Friday, March 15, 2013

Johnson: How Social Media Changes User-Centred Design

Mikael Johnson is defending his thesis "How Social Media Changes User-Centred Design” at Aalto University School of Science. A case study on Sulake's Habbo Hotel questions basic assumptions of user-centred design concerning social media service design. In his lectio precursoria, Johnson discussed different aspects of the concept user and user-centred design. He further presented views on social media and presented some central questions behind his research. These included (1) (2) (3). The method applied in the thesis is based on explorative case studies. The specific context has been Habbo Hotel that is one the largest social media applications in the world for teenagers. The results have been presented in twelve publications, among which seven have been included in the thesis. In his work, Johnson developed two new concepts, i.e. developer–user social distance and content creation capacity. The motivation has been to help designers and researchers to consider and communicate previously neglected dimensions of user involvement.

The opponent, professor Jan Gulliksen from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, paid attention to the fact that some research questions and topics such as user-centered design deserve continuous attention. He mentioned that no one would ask cancer researchers are not asked why they still continue as the topic has been explored already for a long time. Gulliksen reminded that huge amounts of time are used yearly to deal with non-optimalities of computerized systems which motivates paying attention to information systems development and how they serve the users. He underlined the idea that designers should not be "psychopaths" so that they should be able to take users' point of view. Gulliksen said that Johnson had a magnificent opportunity to conduct a longitudinal study.

The first question professor Gulliksen posed was: "Is this a usable thesis?". Johnson referred to the concepts of satisfaction, effectiveness and efficiency, and their relation to different user groups such as the opponent, colleagues or one's mother. After some discussion on the cover of the thesis, various aspects were covered in detail.

The event was attended by a remarkably large multidisciplinary audience from universities and research institutions such as National Consumer Research Centre. The defence was nicely multilingual as the custos, Professor Marko Nieminen, opened the event in Finnish and English, lectio precursoria was given in Swedish, and the opponent started with some words of Swedish and continued by using English.

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