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Thinking about what my thesis topic will be seems like an alien concept at this point in my graduate career. At this point I would not be surprised if one of the two topics discussed end up as my eventual topic, at least in some form. I know they would be flushed out more and refined.

Health-Related Video Games - Design, Analysis, and Function

The video game industry has grown into a multibillion-dollar business. Certain areas of the market remain untapped, specifically health-related video games, which are virtually non-existent. Currently health related video games are garnering more interest, especially with reports such as the ones of children losing weight from playing Dance Dance Revolution, a dancing rhythm game. Nintendo has realized the importance of this market and will be releasing Wii Fit, a game designed to make exercising fun for people.

The main portion of my research will be creating a health-related game. Before this commences current health related games will be analyzed and evaluated to start determining health-related video game design guidelines. These guidelines will help establish some basic elements that work well for designing health-related video games as well as showing design choices that work poorly. Creating a game will commence at this point and it will be tested to provide validation of the design and it can be improved based on acquired feedback.

Currently it is not known if people will actually learn new lifestyle habits from playing a game or if they will revert to their old routines once they become bored with the game. The best methods for imparting health-related knowledge in a video game is also not know. Part of my research will be to examine these questions in regards to a specific target group.

The target population for the research is children with diabetes. People with diabetes have to be highly aware of what they are eating and how it will affect them. Getting regular exercise will also help reduce some of the complications from the disease. The video game I will create as part of my research will address one or both of these issues. It will then be tested by member of the target group to refine the game and offer more insights into the health-related video game design process.

The overall goal of my research is to influence future health-related video game design by providing principles and guidelines that other designers can use in their own creations. It is also my hope to enable people to take a more active role in maintaining their health.


Designing a Socio-Technical Environment to Support Community Reflection

My research will examine socio-technical environments [Mumford, 1987] for enabling reflective communities. Individuals are naturally reflective, in that an individual will modify his thoughts and actions based on what transpires around him [Schön, 1983]. Communities, however, are not naturally reflective [DuRussel & Derry, 2005; O’Donnel & Derry, 2005]. As a result, diverse perspectives and ideas are not used effectively by a community for solving problems. With modern decentralization of knowledge into highly specialized niches, no single person is likely to have sufficient knowledge to solve a complex problem in any given field, and collaboration is therefore necessary. A reflective community ensures that member actions will spur new actions and ideas in the community, with the uniqueness of each individual contributing to the project [Fischer, 2005].

The past research of the The Envisionment and Discovery Collaboratory (EDC) [Arias et al. 2000] and Caretta [Sugimoto et al. 2004] have demonstrated that for small, face-to-face projects, a socio-technical environment is revolutionary in changing how people collaborate. The EDC is a socio-technical computing environment offering a shared work space where users can collaborate via table-top computing, digitized reflection spaces, and access to outside content sources. Both EDC and Caretta encourage individual reflective practices and short-term reflective communities, which suggest they could be modified to create a successful long-term reflective community.

Fundamentally my proposed research is motivated by the question, when solving a complex long-term design problem in a socio-technical environment, can reflective communities be formed and maintained? Further, what obstacles do reflective communities encounter and how can technology be utilized to make them more effective? Will current technologies used in new ways be enough for establishing a reflective community or will new technologies need to be created? How does technology impact a reflective community in the long-term?

To answer these questions the current EDC model will be analyzed and appropriate new technologies will be incorporated into the model with the goal of increasing the reflective qualities of a community. Real-world tests will be conducted using the new EDC model to measure the reflective nature of the community. The model will be changed as needed depending on the feedback received from the participants. The end result will be a more thorough understanding of how technology can increase the effectiveness of a reflective community.

Arias, E. G., Eden, H., Fischer, G., Gorman, A., & Scharff, E. (2000) “Transcending the Individual Human Mind – Creating Shared Understanding through Collaborative Design,” ACM Transactions on Computer Human-Interaction, 7(1), pp. 84-113.

DuRussel, L.A., & Derry, S. J. (2005) “Schema (mis)alignment in an interdisciplinary working group.” In S. J. Derry, C.D. Schunn, & M. A. Gernsbacher (Eds.), Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 187 – 220.

Fischer, G. (2005) "From Reflective Practitioners to Reflective Communities." In: Proceedings of the HCI International Conference (HCII), Las Vegas, July 2005, (published on CD).

Mumford, E. (1987) "Sociotechnical Systems Design: Evolving Theory and Practice." In G. Bjerknes, P. Ehn, & M. Kyng (Eds.), Computers and Democracy, Avebury, Aldershot, UK, pp. 59-76.

O’Donnel, A., & Derry, S. J. (2005) “Congitive Processes in Interdisciplinary Groups: Problems and Possibilities.” In S. Derry, C. Schunn, & M. Gernsbacher (Eds.), Interdisciplinary Collaboration: An Emerging Cognitive Science, Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 51 – 82.

Schön, D. A. (1983) “The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action.” Basic Books, New York.

Sugimoto, M., Hosoi, K., & Hashizume, H. (2004) “Caretta: A System for Supporting Face-to-Face Collaboration by Integrating Personal and Shared Spaces.” In Proceedings of CHI2004, Vienna, Austria, pp. 41-48.

Last modified 10 December 2007 at 11:34 pm by JeffreyLaMarche