Category Archives: analysis

Thesis abstract (as finalized for assignment of examiners)

I should have waited until today before posting the abstract, but I was too excited about it to let it go any longer. Today I had a meeting with my second supervisor, who explained the feedback he had emailed me and told me I didn’t have to stick to 300 words. So here’s the revised version. (I’m leaving the original version up because I did say it was the original version. <smile>)


Exploring Techno-Spirituality:
Design Strategies for Transcendent User Experiences

This thesis presents a study of spiritual and transcendent experiences (STXs) — experiences of connection with something greater than oneself — focusing on what they are, how artefacts support them, and how design can contribute to that support. People often find such experiences transformative, and artefacts do support them — but the literature rarely addresses artefact support for STXs. This thesis provides a step toward filling that gap.

The first phase of research involved the conduct and analysis of 24 interviews with adults of diverse spiritual perspectives, using constructivist Grounded Theory methods informed by relevant literature and by studies performed earlier in the PhD research programme. Analysis found that STXs proceed in three stages — creating the context, living the experience, integrating the experience — and that artefacts support at least two stages and people desire enhancements to all three. This STX framework supports and extends experience structures from the literature: it recognises the top-level categories as stages in a cycle where integration alters future contexts, and it extends the structure of STX by incorporating the relationships of artefacts and of enhancement desires to the stages of these experiences. This extended structure constitutes a grounded theory of transcendent user experiences.

The second phase involved the design and conduct of three “Transcendhance” workshops for enhancing transcendence, which aimed to elicit speculative design ideas in an atmosphere of fun and play. By playing a game that incorporated themes from the grounded theory of transcendent user experiences, workshop participants sketched 69 design ideas for techno-spiritual artefacts. Analysis mapped the ideas to the stages of STX and drew on relevant research to inspire possible extensions to the workshop-generated ideas. By far the largest number of ideas mapped to the STX stage Creating the Context, with very few mapping to Living the Experience, which suggests that context may be easier than lived experience to understand and address directly. This point is especially important for experiences such as STX that are tricky to define, impossible to arrange or anticipate, and thus unsuitable for straight-forward “classic” user experience methods. Transcendhance workshops approach techno-spiritual design peripherally, “sneaking up” on the lived experience by addressing the context.

This thesis combines the grounded theory of transcendent user experience with the Transcendhance workshop process, presenting peripheral design as a promising strategy for facilitating design to enhance spiritual and transcendent experiences.

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From the “Duh!” department

I’ve been having a bit of trouble organizing the literature review section of my thesis. There seem to be multiple ways that the content could fit together.

This evening I sat down to write a blog post about this past weekend’s talk at World IA Day, when all of a sudden it hit me: I could use tagging and inductive analysis to help in organizing the lit review!

Research into practice and back into research! How’s that for research-practice interaction? haha

A quick thought on data coding

I’ve just finished my my second bout of data coding (I won’t call it a “round” because it’s a different set of data), and I’m in the process of grouping and collapsing the categories of codes into a smaller, more manageable number. I’m using a process called inductive content analysis, as described by Elo & Kyngäs (see reference, below). This method involves “open coding, creating categories and abstraction” (p. 109) and grouping codes “to reduce the number of categories by collapsing those that are similar or dissimilar into broader higher order categories” (p. 111). For the second time, I am struck by the similarity of this process to the categorization and naming activity that constitutes part of information architecture, an important component of the user experience profession.

I’m not sure what to do with this insight beyond applying it to my own work, although I like to think that an article might come from it. I am, however, grateful because it helps me apply my professional, practitioner experience to my academic work.

Elo, S. and Kyngäs, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62, 1, pp. 107–115. [Available from the Wiley Online Library.]