Monday, April 29, 2013
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Among many things I like about it, it resonated for me with what always attracted to the true hypermedia aspect of Compendium -- the ability to show interconnections beyond what you can do in a single view, and why that always felt right. It's a dimension that doesn't seem to matter to many people, but it still feels fundamental to me -- what the tools enable us to show and work with.
It's about a way of seeing more than anything else -- seeing and being able to represent the richness of the worlds we are trying to come to grips with.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Now that the above has mostly calmed, I've been letting the dust settle on the research sphere, at least for now, and thinking more about what's most important to me in this work. That seems very much wrapped up with music, mainly the playing of it. I had mostly put my instruments down over the last ten years, but have been doing a lot of playing in the last couple of months. I've got calluses on my left fingertips for the first time this century. It's a good feeling.
This connection is personal as much as anything else. I've been playing with local friends and neighbors and have no ambitions for it, such as recording or performing, and that feels just right. It's the doing in the moment that matters. Sometimes it reaches a level beyond just the fun of it, and that's great when it happens. I want to reconnect musically with some of my non-local friends and am making plans to do that. Some of those friends are also my closest research and Compendium colleagues, which is probably not coincidental.
Which brings me to what I wanted to say in this post. As I've written elsewhere*, I'm really not interested in making claims about success if you follow this or that technique or approach. Such claims are all wrong anyway, at least in the sense that there will ever be any kind of silver bullet that will guarantee certain outcomes. It will always come down to what people are able to do in a specific situation. Each situation has its own character, each one is unique. Period. So what matters is who you are and what you do in that situation, the choices you make and the things you're able to achieve, or not.
That is not a formulation that is likely to get me many followers, but it's what I believe. What I care about now is learning how to be effective, when you're doing something that involves creativity and communication and some kind of aesthetic medium, whether that is music or talk or drawings or designs or whatever, and how to talk about what that means.
I think about this kind of thing even in the course of playing music with my local friends. Sometimes you have to make choices about which matters more -- having a fun time with a bunch of people of widely varying abilities, vs. giving some particular song the best possible rendition (which might, for example, mean waiting for some of the less able players to go get a drink in the other room). There's not an inherently right or wrong answer (though these days the fun and warmth of a big group making music together are more important to me than virtuosity).
The point is that these are ethical choices about aesthetic matters. That's what I'm interested in. Along with the aesthetic making itself.
* I'd forgotten about this post which touches on some of the same themes. So does this one, and this one, and especially this one.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Comments welcome here.
Saturday, October 08, 2011
I started working in IT not much later and pushed every project I worked on (even terminal-based applications for beverage manufacturing and the like) in the direction of the "right" paradigm -- what I learned about what computing could and should be, from the Mac. Even today, when we've moved from the Iron Age to the Iphone Age, I still find myself thinking about UIs with the 1984 Mac OS as my reference point.
Sunday, October 02, 2011
This is an endemic problem for enterprise UIs since they are so often built on previous legacy systems. Veterans of the older systems know the terms, functions, and acronyms so well that they become "natural" -- but they're not. The effects of these kinds of preconceptions are something I constantly work to alleviate when designing new or replacement systems. Knowing what the business purpose itself is (for example, selling and servicing telecommunications products for residential and small business customers), and understanding the business itself, and the customers, should be the only prerequisite knowledge for using the new system, rather than “just having to know” how things have been done and what things have been called and abbreviated and acronymed in the previous generations of systems.
Having said that, achieving effective transparency, like all design in the real world, is a balancing act. You don't want to clutter up the UI with too much explanation and exposition, and you want to enable experienced and expert users to move rapidly though their tasks. It comes back to practitioner skill: knowing the right trade-offs to make.
When I glance at position descriptions for user experience professionals, they often seem to miss the point (which is probably inevitable when you are throwing descriptions out to the masses). They list discrete skills (personas, wireframes, HTML 5, Flex, etc.) as if having such skills are what add up to an effective UX designer. But what really matters most is having the ability to understand user needs as well as business or organizational imperatives and technical capacities and constraints, among other factors, all of which require both listening and "speaking" skills in addition to “design” skills.
You need to understand what people (including developers, clients, executives, as well as end users) need and can do, and you need to be able to synthesize these, come up with design approaches, and advocate (sometimes passionately) for the integrity and value of your design given those needs, capacities, and constraints. Any specific skill or technical ability is secondary to these constraints (and a good UX professional should be able to quickly learn any new technique or tool in any case).
Often a first design proposal will not be the perfect solution (however perfect it may be in your own mind, or in the abstract), but it helps shake loose the thinking and creativity of the people you're working with and for, and the dialogue that follows from considering a well-crafted design gives the best clues for how to evolve the design in the best possible direction given all the constraints and sometimes conflicting needs and desires. Listening, making, and speaking are the lather, rinse, and repeat of user experience design. You have to be able to do them all.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Here is a link to the video from the webcast. The slides are below.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Submitted versions: thesis, abstract.
Final version after 7 Jun w/corrections & acknowledgements.
I've recently completed a draft of my PhD thesis, which I'll be revising over the next few weeks for final submission. Here are the working title, cover art*, and abstract.
Making Representations Matter: Practitioner Experience in Participatory Sensemaking
Albert M. Selvin
Knowledge Media Institute, Open University
This thesis develops and applies a method to analyze, characterize, and compare instances of participatory representational practice in such a way as to highlight experiential aspects such as aesthetics, narrative, improvisation, sensemaking, and ethics. It extends taxonomies of such practices found in related research, and contributes to a critique of functionalist or techno-rationalist approaches to studying professional practice. Appropriating new technologies in order to foster collaboration and participatory engagement is a focus for many fields, but there is relatively little research on the experience of practitioners who do so. The role of technology-use mediators is to help make such technologies amenable and of value to the people who interact with them and each other. When the nature of the technology is to provide textual and visual representations of ideas and discussions, issues of form and shaping arise. This thesis examines how practitioners make participatory visual representations (pictures, diagrams, knowledge maps) coherent, engaging and useful. It studies how fourteen practitioners using a visual hypermedia tool engaged participants with the hypermedia representations, and the ways they made the representations matter to the participants. It focuses on the sensemaking challenges that the practitioners encountered in their sessions, and on the ways that the form they gave the visual representations (aesthetics) related to the service they were trying to provide to their participants. Qualitative research methods such as grounded theory are employed to analyze video recordings of the participatory representational sessions. Through three iterative cycles, analytical tools were developed to provide a multi-perspective view on each session, followed by comparative analysis that also incorporates responses to an informant questionnaire. Conceptual and normative frameworks for understanding the practitioner experience in participatory representational practice in context, especially in terms of aesthetics, ethics, narrative, sensemaking, and improvisation, are proposed. The thesis places these concerns in context of other kinds of facilitative and mediation practices as well as research on reflective practice, aesthetic experience, critical HCI, and participatory design. The thesis concludes by describing areas for future work with special attention to adapting the dimensions and framework for practitioner self- and peer assessment, including discussion of two preliminary proof of concept such sessions held with practitioners and researchers.
* Thanks to Harriett Cornish at the Knowledge Media Institute for the artwork.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Click here to play the video
(Note: Your browser window may need to be maximized to see all of the video. If the sides are cut off, please enlarge the window).
For more details and examples on the comparative analysis portion, see my Analysis Artifacts page.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
He was partially right. In that class, we drilled deeply into editing, color, lens length, mise-en-scene, and the hundred other techniques that make up a film, looking at how (for example) the use of sound techniques in one stairway scene in Citizen Kane contained clues that encapsulated the whole complexity of the film's characters and meaning.
Even today I can still pick out such details -- when I remember to focus on them and make a special effort. Otherwise, movies just wash over me like they did before being a film student.
As a film student in those days (late 70s/early 80s), you watched movies in a cinema or on a projector in a classroom. If you were lucky, you saw a film you had to write a paper on twice. Usually it was once, with no ability to rewind, pause, or anything like that. So studying a film as it unfolded was usually a matter of scribbling frantically in a notebook in the dark, and hoping you could make sense of your notes later to reconstruct (for example) the sequence of edits in one scene of a Bergman film.
Capturing "practice" in this way was a challenge, especially making sure you got enough appreciation of both the nuances of technique as well as the sense of the film as a whole, so you could relate the two.
I am hoping that the techniques I've been developing in my research will eventually help participatory representational practitioners to 'read' and reflect on their own practice, the way a film student can (with effort) read a film, and to be able to prise apart the individual techniques, moves, themes etc. and make sense of them in the context of the larger meaning of the situation they're engaged in (the context of their practice).