Friday, March 18, 2005

This being my first post I’ll explain whereabouts I am with my current project. I’m in the 3rd year of my PhD investigating the domestic consumption of online music. Approaching the end of my data collection now which has involved time spent in the Music Interactive dept of the BBC, as well as time in online music user groups and a lot of time hanging around record stores inviting people to be interviewed (it’s tough job, but…). Starting to pull some main themes from the research and it’s all getting very interesting, not to mention complicated. Currently trying to get to the bottom of the importance of the format of a piece of music and what impact this has on the listening experience. Does an MP3 file share the same value as a piece of music on CD, tape or vinyl? How do users relate differently to different formats? What affordances do various formats give? Does this influence the meaning that piece of music has for the listener? Questions, questions, questions…

- Gerard

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I had the opportunity to speak on a panel last night at the RCA entitled Issues in Interaction Design - Me and My Users. It was the first of an evening seminar series chaired by Bas Raijmakers and featured presentations by Bill Gaver (RCA), Roger Coleman (RCA), Martin Bontoft (Ideo), Gill Wildman and Nick Durrant (Plot). Short presentations covered the issues faced by designers and researchers in industry and academia around the questions:
What is the role of the user in the design process?
Can we have complex users with personalities and still talk about products and mass production?
Where is the boundary between the designer and the user?
Discussion with the audience of design students and researchers circled around the variety of methodologies and techniques available, the identity of ‘users’ and ‘non-users’ as well as the meaning and history of the term ‘users’, the value of design in the research process and how failure is often more acceptable in prototyping than in research. The group then headed to the bar, as any good panel should, where the discussion continued. The next two sessions will be about Thinking Through Making and Designer Science.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The INCITE group has been pretty busy over the first few months of the year and I thought it might be a good time to do a quick overview of everyone’s activities.

Firstly Kate is leaving us. She has accepted a permanent lectureship at the University of Edinburgh, in the Graduate School of Social and Political Studies: the central focus is on e-learning and social research methods. It will be very sad to see her go but on the other hand it means we have someone to visit in Scotland.

Kris has almost finished the interviewing section of his year-long ESRC funded research into photoblogs. He has travelled far and wide on and offline (from the Docklands to Oxford to Stoke Newington to East London) in his quest to find out about people’s photo blogging motivations and the social life of images. You can follow his travelling, interviewing, reading and analytical progress on his research blog – Photos Leave Home.

Steve can almost see the end of his PhD. He is currently in the midst of the final write up of his CASE studentship looking at the social construction of digital cameras. To understand this he has investigated advertising stories, retail spaces and practices, interviewed and observed users in their own homes and participated in online communities. The notion of branding permeates his work. Evidence of his visual and textual analysis of everyday experiences of digital photography wallpapers the INCITE studio.

Mary is also in the process of analysing and writing up her PhD work. Her research on the online political cultures of exiles and independent journalists focuses on three models of democratic theory - liberal, Islamic and radical. She is critically addressing current theories on the role new information technologies play in shaping online deliberative democracy and counterpublics.

Gerard is currently deeply engaged in interviewing, transcribing and making sense of his data for his PhD project about online music in the home. He is interested in finding out what happens when music goes virtual and has been working with BBC Music Online.

In amongst the plethora of thesis reviews, writing studentship applications, attending meetings, organising and helping all of us as well as doing her own work, Nina has also started teaching the M.Sc course Innovations in Online Research on Fridays. I just attended the first one and if that is anything to go by it's going to be an intense and exciting course.

I am seven weeks into my PhD. After years of thinking about it I have finally started and it's overwhelming, terrifying and stimulating all at once. I have been attending classes and had the opportunity to guest teach a few undergrad ones too. It's been pretty busy. My interests lie in new tech and urban sociality so I will be looking at the ways in which people create relationships and social networks around and through digital technologies and the influence of urban space in the configuration and maintenance of connections between people. My study will look at what kinds of urban sociality are being enabled by digital technology, how they are constructed (formal and informal interactions and organisations) and where they are located (the role urban space has in particular social networks). I’m planning on continuing the bus blog and starting a new blog about my research (once I come up with a suitable name for it….)

- kat