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LOOP: A Physical Artifact to Facilitate Seamless Interaction with Personal Data

Overview

  • Type: M1.2 Research Project
  • Goal: Research how a physical artifact could facilitate seamless interaction with activity data in everyday life.
  • Final grade: E
  • Competencies: DRP | CA | TR | US | MDC

Key learning points

1. Trusting own abilities in an unfamiliar environment.
2. Conducting a field study with an ‘intelligent system’.
3. Designing for greater knowledge instead of designing for the user.

Deliverables

Paper

Explanation

Nowadays, data is more presented as consumer product, though sometimes with an unclear appropriate interaction. The aim of my research was to explore what opportunities lie in the physicalization of personal data and how this could elicit reflection in the everyday life. LOOP is a physicalization designed to allow the individual to engage with their activity data coming from activity trackers. The rings visualize the daily progress compared to the step goal and the results of previous days. For the realization of LOOP multiple end-users have been interviewed and have participated in a co creation session to extract important values for them using an activity tracker. LOOP is evaluated by a field study in the home context. Each participant received LOOP for 1 week and provided information about his/her experience via interviews and a diary.

Reflection

I went for 3 months to the Interaction Center of University College London to do a research project on a yet undefined topic around data visualization. Once arrived in London it turned out the topic was totally up to me without any requirements. The design research process of this semester was therefore both a blessing and hell as I had the freedom to direct it fully to my desire, but also had to trust fully on my own abilities in an unfamiliar place.


For the realization of the final prototype I created multiple prototypes exploring on the materials, construction and electronics. Initially I wanted to program LOOP until a fully working prototype, unfortunately this was not feasible in the timeframe. Instead I created a Wizard of Oz method which asked for a lot of engagement from my side during the field study itself, as I had to manually update the prototypes every hour. However, it made me able to conduct a field study which was one of my goals.


Looking back on my design research process, I had especially in the beginning difficulties in changing my mindset from designing for a specific context or need to designing for the creation of knowledge. Also because of the Constructive Design Research elective in which I had done a lab study, I had the tension to make everything measurable, which is for a field study not necessarily desirable.
Towards the end of the semester everything started to fall into place. Writing my first academic paper was a good exercise to both communicate my ideas but also to force myself to get a grasp of the bigger picture of the work I had done and how it could contribute to the research community. In conclusion, this semester provided me of a first experience in doing a full research project and gave me a better understanding of what design research actually entails. Moreover, this made me realize I wanted to pursue with conducting research in tangible data visualization.