Breadth of domains?

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Carrie@MSUinSF

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May 24, 2006, 10:19:46 PM5/24/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning
For me user research potentially touches on a vast range of theories,
narrowed down by the nature of the product.

Museum studies
HCI
Persuasion and attitude change
Decision-making
Affect
Learning
Interpersonal communication
Psychology
Cognition
Media Effects

Far more than any one person can or should master.

I would find it useful and would be willing to contribute to some kind
of database or Wiki that introduces theories with potential
implications for user research, including pointers to authors and
references to get more depth.

Carrie Heeter
Michigan State University in San Francisco
GEL Lab (Games of Entertainment and Learning)
http://gel.msu.edu/
http://commtechlab.msu.edu/carrie/

Mark Notess

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May 25, 2006, 12:32:01 PM5/25/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning
Carrie writes:

> I would find it useful and would be willing to contribute to some kind
> of database or Wiki that introduces theories with potential
> implications for user research, including pointers to authors and
> references to get more depth.

Me too, though that may be beyond the scope of what this group is
interested in.

What precisely *is* this group interested in, and why? Merely
anthropological theory? Sociological theory? What about things like
phenomenology, phenomenography, or ethnomethodology?

And why do we care? Is it a hobbiest's interest? Do we want to be able
to answer critics who say we are atheoretical, ignorant, and falsely
claiming to be doing ethnography? Do we want to be able to use
polysyllabic words precisely at conference receptions? Do we believe a
study of theory will improve practice? Do we believe current theory to
be inadequate such that we are searching for ways to extend or improve
it?

Some sort of clearer focus and (especially) motivation might make it
easier to form a plan.

Myself, I like to explore theory to see whether I believe it has
potential to improve practice, and I like to look at theory through the
lense of practice to see where particular theories fall short, and
where theoretical approaches generally fall short. Perhaps those
interests place me outside the focus of this group--that's fine.

Mark

Chad Fennell

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May 25, 2006, 1:21:09 PM5/25/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning


For my own part, I also believe connecting theory to practice (praxis) stands out as a viable topic for discussion.  Two approaches occur to me in regards to this topic: (1) move from a practice or set of practices to a theory or set of theories and (2) reverse number one.  I tend to like the former because it better tethers the discussion to something "meaningful."  We would, I suppose, then require the more theoretically inclined members to suggest relevant bodies of theory as they relate to a given practice. 

I'm also OK with drawing some arbitrary boundaries on the theoretical side if that would help to move the conversation forward.  I imagine that in many cases, any number of theoretical frameworks would qualify as being equally important to the topic at hand and that it may be more important to simply pick one or two and then just move forward than to attempt them all.  Perhaps there are members with considerable experience in a particular theory? -I would be inclined to begin there.


Cheers,
Chad










Tom Fisher

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May 26, 2006, 7:45:35 AM5/26/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning
I'm interested in theory from a pragmatic standpoint. If it is useful
to us to make sense of some behaviour or a set of interview transcripts
etc. then it is useful. Someone used the phrase 'explanatory
potential' in another thread - that's what I'm interested in from
theory.

Again, being practical, it may be necessary to start with a text that
is sort of instructional as well as theoretical. Does Geertz fit this
bill? I'd be happy to start with that and then follow the wiki idea.

Best wishes

Tom

Steve Portigal

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May 26, 2006, 2:50:25 PM5/26/06
to Mark Notess, User Research Theory Study Group Planning
>What precisely *is* this group interested in, and why? Merely
>anthropological theory? Sociological theory? What about things like
>phenomenology, phenomenography, or ethnomethodology?

For myself, I don't even know enough to understand the differences
between those. I entered the field of user research as an apprentice,
bringing in academic training from computer science. Trying to
understand the theory that is talked about by social scientists, what
that is, what is meant by that, I'm trying to get more grounded in that.

>And why do we care? Is it a hobbiest's interest? Do we want to be able
>to answer critics who say we are atheoretical, ignorant, and falsely
>claiming to be doing ethnography? Do we want to be able to use
>polysyllabic words precisely at conference receptions? Do we believe a
>study of theory will improve practice? Do we believe current theory to
>be inadequate such that we are searching for ways to extend or improve
>it?
>
>Some sort of clearer focus and (especially) motivation might make it
>easier to form a plan.

Your sarcasm is noted, and I can absolutely relate to the sentiment,
but obviously, no, I'm not a hobbyist, I'm not being defensive, I'm
not looking to show off. I don't KNOW if it will improve practice. It
might give me insight, it might stimulate me.

I'm looking to grow in yet-to-be-defined ways. There's a lot of
theory out there. Some of us have it. Others of us don't. The premise
is that maybe we can explore it together and get more of it. If it
doesn't thrill us or provide value in ways that we individually
define, then we can bail.


>
>Myself, I like to explore theory to see whether I believe it has
>potential to improve practice, and I like to look at theory through the
>lense of practice to see where particular theories fall short, and
>where theoretical approaches generally fall short. Perhaps those
>interests place me outside the focus of this group--that's fine.

I don't think this group has a clear focus yet, and my intention is
for us to be broad in participation. I would hate for anyone not to
feel welcome from the get-go. It will likely evolve to a point that
won't satisfy all comers, but I think what you've described is awesome!

Our breadth perhaps introduces consensus challenges like "where do we
start" - but I see some things emerging. Let's see what discussion
ensues over the long weekend.

Steve Portigal -- http://www.portigal.com
blog -- http://chittahchattah.blogspot.com

Steve Portigal

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May 26, 2006, 2:52:40 PM5/26/06
to Tom Fisher, User Research Theory Study Group Planning
>Again, being practical, it may be necessary to start with a text that
>is sort of instructional as well as theoretical. Does Geertz fit this
>bill? I'd be happy to start with that and then follow the wiki idea.
>

Geertz does seem like a good starting place. And we've got a handful
of other ones already on the table from other suggestions. I am kind
of excited about the other suggestion of Mick's - Monaghan and Just,
Social and Cultural Anthropology, A Very Short
Introduction - as an even quicker almost-dry-run entry point. I'm
definitely happy with us starting simple and easy and moving from
there - perhaps very quickly.

Steve

Mark Notess

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May 26, 2006, 5:47:42 PM5/26/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning
On 5/26/06, Steve Portigal <st...@portigal.com> wrote:

>And why do we care? Is it a hobbiest's interest? Do we want to be
able
>to answer critics who say we are atheoretical, ignorant, and
falsely
>claiming to be doing ethnography? Do we want to be able to use
>polysyllabic words precisely at conference receptions? Do we
believe a
>study of theory will improve practice? Do we believe current
theory to
>be inadequate such that we are searching for ways to extend or
improve
>it?
>
>Some sort of clearer focus and (especially) motivation might make
it
>easier to form a plan.

Your sarcasm is noted, and I can absolutely relate to the
sentiment,
but obviously, no, I'm not a hobbyist, I'm not being defensive, I'm
not looking to show off. I don't KNOW if it will improve practice.
It
might give me insight, it might stimulate me.


Actually, I wasn't being sarcastic--I think those are all perfectly
valid justifications for this inquiry. There's nothing wrong with
making a hobby of theory, or of being able to converse with people in
their native language. And there is a need to defend practitioners
against the academic bullying we sometimes receive.

But it's also fine with me to pursue a line of study on the hunch it
might yield something interesting, or might be good fun. I'm just
curious about people's motivations (that's why I do user research! :).

Mark

Carol Shea

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May 27, 2006, 9:57:07 AM5/27/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning

"I'm looking to grow in yet-to-be-defined ways."

Well put Steve and me too! If you find some group consensus on initial
book selection - great. But for me, I'm just as happy with the flip of a
coin method as I'm sure each of the recommended texts has pros and cons.


Happy long weekend!
Carol


**********************************
Carol Shea, Olivetree Research, 513-321-3483, ca...@olivetreeresearch.com
"If we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin with
doubts, and are patient in them, we shall end in certainties." - Francis
Bacon

Nancy Broden

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May 27, 2006, 10:43:25 PM5/27/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning
Like many others who have weighed in on the purpose and potential value
of this group, I too am hoping a study of anthropological theory will
influence how I approach and conduct user research.

My academic knowledge of anthropology is limited to some practical
archaeology and physical anthropology coursework (which did not include
any theory), and to the obligatory introduction to sociology which left
me unimpressed, mainly because of the lack of scientific and logical
rigor I saw in the texts we were assigned. A few years later I found
art history to be much more satisfying academic discipline through
which to understand human culture, thanks to brilliant seminal
theoritical work by its late 19th and early 20th century practitioners.

That said, I am keeping an open mind and hope to find as many brilliant
theorists in the field of anthropology. I have just ordered the Geertz,
Layton, Monaghan and Just, and Moore texts and am rarin' to go however
we decide to proceed!

Nancy Broden
nancy....@gmail.com

Mick Khoo

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May 28, 2006, 11:03:49 PM5/28/06
to User Research Theory Study Group Planning
As a lapsed cultural anthropologist, I'd have to warn that, in terms
of theory, there isn't really a there there in anthropology - just a
bunch of anthropologists. Put ten anthropologists in a room, get
fifteen theories; which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway regardless of whether there *is* a there there, I have just
ordered the Monaghan and Just - should be here in a week or so I hope.
I also already have the Geertz.

Best,

Mick.


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