By Doug Divine
Doug Divine is a PhD student in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington.
In October of 2011, I had the honor of presenting at the ACM SIGDOC (Special Interest Group on Design of Communication) conference. Traditionally held in North America, this conference has been increasing its international exposure over the past few years, with recent conferences held in Lisbon, Spain (2008) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (2010). This year’s conference was held at a seaside resort in Tirrenia (Pisa), Italy and demonstrated the conference’s ability to draw an accomplished roster of academic researchers and industry professionals from around the globe. Given the intimate nature of the single track conference I was exposed to research being conducted all over the world and had the opportunity to discuss my research interests with new friends and colleagues from Brazil, Spain, Japan, Germany, Portugal, North America, India, Macedonia, and the Netherlands.
The conference, co-sponsored this year by the Serious Games Institute, had several dedicated sessions on research being conducted in the design, usability, and pedagogical utility of serious gaming. It was impressive to witness the amount of research aimed at embedding cognitive constructs and user-centered design principles in the realm of gaming with the intent of increasing its impact on the larger arena of communication design. I encourage those interested in serious gaming to review the proceedings for this conference as it represents useful empirical analysis and procedural implementations for the field.
Beyond the sessions dedicated to serious games, more traditional sessions in social media, usability, accessibility, user interface and communication design were offered. Some notable papers on the measurement of cognitive load in usability testing, the use of activity theory in development of interaction history mining algorithms, and multiple presentations on usability evaluations of designs for the blind community, were just a few of my personal favorites. My own paper, co-authored by fellow PhD student Toni Ferro and Professor Mark Zachry, was well received. I presented our research that tested a typology of service genres across 250 Web 2.0 sites used by technical knowledge workers. Investigating genres of PAOS (publically available online services) as well as the intended interactions that users employ during their use, is providing a more structured way for researchers and designers to communicate about online interactions and the evolution of services that make them possible. I also had the opportunity to showcase a poster on behalf of the GEMviz project, conducted through the Communicative Practices in Virtual Workspace research group. The poster addressed the design-use challenge of creating a shared tool and related resources in order to create a community where only individuals with loosely related shared interests existed before. The group used community-focused design techniques to develop a system that represents the ideas of dispersed researchers and educators with uncoordinated interests in genre ecologies.
The chance to share some of the great work being conducted in HCDE and across the University was very rewarding. I made many contacts and developed what I hope will be life-long friendships. I am looking forward to seeing my new friends in Seattle next October, when the University of Washington hosts ACM SIGSDOC 2012. There is currently a call for papers and I encourage everyone to submit materials and get involved with this wonderful conference.