interaction design :: user experience :: mobile tech
This course was an excellent opportunity to learn about how qualitative research methods, could be used by an HCI practitioner to gain a more holistic, in-depth view of user behaviors and practices.
The course was based around a project investigating uses of technology in the context of meetings. Course content covered both data collection and analysis techniques. For our class project, we were supposed to observed meetings around the Georgia campus, paying attention to participants' use of technology during the meeting. We were interested in observing not only the use of "high" technology such as laptops, projectors, or PDAs, but even meeting artifacts such as chairs, tables, and whiteboards, which all have the capacity to either facilitate or impede completion of the meeting objectives.
My partner and I sat in on three separate meetings - a software training class, faculty meeting, and administrative staff meeting - which we thought would provide a nice cross-section of personell present at the university (students, faculty, and staff). As this was supposed to be strictly non-participant observation , it was important to be unobtrusive and not affect the flow of the meeting. We used pen and paper for taking field notes. Based on timestamps, our raw written notes were reconciled and merged, then converted to a narrative form (e.g. "Then participant X asked participant Y if she knew how to set up the projector"), in preparation for the data analysis phase.
We utilized the Grounded Theory method of data analysis to see if we could elucidate similar practices surrounding technology use across our different data points. This inductive data analysis method involved combing through field notes and identifying discrete behaviors / actions, consistently labeling them (in the analysis stage called open coding), then trying to connect these categories and merge them into broader classes (in the analysis stage called axial coding). This inductive process continued, repeatedly boiling down categories into meta-categories, until we arrived at a single "story line" that could encapsulate all our observations into one unified framework:
"A side-effect of technology usage in meetings is a unique social interaction that revolves around the use of teamwork to solve technology-created difficulties. Meeting participants team up together to solve problems, offering both solicited and non-solicited assistance. Partially based on people's perception of technology, this teamwork reveals a split between technology gurus and non-gurus. Humor, in the form of sarcasm and self-deprecation, is often used as a tool for face-saving by the non-gurus, in an attempt to mitigate the effect (or perceived effect) of this gap."