Socio-technical practices

The aim of the socio-technical practices team is to explore how we can work and communicate with digital technologies in new sustainable ways. We want to widen the research agenda of user experience and usability to encompass the situatedness of the design, development, implementation and use of technology.

Our interest lies in understanding how different stakeholders make sense of and appropriate technology. Our standpoint is to work closely with users, management, designers and developers of technology.

Even though we are based in a technical university, we want to keep a critical stance and not blindly promote technology, but rather investigate the broad set of stakeholder values involved in the deployment and use of digital media and ICT products, services and environments. In our view, the concepts of user experience and usability must become more holistic. We draw our inspiration from a multi-disciplinary research ethic that incorporates value sensitive design, socio-material practices, organizational theory, media science, studies of management information systems, and Science and Technology Studies, just to name a few.

The focus of our project work is to reach a critical understanding of processes of change that enable/disable and empower/disempower – who empowers whom, and who become disabled? This understanding is formed through a critical analytical stance of all aspects of technology - from creation to use. Our vision is that a deeper understanding of the socio-technical aspects of technology can inform participatory patterns in design, procurement, deployment and validation processes. Our challenge is to work strategically within socio-technical design practices, promote a holistic view of technology and prepare for change.

Projects

The Internet – a tool for social sustainability?

Sustainability has been a hot topic in the environmental debate since the late 1980s and is continuously being used as a societal vision in political discussions on many levels, both domestic and international. During the last decade there has been an increasing interest in the social aspects of sustainability, which has resulted in a growing amount of research. However, the concept of social sustainability remains under-theorized, and there is a need for further research into its relationship to technological change, the democratic processes, the financial sector and the cultural challenges in the wake of globalization.

This project is primarily theory-based and has two main focal points; to explore the concept of social sustainability and to investigate the potential of ICT in general and the Internet in particular for social sustainability. The project aims at building concepts and theoretical constructs that can aid us in understanding some of the technologically related challenges that we face as a society in the 21st century. Research questions that interest us are, e.g. Does the Internet have a potential to revitalize democracy? Is online anonymity a threat to democracy or a deliberative opportunity? Can social media be a tool for social sustainability?

Human rights as a driving force for innovation

The consortium consist of partners from the region in west Sweden, Gothenburg univ., Blekinge technical college, KTH and a number of companies. The starting point for this project are the concrete requirements from the society on equal access to the societys different arenas. At the same time there is an emerging awareness among the trade and the industry and the players in the society that their operations should be made more accessible to all people in our society. Human rights is emerging as the political frame within which more and more choose to handle questions concerning accessibility, equality and diversity. Questions about accessibility and human rights might be the base for new innovations in companies and organizations. Via this project we will, by using human rights as a driving force, develop innovative products, services and environments that build on needs from diverse categories of users/customers. One aim of the project is new businesses so that a broader range of groups can take part of the new products, services and environments which can give a more sustainable society.

Effective environmental inspection and enforcement

This programme focuses on environmental inspection and enforcement. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has the overall responsibility for this task in Sweden. However, inspections are mostly carried out by EPIs employed by municipalities or county administrative boards. The ultimate goal of environmental inspections and enforcement is to achieve compliance with the Environmental Code.The goals of this programme are the same: to develop methodologies for inspection, present a designfor the organization of inspections and develop a system for measuring the effects of EIE, such that inspections and enforcement are carried out in the most efficient way. This research programme will focus on the role of EPIs and the transmission of information regarding the potentially environmentally harmful activities of firms.Today, there is no national information system. The goal is to prototype an information system that measures the effects of inspections, thereby making it possible for the SEPA to follow up on and coordinate all inspection activities in Sweden, such that a higher degree of legal security and consistency can be achieved. 

UsersAward Research Panel

The UsersAward Research Panel was formed in 1998 to act as a quality assurance resourse for the UsersAward project, an initiative from LO (Swedish Trade Union Confederation) to do for workplace software, what the TCO (Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees) had done for hardware – to implement a quality label based on the satisfaction of end-users using the software in their daily work. With researches participating from KTH, Uppsala, Linköping and Gävle universities, yearly Users’ IT Prize Contest have been arranged between 2000 and 2010. Eight User Certified certificates have been awarded to software packages that have met, and exceeded, the expectations of users in their respective application domain. And a series of nationela surveys of user satisfaction in industry, health care and banking have been performed. The methodology for quality assurance has been used in German studies (Jochen Prümper) and, as of this writing, the panel has discussions with Danish (Christian Nøhr) and Finish (Hannele Hyppönen) researchers on if, and how, it could be incorporated in software certification programmes being planned in their respective countries. Three international research workshops have been performed (UITQ 2005, 2007 and 2009) and in 2011, the UsersAward Living Lab was formed to fascilitate European cooperation between researchers interested in taking part in User IT Quality assurance initiatives (http://www.openlivinglabs.eu/
livinglab/users-award-living-lab).

Usability and Model-based Development of Capabilities

The research project Användbarhet och Modellbaserad förmågeutveckling, (A&MbFU, Usability and Model-based Development of Capabilities), took place between 2009 and 2011 and the procurer of the research project was the Swedish Defence Material Administration (FMV). The over-arching aim of the project was to introduce a higher focus on human-centredness in the early phases of the requirement and procurement processes at the Swedish Armed Forces (SwAF). In particular the aim was to introduce, test and evaluated different user-centred methods and activities. In this project the researchers were in contact with personnel working on a strategic level, planning the future architecture and work of SwAF as well as officers working with developing military units and writing future plans for these units. Interesting to note in this project was the shortcomings of the usability methods when working with the strategic planners, which implies that we need to consider revising usability methods in this context. Furthermore, the single most successful method was the persona method, although the resulting personas differed substantially from the view on personas in the literature, here the private was truly private. Instead the trustworthiness of the personas had to depend on other subtle clues in the persona description. The results of this was also confirmed by a different and unconnected research project using personas in another part of the swedish defense organizations. These results poses new insights into the persona method and its application. 

Members

Christiane Grünloh, PhD Student

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