CASE ONE Validity Horizon OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVE NORMATIVE IDENTITY FOREGROUND We lost a few members. It was not our fault /“shit happens.” I feel comfortable here. We should not be worried about our behavior. We should not try to change anything about our community. I am/we are good and reasonable people. MIDGROUND One of the members we lost was one of very few female members. I’m worried we did something to push them away. “Be excellent to each other”is a sufficient guiding philosophy for our community. Everyone should feel comfortable here. Everyone should be treated exactly the same. I can speak for other women’s experiences. I am an authority figure in this space. BACKGROUND Some people just don’t fit in I don’t want it to have been our fault We should ignore people’s backgrounds and personal histories. We should not try to cater to everyone. I am comforting the group.
  23. 23. “If they didn’t say anything” THEN “we can’t have done anything wrong” AND “our current behavior is perfectly acceptable for anyone” BECAUSE “it is acceptable for us” AND “we should treat everyone exactly the way we already treat each other”
 
 OR/AND “Hackerspaces are not for everyone” AND “we should not feel bad if someone just does not fit in”
 
 OR/AND “we lost one of our few female members” BUT “I do not think that it was our fault” AND “I am female” AND “I feel comfortable here” THEREFORE “we are not doing anything that discourages female participation” EVEN THOUGH “there are no other females here”
 
 OR/AND “women should be treated exactly the same as men” AND “the policy here is that everyone be ‘excellent to each other’” AND “that is a reasonable policy for anyone” AND “women should not be given special treatment or attention” CASE ONE Validity Horizon OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVE NORMATIVE IDENTITY FOREGROUND We lost a few members. It was not our fault /“shit happens.” I feel comfortable here. We should not be worried about our behavior. We should not try to change anything about our community. I am/we are good and reasonable people. MIDGROUND One of the members we lost was one of very few female members. I’m worried we did something to push them away. “Be excellent to each other”is a sufficient guiding philosophy for our community. Everyone should feel comfortable here. Everyone should be treated exactly the same. I can speak for other women’s experiences. I am an authority figure in this space. BACKGROUND Some people just don’t fit in I don’t want it to have been our fault We should ignore people’s backgrounds and personal histories. We should not try to cater to everyone. I am comforting the group.
  24. 24. “If they didn’t say anything” THEN “we can’t have done anything wrong” AND “our current behavior is perfectly acceptable for anyone” BECAUSE “it is acceptable for us” AND “we should treat everyone exactly the way we already treat each other”
 
 OR/AND “Hackerspaces are not for everyone” AND “we should not feel bad if someone just does not fit in”
 
 OR/AND “we lost one of our few female members” BUT “I do not think that it was our fault” AND “I am female” AND “I feel comfortable here” THEREFORE “we are not doing anything that discourages female participation” EVEN THOUGH “there are no other females here”
 
 OR/AND “women should be treated exactly the same as men” AND “the policy here is that everyone be ‘excellent to each other’” AND “that is a reasonable policy for anyone” AND “women should not be given special treatment or attention” OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVE NORMATIVE IDENTITY FOREGROUND We lost a few members. It was not our fault /“shit happens.” I feel comfortable here. We should not be worried about our behavior. We should not try to change anything about our community. I am/we are good and reasonable people. MIDGROUND One of the members we lost was one of very few female members. I’m worried we did something to push them away. “Be excellent to each other”is a sufficient guiding philosophy for our community. Everyone should feel comfortable here. Everyone should be treated exactly the same. I can speak for other women’s experiences. I am an authority figure in this space. BACKGROUND Some people just don’t fit in I don’t want it to have been our fault We should ignore people’s backgrounds and personal histories. We should not try to cater to everyone. I am comforting the group. CASE ONE Validity Horizon
  25. 25. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH STRUCTURES COMMUNICATIVE ACTS ROLES INTERACTIVE SETTINGS COMMUNICATIVE ACT MEANING FIELD VALIDITY HORIZON OBJECTIVE FOREGROUND INTERMEDIATE BACKGROUND SUBJECTIVE —— IDENTITY —— NORMATIVE AND OR/AND INTERACTIVE SETTING
  26. 26. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS ▸ Transparency and thick description—specifically with regards to documenting the movement between first order observation and second order abstraction. ▸ Does NOT account for transparency regarding selection of a quote or communicative instance in the first place.
  27. 27. CONCLUSION AND NEXT STEPS
  28. 28. THIS RESEARCH WAS FUNDED IN PART BY NSF IIS CREATIVE IT (#1002772) AND THE INTEL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER FOR SOCIAL COMPUTING. THANK YOU
  29. 29. I THINK THIS WHOLE DISCUSSION HINGES ON A VERY SIMPLE QUESTION. WHY IS IT WORTHWHILE TO ARTIFICIALLY PROMOTE A CHANGE IN AN EXISTING COMMUNITY. IF THE ANSWER IS BECAUSE THE HACKERSPACE SHOULD BE INCLUSIVE TO EVERYONE, MY ANSWER IS NO, IT SHOULD NOT BE. BY IT'S VERY NATURE IT'S ALREADY EXCLUSIONARY. IT'S A HACKERSPACE. NOT A BAKE SHOP. NOT A PETTING ZOO. NOT A RACE TRACK. IT HAS A SPECIFIC FOCUS, AND BY THAT IT IS ALREADY EXCLUSIONARY. MORE TO THE POINT, HACKERSPACES ARE BUILT AROUND COMMUNITIES. AND COMMUNITIES THEMSELVES ARE EXCLUSIONARY. IF YOU DON'T JIVE WELL WITH A COMMUNITY, YOU DON'T BELONG TO THAT COMMUNITY, GO FIND ANOTHER ONE. IF YOU THINK THAT YOUR HACKERSPACE CAN BE HOME TO ALL THE PEOPLES, YOU AREN'T BUILDING A HACKERSPACE YOU ARE BUILDING A PUBLIC LIBRARY, AND BY ALL MEANS ENJOY THE CRACKHEADS AND GOOD LUCK KEEPING THAT INCLUSIVE TO EVERYONE. ASK NOISEBRIDGE HOW THAT WENT FOR THEM. […] CASE TWO
  30. 30. CASE TWO Meaning Field “The existing community should take precedent over any subsequent community” AND “anything that changes that community from the outside is artificial/ bad” BECAUSE “that community already works/is good” AND “should be allowed to change naturally.” AND “It is more important to cater to who fits in already than to consider who could fit in.” 
 
 OR / AND “Hackerspaces should not try to be inclusive” BECAUSE “trying to be broadly inclusive will lead to ‘undesirables’ like Noisebridge” AND “Noisebridge is a bad model” AND “hackers can’t handle inclusivity and diversity” BECAUSE “hackers are strange/odd/unwell” AND “a hackerspace is not a public facility” AND THEREFORE “it does not have to cater to everyone”
 
 OR / AND “It is not important to worry about who is or is not included in the space” BECAUSE “people either fit in or not on their own” AND “People who don’t feel like they fit in must not really share our interests” OTHERWISE “they would feel comfortable” AND “people should be able to adapt to hostile environments if they are interested.”
  31. 31. “The existing community should take precedent over any subsequent community” AND “anything that changes that community from the outside is artificial/bad” BECAUSE “that community already works/is good” AND “should be allowed to change naturally.” AND “It is more important to cater to who fits in already than to consider who could fit in.” 
 
 OR / AND “Hackerspaces should not try to be inclusive” BECAUSE “trying to be broadly inclusive will lead to ‘undesirables’ like Noisebridge” AND “Noisebridge is a bad model” AND “hackers can’t handle inclusivity and diversity” BECAUSE “hackers are strange/odd/ unwell” AND “a hackerspace is not a public facility” AND THEREFORE “it does not have to cater to everyone”
 
 OR / AND “It is not important to worry about who is or is not included in the space” BECAUSE “people either fit in or not on their own” AND “People who don’t feel like they fit in must not really share our interests” OTHERWISE “they would feel comfortable” AND “people should be able to adapt to hostile environments if they are interested.” CASE TWO Validity Horizon OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVE NORMATIVE IDENTITY FOREGROUND Hackerspaces are communities that are NOT public spaces. I worry that being inclusive to everyone will lead to including people who are undesirable (e.g., crackheads). I would not want to end up like Noisebridge, whose problems include being over-inclusive. Existing communities and their underlying culture should be protected against“artificial” change. “Artificial changes”should be discouraged. I am an authority on this issue. I am not the type of person to hedge or not tell things the way that they are. MIDGROUND This is a controversial issue with multiple sides. Hackers are not“normal”and are exactly the wrong people to understand complex social issues. I am frustrated that this conver- sation is taking place. If participants are truly “hackers,”they will share our interests and should feel com- fortable here. Hackerspaces should not worry about being inclusive. Hackers should focus on the people who already fit in, rath- er than those who could fit in. I understand what is good for hackerspaces and what is not. BACKGROUND The community that already exists in a given space should only change on its own. The existing community is already functioning, and thus “perfect”in some sense. I feel defensive when I think my community’s culture might be under attack. We should be careful and serious about policy changes that alter the culture of the hackerspace community. People should be able to adapt to or overcome hostile environments if their interests are aligned enough. I wish to keep hackerspaces “pure”in the ways I deem appropriate.
  32. 32. MEANING RECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICAL RESEARCH COMMENTARY BY ELLIE HARMON ▸ Regarding the place of ‘methods’ in HCI analysis and publications ▸ What does rigor mean, anyway?

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