research

Since 2005 I have been involved in approximately 25 interdisciplinary design research projects. Many of these projects are in the area of humanities visualization; many are still ongoing. Humanities visualization typically involves experimental interface designs that show complex displays and tools for dealing with digital collections of texts or images. Currently I am involved in four projects, all in interaction design. Three of my current projects involve interface design for data mining of large text collections; two of these have budgets in the millions, extending over longer periods (anywhere from two to seven years). I have also been involved in smaller projects, funded through the Alberta Colleges and Technical Institutes program and the Alberta government, to design a new on-line parks management system. Finally, as part of my doctoral work, I was funded through the NSERC program on a project to develop a framework for plant-wide decision-making that can provide effective support for manufacturing operations (more on that below).

My work is intensely interdisciplinary, with no two members of a project sharing a common disciplinary background. I have worked, so far, with colleagues in approximately a dozen disciplines, including computer science, psychology, humanities computing, sociology, visual communication design, city planning, political science, pharmacy, communications studies, English literature, library and information studies, and chemical and materials engineering. Our research projects have ranged from teams of six to eight local members (www. tapor.ca), to as many as fifty researchers at seven universities (www.inke.ca). My typical role is in the area of experimental interface design – the conceptualization, realization, iterative testing, and development of novel, web-based tools.

The main focus of my research activities is in the design and development of interactive systems that enhance human access to information using visual and information design processes and techniques. My efforts are driven by a user-centred approach and the belief that machines should help meet human needs, whether to entertain, educate, collaborate, make decisions, or complete tasks.

Many of the interfaces I have designed are experimental in nature. Experimental interface design typically proceeds iteratively, through a research life cycle that includes three phases: conceptual and theoretical work supported by sketches; prototyping informed by user study; and production and implementation, with further information provided by analysis of logs. The objective of this research is not primarily to implement current best practices, but rather to help invent the next generation of best practices.

In the future, I hope to continue my work in experimental interface design, text visualization, and decision support. In particular, I hope that my work on interfaces for manufacturing decision support will find a useful place in other settings such as health care and emergency foreign aid delivery.