A participatory design approach in the engineering of ubiquitous computing systems

Timothy Cederman-Haysom (2009). A participatory design approach in the engineering of ubiquitous computing systems PhD Thesis, School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland.

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Author Timothy Cederman-Haysom
Thesis Title A participatory design approach in the engineering of ubiquitous computing systems
School, Centre or Institute School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Margot Brereton
Peter Sutton
Total pages 298
Total colour pages 16
Total black and white pages 282
Subjects 08 Information and Computing Sciences
Abstract/Summary Ubiquitous computing aims to make human-computer interaction as naturalistic and functionally invisible as possible through embedding computing potential within a particular context to support human activity. However, much of ubiquitous computing research is focussed on technical innovation due to the challenges involved with deploying embedded computing, thereby reducing the commitment to the philosophical ideals of ubiquitous computing in research. This dissertation describes the investigation of a participatory approach to technically-complex research in order to understand how our view of the engineering and human challenges changes when the two are approached hand-in-hand. The domain chosen for this system was a dental surgery. Dentistry involves a complex workspace with computer interaction constrained by surgery hygiene. Ubiquitous computing offers a compelling interaction alternative to the keyboard and mouse paradigm in such an environment. A multi-method approach that employed ethnographic research and design prototyping was undertaken with dentists from several different private practices. A series of field studies used ethnographic methods such as observation and interview. Design events explored prototypes with activities such as design games, contextual interviews, role-playing and contextual prototyping. Activities were devised with the aim of providing a level playing field, whereby both designers and participants feel they can contribute equally, with their respective disciplinary knowledge. It was found that methods needed to be carefully chosen, devised and managed, in order to communicate complex concepts with participants and to constrain the design to technically feasible options. The thesis examines the design problem from the perspectives of a variety of different stakeholders within a participatory design framework, reflected upon by means of human-centred action research. Data was gathered through design speculations and observation, and explored using methods such as the Video Card Game and Video Interaction Analysis. Fieldwork was analysed using a multi-stage qualitative analysis process which informed further design collaboration with participants. The analysis of data gathered during design studies with dentists also contributed to the development of a prototype system to validate methodological contributions. The resulting prototype utilised off-the-shelf hardware and software which allowed for innovative customisation and development. In-situ prototyping (defined by the author as “participatory bootstrapping”) and a comprehensive knowledge of the domain afforded the creative application of technology. In addition to contributing to the prototype design, the interpretive understandings drawn from analysis identified how technical ideas were presented and utilised by participants of the studies, and how best to engage busy professionals. The final outcomes of the research were a multimodal ubiquitous computing system for interacting within a dental surgery; the development and implementation of a variety of methods aimed at communicating technical concepts and eliciting user motivations, practices and concerns; and a set of design principles for engineers engaging in design of systems for human use. The research presented within this thesis is primarily part of the field of human-computer interaction, but provides evidence of how engineering development can be influenced by a user-centred participatory approach. The benefits that derive from inclusive methods of design are demonstrated by the evaluation of a prototype that employed such methods. The contribution of this thesis is to demonstrate and delineate methods for developing ubiquitous computing technologies for the context of human use. This led to a set of design principles for the engineering of systems for human use: 1. Technology needs to be robust and simple to appropriate. This allows users to give insights on technology developments and also to allow users to discover for themselves how they would use the technology. 2. An evolving and carefully considered set of methods are needed to elicit communication between practitioners and across disciplines. The gaps in understandings and the different representations that arise across the disciplines provide essential clues to next steps in design. These gaps and differences form tensions that can be exploited productively. 3. Context is important for determining which design steps to take. Rather than abstracting a problem in order to solve it, as is usual in engineering design, the problem should remain grounded in the context of use. It reveals what the real problems are that need to be solved rather than the imagined ones. This requires an appreciation of the situated nature of action and of the variability of work. In turn it also requires an appreciation of what the human can and does do and what the machine should support. 4. Accountability in design is required. There is a fundamental tension between trying to make something work and seeing what really does work; specifically it is necessary to understand when automation is worth it in human machine systems. While engaged in the design process, engineers should ask how much technology should reconfigure human practices because of a useful outcome, rather than attempting to automate and converge devices for its own sake. A clear understanding of the constraints and workings of the work space needs to be balanced with the understandings of the limitations of the technology in order to design a system that improves work practice and empowers the practitioner.
Keyword Participatory design
user-centred design
engineering design
ubiquitous computing
interaction design
Additional Notes (pages are absolute numbers, so for example 21 is actually marked as page 7) Colour pages: 21, 28, 90, 93, 103, 108, 113-114, 117, 123, 125, 142-143, 168-170 Landscape pages: 253-298

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Created: Fri, 06 Nov 2009, 07:40:11 EST by Mr Timothy Cederman-haysom on behalf of Library - Information Access Service