Doherty, A. R., Hodges, S. E., King, A. C., Smeaton, A. F., Berry, E., Moulin, C. J., … & Foster, C. (2013). Wearable cameras in health: the state of the art and future possibilities.American journal of preventive medicine,44(3), 320-323.

Gurrin, C., Qiu, Z., Hughes, M., Caprani, N., Doherty, A. R., Hodges, S. E., & Smeaton, A. F. (2013). The smartphone as a platform for wearable cameras in health research.American journal of preventive medicine,44(3), 308-313.

Doherty et al. (2013) tell that the relationship between lifestyle behaviors and health outcomes are normally based on self-reported data and that kind of data hold usually measurement errors. In responce for this researchers have moved toward objective forms of measurement that have low burden with participants and researchers. One solution is wearable cameras which is efficient at the individual level. Doherty et al. (2013) write that wearable camera technologies are used as health research tools and with them there is a possibility to use preventive medicine. They say that SenseCam, a wearable camera worn arond the neck with lanyard has been used increasingly in healthrelated research in recent years.

Gurrin et al. (2013) write that though SenseCam has potential it is not yet largerly used at the population level. They developed a smartphone application that operates in a manner similar to a SenseCam and they showed that smartphone can capture accurate and meaningful life activites through a full day. Despite challenges with battery lifetime while capturing photos and limited built-in sensing their expimerent showed that smartphones provide an effective platform for implementing wearablecamera technology. Gurrin et al. (2013) state that wearable cameras are cabable of providing invaluable information realating to individuals behaviour throughout the course of the day. Biggest asset for smatrphone as a platform for these devices is that smartphone are widely used in throughout the population.


Pekko Vehvilinen from Accenture was holding a presentation about wearable future In Sports, data and HCH seminar 10.4. His presentation was quite strange but he widely presented different kind of devices that he had in his body and how those help him with exercising and keeping him fit. He even showed his abbs. But the clear message was that wearable tech are good when monitoring ones health.

– Olli T.

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Olsson, T., Krkkinen, T., Lagerstam, E., & Vent-Olkkonen, L. (2012). User evaluation of mobile augmented reality scenarios.Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments,4(1), 29-47.

Olsson et al. (2012) presented an online survey study that aimed to gain an understanding of potential users expectations of AR and to evaluate specific use scenarios that demonstrate various aspects of mobile AR services. They evaluated the user acceptance of five different mobile AR scenarios. Their research was based on the user-centered design (UCD) approach where users expectations and needs must be placed on first priority to increase possibilities of developing succesful services. In this approach it is important to evaluate concepts and solutions as early as possible and also iterate the process several rounds to ensure their acceptance. Researchers say that UCD approach is especially important with new technologies that have few demonstrators or services available.

In their research those scenarios demonstrating pragmatic relevance and usefulness for the user were valued over pleasure oriented ones. AR was seen usefull as providing contextually relevant information putting it easily available and for example saving users time and effort. In their survey most participants wanted to receive only that kind of information that is meaningful in the current situation and context.

Olsson et al. (2012) noted that users expectations were highly depented on their technology orientation. Those users who were more technologically oriented also evalueted scenarios more positively and they would more willingly accept AR services in use. Highly technologically oriented people were also more willing to try out these services that the less oriented.


Anu Seisto was presenting their AR results when speaking with topic Human-driven approach to internet of things in seminar 28.5.2014. They had made an AR-case study with Elle-magazine readers by facilitating Sparkly iPhone App. Both the presentation and the article focused on users reactions on AR. Both the article and presentation confirmed me how crucial it is to figure out users actual needs and exceptations when designing new solutions.

– Olli T.

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Internet Forums and the Rise of the Inventive Energy User

Hyysalo, S., Juntunen, J. K., & Freeman, S. (2013). Internet forums and the rise of the inventive energy user.Science & Technology Studies,26(1), 25-51.

Hyysalo et al. (2013) studied how user-run Internet forums help dispersed and heterogeneous users to create a specific kind of learning space that helps some users to become more inventive. Their research on heat pumps revealed over a hundred inventions by citizen users in Finland alone even though the technology in heat pumps is complicated to modify. Users overcame those hindraces with sufficient peer-to-peer support. Hyysalo et al. (2013) write that user-run Internet forums play a major role also in transfer and learning of thematic knowledge, identifying and verifying points of improvement, accessing relevant services, parts and tools, boosting motivation, as well as in the spreading of user inventions among peers.

In these forums users are troubleshooting and comparing different technology models. Forums act as an information infrastructure that offers alternative sources of knowledge filling the information gaps that suppliers and resellers dont provide. Researchers argue that through these forums inventinve users grow to have the capacities and special needs/wants that drive them towards invetions.

To set up and facilitate these technology-related forums researchers suggest several aspects. Forums should be segmented into separate sections including own section for provocative and speculative exhanges. Moderation should be active but tolerant which refers discussions to appropiate areas. Private messaging and anonymous presence should be allowed which makes possible for different professionals to engage in projects and speculations without reputatien loss.


For me it was totally new idea to use and facilitate user-forums to generate better solutions and designs. For me it all makes sense sense because by nature lots of users like to invent new solutions. I think these forums provide a beneficial way to gather user-feedback and new ideas. Although I find it quite difficult to set up a new forum and gather a society to start to use it. Hyysalo was presenting these results 28.5.2014 in seminar Shaping the future with human-driven design. Presentation was easy to follow and it was nice to see how user communities were able to invent so many new ways to use heat pumps.

– Olli T.

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Designing for future professional activity – examples from ship bridge concept design.

Wahlstrm, M., Karvonen, H., Kaasinen, E., & Mannonen, P. (2014). Designing for Future Professional ActivityExamples from Ship Bridge Concept Design.Advances in Ergonomics In Design, Usability & Special Populations: Part II,17, 238.

Researchers were designing for future ship bridge concepts and they have said that studying users activities and needs does not provide new kind of radical or revolutionary innovations. Solutions are too much a like with the existing models of activity. Researchers aimed to generate design solutions that would support existing activities of professional workers and surprise the users with innovativeness by providing new possibilities.

Researchers presented three-step design approach to generate these solutions:

  • Reformulation of user study findings
  • Techonology trend and future foresight
  • Co-design and co-evaluation after creating the initial design ideas

First the idea is that user activity is understood rather than that ideas are directly used as design indications and focus should be more on the user experience than on the product features. Techonology and future foresight helps designing future oriented solutions. Co-design and co-evaluation allows increased quality and specification of design ideas. Researchers note that generating more ideas faster is possible by diminishing self-criticism allowed by this knowledge and eventually there will also be solutions valued by the actual users.


Mikael Wahlstrm was speaking 28.5.2014 in the seminar Shaping the future with human-driven design. He introduced their innovative leap – how they designed future ship bridges. It was really interesting to listen because I am extremely interested about the process how to gather user requirements and desing totally new concepts. His arguments made sense and it was nice to see their actual designs. Article and presentation made me understand better what possibilities there are for using the user data for designing totally new concepts.

– Olli T.

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Kajastila, R., and Hmlinen, P., “Augmented Climbing: Interacting With Projected Graphics on a Climbing Wall,”CHI 14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems., 1279-1284

Article describes researchers efforts developing a novel augmented climbing wall for bouldering. Their system combines projected graphics on an artificial climbing wall and body tracking using computer vision technology. System has a projector, a depth camera and a computer system for analyzing climbers movements, providing feedback about the climbers performance or creating meaningful tasks for the climber.

Researchers first tested their system at a local bouldering gym and them builded their own wall at their research lab. First main findings were that climbers could observe projected images and interactive graphics while being close to the wall and that fast moving graphics can be easily missed. The projector also has to be powerful for the graphics to be clearly visible in indoor lightning.

Participants said that they would use the augmented climbing wall, but it would be best as one separate wall in a climbing gym. They also find easy route building, sharing and instant video feedback were considered the most useful. Option for automatic route generator for training was also ranked high. Wall had also social aspect of sharing routes and the possibility to use video screen for comparing own performance to others which both received praises.

Raine Kajastila was talking about HCI and rock climbing in Sports, data and HCI seminar on 10.4. He introduced same results that are described in the article. He introduced basics from different kind of climbing variations and also aalto game and climbing research. He also showed video from their study where people were climbing in their augmented wall. It was nice to see how excited he was about their wall.

It was fun to read how bouldering and augmented reality can be combined together. Lots of stuff was familiar but it was nice to read from the basics how they tested their ideas with users.

– Olli T.

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Lee, M., Nishida, K., & Narita, Y. Experimental Verification for Subjective Sense of Object Weight. http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/100/061/ecp14100061.pdf

Researchers stated that products perceived weight is greatly influenced by individual subjectivity. The same design might be feeling lighter or heavier by a personal impression. Study focused on the relationship between the perceived weight and actual weight. They verified the difference between the subjective and physical senses of weight. Researchers aimed to find the error range and to reveal the characteristics of the subjective sense of weight.

They performed two experiments. First they used models with differing weights but the same size to find subjective sense of weigh due to the difference of weigh. Then they used models with differing sizes but the same weight to find the subjective sense of weigh by size.

They identified that in average the subjective weight was judged 24% heavier than the actual weight on below 600 g models. When the actual weights were equal but the sizes were different, the bigger objects were considered lighter in their subjective weights.

In mini-symposium on Usability and Kansei Engineering Miyong Lee presented the results from the same study that was described in the article. She mentioned that users for example want smartphones that looks light but are not too light when they are holding smartphone in their hands. She said that when designing a product it is important to realize that it has always its own subjective weight.

It was interesting to read about subjective and actual weigh and I realized how indeed the more important weigh is the subjective. Of course the user decides if the weigh is good for him or not so the actual weigh is not so important if the users finds the product heavier or lighter.

– Olli T.

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LEE. M., TANAKA. K., NARITA. Y. Perceived Simplicity of Three-dimensional Objects. International Journal of Affective Engineering Special Issue on ISAE 2013 Vol. 13 (2014) No. 1 http://doi.org/10.5057/ijae.13.101

Researchers noted that when people are looking at an object in everyday life they often say it can be classified as something that is simple or not simple. However the criteria for judging simplicity differ among different individuals. Researchers made a study that is useful to designers who in the design process want to take into account how ordinary users perceive and react to product shapes. In this study researchers were studying the figurative attributes of three-dimensional shapes and their arrangements.

First they wanted to extract those morphological attributes that influence the impressions of the simplicity. They used 50 different three-dimensional models made from wood and two study groups which contained both five persons. During the process where abstract expressions about their impressions were offered researchers repeatedly asked questions about or compared with other models until concrete morphological attributes were voiced.

Researchers identified 11 attributes concerning the simplicity of a three-dimensional object: 1. surface shape, 2. features of component size, 3. regularity in arrangement of components, 4. number of components, 5. symmetry, 6. number of different components, 7. continuity at component joints, 8. stability of each component, 9. stability of the entire model, 10. centre of gravity and 11. motif. Each of these attributes was assigned qualitative values that reflected the degree to which a model contains that attribute.

Then researchers had 40 new subjects whom they showed one by one all 50 models and they needed to provide they impression of whether the model presented was simple or not simple.

Finally they identified two generally different combinations of attributes contribute to perceived simplicity. First involves a balance between number of different components and features of component size, number of components, stability of the entire model and the stability of each component. Second is the combination of surface shape, number of components and symmetry.

In mini-symposium on Usability and Kansei Engineering Yoshihiro Narita introduced research activities on Kansei engineering. He said how Kansei engineering means emotional / affective engineering where users psyholocihal emotions and needs are taken care of in the product design. He presented how they are interested in shapes, words (cool), colors and physical stimulus. The article about simplicity in three-dimensional models is one example what they have studied in Kansei Engineering.

For me it was interesting to listen and to read how to experiment why people see something as simple or as not simple. I think the attributes what researchers identified could be really helpful in all the situations where designers are talking about how to produce simple products. It can also help conversations with the users when regarding if they see the product simple or not.

– Olli Toivonen

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Fronemann, N., & Peissner, M. (2014, October). User experience concept exploration: user needs as a source for innovation. In Proceedings of the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Fun, Fast, Foundational (pp. 727-736). ACM.

User experience (UX) has become more and more important, as successful products need to provide opportunities for enjoyment and user engagement in addition to good usability. UX includes anticipation of usage, usage itself and reflection on the use. The authors created a conceptual framework, UXellence, where positive UX is triggered by fulfilling ten basic human needs: Security, Keeping the Meaningful, Self-Expression, Relatedness, Popularity, Competition, Physical Health, Competence, Influence and Stimulation.

The authors present UX Concept Exploration as a method combining UX measurement, conceptualization of new features by addressing the UXellence framework and involving users systematically in concept and design phases.

UX Concept Exploration commences with the four steps of UX Concept Testing, which is a previously used method. The first step is Concept Briefing. In the second step, Field Experience, the users document situations in their everyday life where they would imagine using the product. At this point, the users can also suggest new features to the product. The third step consists of User Interviews. At the fourth step, Data analysis, the user-generated ideas are categorized by related needs. After these four steps, the UX Concept Exploration method suggests a fifth step to objectively rate the real value of the user-generated ideas: In Expert Evaluation a group of UX experts assess the user-generated ideas and estimate their contribution to a positive user experience. As a result, a unique product is assembled based on the most promising ideas.

The authors conducted an empirical study with 19 participants to validate the effectiveness of the UX Concept Exploration. In general the method worked well. According to the participants, the enhanced concepts fulfilled the basic needs of the UXellence framework better than the original concepts. Furthermore, the experts were able to select valuable features enhancing the UX. The authors concluded that the strength of the UX Concept Exploration lies in exploring both the positive experiences within the concept as well as additional ideas provided by the users. Thus, the method supports the integration of both technology-driven and user-driven innovation approaches.

I was listening to the presentation of this study at the NordiCHI 2014. In the presentation the researchers emphasized that the role of experts as mainly to assess the ideas, not measure them, as measuring UX would require a user study. They suggested in the presentation that this method could work as user input for companies who don’t have trained designers. The authors commented further that the users liked products built on their own needs, because they felt that they were created especially for them. This article explained the whole method more thoroughly than a conference presentation could have, and gave a good overview of both the method and the validation process.

I found the method interesting, but a bit time-consuming, as it requires a whole group of experts working on one concept. In my opinion this method follows traditional HCI thinking and incremental design. It will not create something unique out of a mundane design. However, if the original concept is unique and innovative, this method could provide the incremental improvements necessary for the concept to succeed.

Posted by Karoliina

Bachelor of Science, Information Networks Degree Program. Master studies major: Human and Interaction. Minor subjects: Work psychology and Leadership, Sound in New Media (Aalto ARTS).
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Norman, D. A., & Verganti, R. (2014). Incremental and radical innovation: Design research vs. technology and meaning change. Design Issues, 30(1), 78-96.

User-centered or human-centered design (HCD) has an iterative cycle of investigation including observation, ideation, rapid prototyping and testing. According to Norman, HCD can only lead to incremental enhancements of the product. This process can be compared to the mathematical procedure of hill climbing; tiny movements towards a certain unknown higher peak representing product quality. As the first step of HCD includes observing and analyzing user needs, it focuses on things people already know about, therefore restricting potential solutions to incremental innovation.

As opposed to incremental innovation, radical innovation seeks the highest hill, which could exist somewhere else in an unknown terrain. In Norman’s research radical innovations were always driven by technology changes. Verganti continued by stating that radical innovation could also result from changes in meaning. An innovation is radical if it is novel compared to prior inventions, unique in terms of current inventions and adopted so that it will influence future inventions. Successful radical innovation is rare, as most attempts fail. Incremental innovation is not as exciting as radical innovation, but it is needed to transform the radical idea into an acceptable form and capture the value in it.

The authors approach innovation through the dimensions of technology and meaning change, both of which can change either incrementally or radically. Radical changes in technology lead to technology-push innovation; radical changes in meaning lead to meaning-driven innovation. This can imply a change in socio-cultural regimes without any new technology. Technology epiphanies combine radical changes in both meaning and technology. They typically do not come from users but rather challenge the existing interpretations. Market-pull innovation starts from analyzing user needs and developing products to satisfy them, and makes only incremental changes in both technology and meaning.

The authors view product research through the dimensions of the quest for a novel interpretation of meaning and the quest for practicality. Basic design research searches for novel interpretations but does not consider practicality. Human-centered research focuses on practicality but does not explore new meanings. Design-driven research envisions new meanings applicable in products, leading to radical innovation. Tinkering is playing around with a product or a technology without any specific goal in mind. It can lead to brilliant insights, but this happens completely by accident.

Incremental innovation has a multitude of existing methods and processes, but radical innovation does not yet have successful methods. Radical changes in technology are enabled when the technology reaches a reliable, economical form. After that innovation results from the explorations of inventors and visionaries, usually refusing to do market research. Meaning as an approach to innovation has yet to provide anything beyond early insights. However, it could be researched by observing more general socio-cultural changes.

One direction towards radical innovation is modifying the HCD process so that it requires simultaneous development of multiple ideas. If the design team starts their work dispersed in multiple directions, some will start in a different design space, leading to a higher, more productive hill. Design-driven research can lead to radical innovation of meanings as well when it is directed towards new interpretations of what could be meaningful to people.

Personally I found the article very interesting. It challenged the HCI field with fresh thinking but acknowledged also the importance of traditional UCD work and Design Research. Don Norman opened the NordiCHI 2014 conference with his keynote Fun, Fast & Foundational. In his keynote, he discussed the relationship of radical and incremental innovation, among many other topics. According to Norman, everybody wants radical innovations, but they are rare and most of them will fail. The time-consuming incremental innovation is necessary for gradual improvements, as almost always a radical innovation is worse than the current state.

Posted by Karoliina

Bachelor of Science, Information Networks Degree Program. Master studies major: Human and Interaction. Minor subjects: Work psychology and Leadership, Sound in New Media (Aalto ARTS).
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Calvo, R. A., & Peters, D. (2012). Positive computing: Technology for a wiser world. interactions, 19(4), 28-31.

Technology affects our development of wisdom. Wisdom is developed through personal experiences, which are increasingly transformed by computers. As computers are constantly present in our daily lives, human values should be included in the design process. In addition to designing the most usable, effective and satisfying experience, designers should seek to contribute to human potential by supporting the development of wisdom and well-being. This defines a new domain called positive computing.

Positive computing is closely related to positive psychology and serves the recent movements of greater happiness, mental “wealth” and human development. This article focuses on the wisdom aspect of positive computing. Previous research approaches wisdom by its cognitive, emotional and motivational aspects. The cognitive aspect is a deep insight into self, others, and the world. The emotional aspect concentrates on emotional intelligence and emotion-regulation skills, whereas the motivational aspect is an orientation transcending the self. For positive computing, the authors propose a framework maximizing our opportunities for gaining wisdom, or at minimum, avoiding the features degrading wisdom.

The authors have created a list of different components of wisdom that current or future technologies could support. The components are intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, understanding change and uncertainty, maintaining a balance among diverse perspectives, relativism, mindfulness, reflective insight, and social consciousness.

The authors suggest that approaching digital technologies from the perspective of wisdom could contribute significant value to HCI, understanding of the mind and development of human potential. As HCI advances, the user is understood as being only a part of a larger system. Designers need to determine what is desirable within a place, an institution or a society. Moving from human-centered to humanity-centered design could direct us to technology designed to support reaching the optimum in human potential.

I selected this article as a continuum to Don Norman’s opening keynote “Fun, Fast & Foundational” at the NordiCHI 2014. In his keynote, Norman stated that we need more theory on fun and pleasure. Also recently in his blog, Norman wrote an essay on Positive Computing, pleading on systems that delight as wel as inform. Just as well as the design field is examining the role of emotions and pleasure, these findings need to be utilized into mainstream computing.

This article by Calvo and Peters on positive computing was very inspirational and easy to read, as it was written more towards the general public than the academic community. Just as studying positive psychology has left me thinking about the way I see life, the concept of positive computing triggered a personal reflection on working life and technology in general. The thought of using technology for helping people reaching their optimum human potential was highly inspirational for me.

Posted by Karoliina

Bachelor of Science, Information Networks Degree Program. Master studies major: Human and Interaction. Minor subjects: Work psychology and Leadership, Sound in New Media (Aalto ARTS).
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Mols, Ine, Elise van den Hoven, and Berry Eggen. “Making memories: a cultural probe study into the remembering of everyday life.” Proceedings of the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Fun, Fast, Foundational. ACM, 2014.

Mementos are digital or physical objects reminding the user of persons,
places or events. They function as memory cues, aiding the memory in
retrieving details not recalled spontaneously. Memory cues can be utilized
in remembering either knowledge or autobiographical memories. These
autobiographical memories aid in building and maintain social
relationships, developing a sense of identity and solving problems.

This article explores means for supporting autobiographic memories of
everyday life through design, pinpointing the aspects that will become
valuable memories. The researchers conducted a cultural probes study with
ten participants. The participants were first asked to capture a weekday in
their lives without further instructions or examples. In the second phase
they reflected on everyday experiences in the past. In the third and final
phase the participants captured the same weekday but with the benefit
of the previous discussions.

The researchers discovered that everyday life escapes definitions. Mundane
experiences may produce special memories or result from special moments of
choice. Therefore, parts of everyday life can be special, although they are
easily overlooked. In remembering everyday life, design could utilize the
aspects of repetition, familiarity and experience of habit.

Based on the findings, the researchers created four conceptual design-
research directions. The first direction was Mementos for Repeated Events;
a combined representation of a group of events rather than recording
multiple single occurrences. The second direction was Selecting Experiences
in the Present; indicating potentially valuable memories. Third direction
was Mementos in Retrospect; describing or visualizing an important instance
in a more abstract way. The fourth and final direction was Repurposing
Mementos. Current mementos could be reexamined to explore the memory aid
they provide for the aspects of everyday life.

The probes method was already familiar to me, and I usually find the results and conclusions of this method very interesting and inspirational. The presentation by Ine Mols at NordiCHI 2014 was emotional and powerful, the article revealed further interesting details of the research. The design-research directions presented as a result of the probes study left me anxious to hear the results of further studies and experiments.

Posted by Karoliina

Bachelor of Science, Information Networks Degree Program. Master studies major: Human and Interaction. Minor subjects: Work psychology and Leadership, Sound in New Media (Aalto ARTS).
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Varsaluoma, J., & Sahar, F. (2014, October). Usefulness of long-term user experience evaluation to product development: practitioners’ views from three case studies. In Proceedings of the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Fun, Fast, Foundational (pp. 79-88). ACM.

Long-term UX and longitudinal research approach problems causing frustration for expert users. This article investigates how practitioners in companies utilize results from long-term UX evaluations and approaches the usefulness from practitioners’ perspective.

According to previous research it is encouraged to combine quantitative and qualitative methods in long-term studies. Although retrospective studies can be biased, they can give relevant information for product development as memories guide customers’ future behavior and communication concerning the product. Quantitative longitudinal studies should have at least three measurements to minimize the effect of measurement error. Most observable differences occur within three to six months from the beginning of use.

The researchers aimed to discover whether information rated as interesting, novel or relevant to the practitioner’s own work would be potentially more useful. The researchers conducted three case studies evaluating long-term UX with one Scandinavian company. This article focuses on the practitioners in the company evaluating the usefulness of the results.

The practitioners found quite different things useful, so the researchers noted that long-term UX evaluation should be versatile and involve different stakeholders early on in the planning phase. In software development, update releases could be beneficial measuring points for evaluation. The researchers discovered that in long-term studies the results can take too long for the rapid development cycle. Preliminary reports may have a greater influence to the product design. Lengthy research reports might be too time-consuming for the practitioners so live presentations may be the only channel to access the research results.

Majority of practitioners found the long-term UX evaluation results interesting and relevant for their work, although several topics were already familiar from other sources such as customer care. Long-term studies help practitioners verify their previous knowledge of the subject and understand the change in UX over time. Furthermore, the results help practitioners focus their future work better and update current software products.

Varsaluoma presented this study at NordiCHI 2014. Both the presentation and the article stated clearly the importance of long-term UX. However, for practitioners working in companies, there are considerable challenges in both conducting this kind of research as well as utilizing the results. My own personal thought was that as product development is moving increasingly towards agile, fast-paced methods, the importance of long-term UX might be even more easily overlooked than before. The researchers had good common-sense approach on the shortcomings of the practitioners and practical suggestions on how the results of long-term studies could be utilized better in a fast-paced business environment.

Posted by Karoliina

Bachelor of Science, Information Networks Degree Program. Master studies major: Human and Interaction. Minor subjects: Work psychology and Leadership, Sound in New Media (Aalto ARTS).
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Clemmensen, T., Hertzum, M., Hornbaek, K., Shi, Q. and Yammiyavar, P. (2009) Cultural cognition in usability evaluation. Interacting with Computers, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 212-220.

DOI= 10.1016/j.intcom.2009.05.003

This article discusses on the cultural differences between Eastern and Western people in thinking aloud tests. Eastern people in this paper mean people with background from China or “countries heavily influenced by its culture” , and Western people refer to people in Western Europe and US citizens with European background. (This leads to a question: where do Finns stand?)

The paper does not include any own, original study, but it summarizes nicely results from other studies related to cultural differences and testing. The paper also gives quite a nice and simple model of the factors of communication in a thinking aloud test, namely
– the system with which the user interacts
– the user verbalizing his/her thoughts
– the instructions and tasks given to the user to give a frame for the actions
– the evaluator making interpretations of the user’s actions and comments
– a list of problems found made by the evaluators

This model gives several points in which cultural differences may make the difference and lead to wrong interpretations or unexpected actions. For example, the Eastern users do not give negative feedback if they do not know the evaluator well enough, and the process of thinking aloud is so difficult to Eastern people overall that it impairs their performance with the tasks. With Western users, some studies show that thinking aloud even improves their performance compared to working in silence.

The article refers to several articles studying the effects of culture in people’s behavior, especially in test situations. An interesting example is that Eastern people pay more attention to the context of situations and happenings, whereas Western people tend to focus on the people involved in the situation and their actions. This leads to the thing that was at this point the most relevant for me in this paper, i.e., at least Eastern users need a scenario for the test tasks to be able to understand what they are supposed to do and why. For Western people, tasks can be given even as a list of separate tasks without any background or scenario, and this is ok for them.

This again leads to an interesting question: where do Finns stand in this issue about scenarios? In my experience, I think we stand somewhere in the middle having effects from both sides, and I do not know if age, for example, has some effect in this matter. Might be worth studying…


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Ries. E. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Crown Business. 2011

Ries’ book is well known in start-up scene. For a computer scientist/software engineer, the idea of the book resonates well with the agile software development movement. Ries pushes (start-up) companies to iterate the core product offering and business model of the company continuously through build-measure-learn loops and pivoting. The idea is to develop good measurements of success and continuously check how you are doing by them. Although Ries advocates rapid development, his process of continuous innovation through iterations is actually quite heavy. The process of creating hypotheses and validating them with tests is quite near the basic scientific method and requires a lot of work. Well, who said that entrepreneurship is easy.

Interestingly, Ries also claims that while start-up companies are very different from large established companies, the innovation or new product development activities of large companies are near the activities of start-up companies and that lean startup ideology can be utilized in them too.

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Johnson, S. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. Penguin Group. 2011

In his book, Johnson parallels technology development/innovation with biological evolution. The core idea of the book is that like evolution also innovation benefit from reinventing/reusing, sharing, openness, errors and randomness. Johnson presents both historical and more current examples of innovation to back his claim.

For me the key takeaways of the book was a nice explanation of innovation, which manages to combine ‘leaps of innovation’ with a progressive development (of technology). Often individual geniuses and magical-like leaps in thinking are emphasized when innovations are described. Johnson manages to explain how the environment can support and build-up to these ‘leaps’. Johnson’s book would probably be a valuable thinking aid for anyone participating or responsible for company’s R&D or innovation activities. While some parts of the book implicate quite straightforward applications for product development organization’s practices or tools, the others are more challenging. For example the description of water as a good platform for evolution (water is eroding and brings different particles together yet remains itself the same) seem to hint some goals for good platforms (organizations and tools) for innovation. However, it might be a bit more problematic to build the platform that actually manages to realizes the water for innovation.

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Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern and Contemporary. Part V


In the discussion, Rogers identifies most and least successful theories in the history of HCI as well as the main changes that have happened in theories. According to her, the most successful theories in HCI have been conceptual frameworks such as context-aware framework, interactional trajectories, and ambiguity framework. In addition ethnographic approaches have proved to be useful for researchers and designers.

The least successful theories have been those that have been adapted from other fields of research as generalizable methods. Rogers identifies four main problems with these theories:

  • assuming that theories do the design
  • forgetting that designers already have established methods and techniques
  • not allowing enough time for the theory to mature and show impact
  • being too difficult and laborious to master

In addition the contribution of these theories has been unclear. One additional problem has risen during recent years. The increasing number of theoretical approaches has made it difficult for the designers and researchers to select the most useful ones for them.

The main changes in HCI theories have been:

  • shifting of the focus from the user to context
  • replacing of the scientific-interaction design duality in methods and theories with multiple and hybrid methodology
  • transition from interdisciplinarity to transdisciplinarity
  • change in the outputs from design implications, models of the user and the user experience, and tools for analysis to creating new ways of experiencing and take into account human values.

Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern, and Contemporary.Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, May 2012, Vol. 5, No. 2

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Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern and Contemporary. Part IV

The sixth chapter (Contemporary Theory) describes the recent turns to design, to culture, to the wild, and to embodiment in HCI theory. According to Rogers, the background theme in all these is human values. Human values are taking the place of human needs in HCI. One manifestation of this is the addition of understanding to the traditional user-centered design process (study, design, build, evaluate).

Turn to design means changing from how to do interaction design to how to think about interaction design. Turn to culture has been about utilizing the theories and approaches of arts and humanities to explain e.g. user experience. Turn to the wild refers to ways of studying cognitive and social phenomena in context and especially to studying how people adapt and appropriate new technologies. Lastly, turn to embodiment refers to an understanding that human beings and all their activities are somehow embodied.

The history of HCI has been filled with different turns, i.e. adapting a new viewpoint at the expense of old ones. Rogers does not see this trend ending and suggests e.g. proxemics, F-formations and device ecologies as potential nest turns.

Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern, and Contemporary.Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, May 2012, Vol. 5, No. 2

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Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern and Contemporary. Part III

The fifth chapter (Modern theories) of the book covers cognitive approaches that differed from traditional cognitive psychology, as well as social approaches that emerged as reactions against dominant cognitive approaches. In addition activity theory and grounded theory are handled as examples of other important theories form the same epoch.

The alternative cognitive approaches include external cognition, distributed cognition, and ecological cognition. These approaches widen the focus from mental processes to include environment and also position parts of “information processing” to external resources such as rules, procedures etc. Interestingly the roots of contextual design are traced to Distributed Cognition for Teamwork (DiCoT) method which was developed to ease out the difficulties of applying distributed cognition approach. All these alternative cognitive approaches have had an important impact on HCI. However, their significance has been decreased by new approaches that managed to widen the scope of HCI further by for example emphasizing the context and including experiencing in addition of goal oriented tasks as core user actions.

The social approaches covered in the chapter include situated action, ethnomethodology, and CSCW theories. Situated action and ethnomethodology emerged as counter forces to cognition focused approaches. They both emphasize the context in which the user acts. The approaches have been very influential to HCI and because of them a “turn to social” can be identified in the historical view of HCI. The main problem of social approaches has been in processing the rich detailed descriptions of people work and activities into design implications and guidelines.

The fifth chapter is much longer and also more detailed overview of the most important modern theories of HCI than the fourth chapter was about the classical ones. As a result the chapter can also be used as a tool to select or find approaches that are related to one’s own research or could inform it. Naturally, the descriptions of different theories are short and condensed but the extensive literature references give good points to continue digging into most interesting themes.

Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern, and Contemporary.Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, May 2012, Vol. 5, No. 2

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Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern and Contemporary. Part II

The fourth chapter (Classical Theories) covers the traditional and “old” theories in HCI, i.e. theories derived from cognitive psychology. The chapter focuses on three approaches: body of knowledge, applying of basic research, and cognitive modeling.

Body of knowledge means the somewhat direct contributions of cognitive psychology to HCI, i.e. theories and models of memory, percepetion, mental models etc. Although the contribution of this approach is clear, it has been criticized especially of being only bits and pieces and not covering all aspects of HCI.

Applying basic research is a more systematic approach of selecting relevant theories from cognitive psychology and applying them to certain interface design problems. Main problem with this approach has been the dramatic difference between basic research context of cognitive psychology (mainly laboratory setups with a focus on certain limited phenomena) and messy real world settings of HCI. As a result the predictions about best UIs (easiest to learn etc.) based on theories of cognitive psychology were not very successful.

Cognitive modeling was at least for me the most familiar approach of bringing theories to HCI. Cognitive models such as Norman’s theory of action and Schneiderman’s direct manipulation framework are included in the basic HCI curriculum and resemble more to actual HCI theories than general models of human memory or perception. Cognitive modeling approach has also produced some of the most used methods of analyzing and evaluating user interfaces and usability, i.e. heuristic evaluation and cognitive walkthroughs (and also GOMS). Main critique towards cognitive modeling and its results has been about the level of details in the models. Models are always simplifications and it is difficult to keep an interaction model simple and include context of use and other complex external factors in to it.

The fourth chapter was a good overview of the classical theories (the book utilizes art historical division to classical, modern and contemporary as a way to structure the numerous different ways theories have been developed or brought in HCI). However, I felt that the classical theories were criticized quite heavily considering that they still are referred in every introductory book of HCI.

Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern, and Contemporary.Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, May 2012, Vol. 5, No. 2

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Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern and Contemporary. Part I

In introductory chapters (1. Introduction, 2 The Backdrop to HCI Theory, 3 The Role and Contribution of Theory in HCI), Rogers gives a nice overall view of theories and their role in HCI. The main takeaway is that HCI as a research field has expanded enormously during last few decades and as a one result of the expansion, the role of theory (or theories) has changed dramatically. HCI is no more about human-computer interaction but about designing products to support people communicate and interact and express themselves and even about “what it means to be human in a world full of computers”. During this change, the amount of theories have grown considerably. The growing number of different paradigms, theories, models, and frameworks can create problems when one tries to understand what is the current state-of-the-art understanding of phenomena at hand.

Rogers also lists the different kinds of theories that have been used in HCI:

  • descriptive
  • explanatory
  • predictive
  • prescriptive
  • generative
  • informative
  • ethnographic
  • conceptual
  • critical
  • wild


Rogers, Y. HCI Theory: Classical, Modern, and Contemporary.Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered Informatics, May 2012, Vol. 5, No. 2

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