I realised that all my associations with the term were in information science rather than HCI, and other non-computer disciplines such as education and medicine. I also realised that the “don’t design for yourself” guidance, which was originally about taking a user-centred rather than technologist-centred approach, makes action research ideologically inimical to many.
I posted a question to Twitter, Facebook and the exec mailing list of Interaction yesterday and got a wonderful set of responses.
Here are some of the pointers in the replies (and no, I have not read them all overnight!):
- Gillian Hayes, The Relationship of Action Research to Human-Computer Interaction. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction. 2011. 18 (3): 15.
- Ned Kock (2011): Action Research: Its Nature and Relationship to Human-Computer Interaction. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.). “Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction”. Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. (I should have found that one myself!)
- The works of Peter Wright’s, Mark Blythe and Jane Wallace and then I realised in general a lot of arts/HCI work has this flavour, not least in the LeonardoNet network in which both Peter and I participated, and also the book “Action Research and New Media“.
- Bonnie Nardi’s work on World of Warcraft reported in “My Life as Night Elf Priest” – which s subtitiled “An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft” focusing on the anthropological underpinnings, which made me reflect that there is a strong tradition of engaged ‘gone wild’ anthropology.
- In general the ECSCW/PD/C&T communities, perhaps more than CHI, including the whole participatory design movement, although the latter maybe not usually involving the embedded engagement that is characteristic of true action research. Marcus Foth‘s work on Urban Informatics was suggested as good an example of action research and PD.
- Of course Health IT which has taken on the methods of healthcare in general, where it is hard to stand back objectively when you could make a difference.
- Similarly the ICTs for development including the work of Gary Marsden and others work at University of Cape Town (Bill Tucker, Marshini Chetty and Edwin Blake were mentioned, but I’m sure more there too).
- Jan Guiliksen‘s work (Gulliksen, J., Cajander, Å., Sandblad, B., Eriksson, E., Kavathatzopoulos, I. (2009) User-Centred Systems Design as Organizational Change: A Longitudinal Action Research Project to Improve Usability and the Computerized Work Environment in a Public Authority.
- Works on Co-Design, notably “Postcolonial computing: a lens on design and development“, “Designing for social justice: people, technology, learning“, and the Zotero list on Civic Media CoDesign
- Charlie DeTar (whose own works sit deep in this area), also recommends Structuration Theory (which I’ve come across before in more organisational literature), in particular Sewell’s “A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation” and DeSanctis and Poole’s “Capturing the Complexity in Advanced Technology Use: Adaptive Structuration Theory“, although Charlie warns that the main thrust of the literature is towards post-hoc description not design.
- Some works address directly the issues of academic legitimacy for AR in different areas including “Living in the Basement of the Ivory Tower” and “Action Research: Its Nature and Validity” (the latter by Checkland, whose approaches used to be quite strongly advocated within the socio-technical side of HCI, at least in the UK)
- and as a more classic use of AR in information systems, the work of Richard Baskerville.
Many thanks to the following for responses, suggestions and comments: Michael Massimi, Nathan Matias, Charlie DeTar, Gilbert Cockton, Russell Beale, David England, Dianne Murray, Jon Rogers, Ramesh Ramloll, Maria Wolters, Alan Chamberlain, Beki Grinter, Susan Dray, Daniel Cunliffe, and any others if I have missed you!