The trees that hide in the forest

Sometimes when we make studies on a work environment, e.g., as a preparation for software development, there seems to be a tendency to overlook the smaller things; things that actually have a greater effect on the work situation than we might think at a first glance. There is, of course, never any doubt that big software systems will play a big role in a person’s work over the day. When there are problems with these, this often causes large breaks in the workflow and are (hopefully) sorted out fairly quickly. But there are also many small things; those annoying nuances that might not be causing disasters, but merely make a person frustrated in the long run. These smaller inconveniences are often not detected or considered in the cognitive workspace design.

The idea of a cognitive, ergonomic work context was widely discussed in the 1980’s. (c.f., Hagert, Hansson and Oestreicher, 1987, Wærn 1988) . However, the overall combination of software systems as a work environment seems today to be stressed mostly as an issue of incompatibility, e.g. causing unnecessary copying and processing of data and similar issues. Even if we manage to make the systems compatible and exchanging the data between themselves there are many other environmental factors that will still be affecting the cognitive work context negatively. These factors are sometimes well hidden in the work procedures and may be difficult to assess for software designers, and sometimes they are actually not even software issues but rather involving advanced hardware solutions.

During our previous study visits at a hospital, there were many small things happening that were hardly noticeable, but which at the same time constituted important factors in the work situation. In some cases, these small things were not directly concerned with the software systems used (although it is possible to see some of them as relevant to the overall software systems design), but proper workspace design might actually include these parts in the larger software network.

Just after Easter, in 2018, I was hospitalised for a week with an evil strand of pneumonia. Apart from being sick it also meant an interesting and close view of the nurses’ work context and the tools that they used. Since I was actually a real patient (albeit of an observing kind) I think that the nurses were more relaxed than during the earlier study visit. So, I started to observe several things that happened all around me and in this and some following articles I will go through some of the ideas that fell well into the work context situation.

One thing that was quite apparent, both in the study visits and during my week-long stay at a clinic, was the fragmented workflow for the nurses. Among the ordinary work tasks, there were many local interruptions, from alarms for a certain patients medical condition (mostly false ones, but more about this later), to calls for non-urgent requests from patients for water, tending or other less acute matters. Also, there were incoming medical transports and phone calls which, although part of the work, often tended to interrupt the nurses in their work. This kind of phenomenon is very difficult to catch in a work design study since it more or less requires a longer period of observation in order to properly judge its significance for the work. In this way, we tend to see the forest (of tasks) as a single unit, whereas the nurses instead are working on all the small trees and shrubs (of smaller activities) that actually constitute it.

Another factor that has appeared is that while the design of the main computer systems often is very thoroughly prepared, both in terms of requirements on the software and the hardware, much less effort seems to be spent on the personal software and hardware(!). This means that even if we get very advanced software systems on the ward, the personal equipment often seems to be pretty much left out of the equation. Essentially, this is also very similar to working hard on defining the forest, but lacking the ability to see all the trees making it up.

In my following blogs, I will try to disseminate these issues into a few more concrete examples of this and even make some suggestions for how to proceed and also enhance the situation at a hospital ward with these observations as a base.

Lars Oestreicher,
DISA

(this blogpost is also published on my personal blogpage: moomindad.wordpress.com)

Would you like to do your Master Thesis with the HTO Group?

We are always interested in working together with master students that are interested in our area of expertise. Have a look at our research projects presented in this blog, or read about them in the project page. Looks interesting?  Then contact us to know more.

We are especially interested in students who would like to look into Scrum and how to incorporate users, digital work environment studies, eHealth and studies related to medical records online.

Would you like to read more blogs similar to this one?

Can’t wait for the next HTO blog post? Would you like to read more blogs similar to this one? There are a few more blogs connected to the HTO group. Maybe you did already find them; otherwise I will introduce them here:

Åsa Cajander – A blog on IT@work, HCI, Computer Science Education and Gender Equality in Academia

Åsa Cajander is an associate professor of human-computer interaction at Uppsala University, and the research leader of the HTO group. Åsa is also the coordinator of the DOME consortium that does research on the deployment of medical records online in Sweden, and she is the gender equality officer at the Department of Information Technology.

Her blog is frequently updated with a mix of shorter and longer posts about the latest news for the HTO group, the DOME consortium or any other part of Åsas work! Åsa writes that “In short this blog contains everything I am interested in at work!” and she describe her research area like this:

“I do research mainly from a socio-technical perspective in the following areas:

IT and work. Digitalisation has great potential to improve work and to increase work engagement. However, to develop and deploy ICT in organisations is difficult and often users think that the ICT is too complex and has major flaws.

Computer Science Education. I also do research on learning and didactics, and is part of the Uppsala Computing Education Research Group (UpCERG)”

 

You can also follow Åsa on Twitter as @AsaC and @DOMEprojekt

 

 

 


Jonas Moll – An academic blog

Jonas Moll is a postdoctoral researcher in human-computer interaction at Uppsala University, and his background is in computer science. Here you can read interesting reflections and detail descriptions on what is going on within the research projects or other things Jonas participates in. This is how Jonas describes his research area and his blog:

“My main research areas are computer mediated communication and collaboration in multimodal environments. A special interest lies in how haptic feedback can affect the communication and collaboration in collaborative virtual environments.

I am also one of the researchers within the DOME (Deployment of Online Medical records and E-health services) consortium, where I focus on how patients’ access to their medical records online affect the communication between patients and physicians.

I am also conducting pedagogical development studies related to the use of social media within the scope of higher education courses.

In this blog I will publish posts about my academic activities and interests, with special emphasis on multimodal interaction, eHealth and social media in higher education. I do this not only to show what I am currently working on, but also to force myself to reflect on and discuss what I am doing.”

 

You can also follow Jonas on Twitter as @Jonas_Moll

 

 

 


Diane Golay – PhD student in Human-Computer Interaction

Diane Golay is a PhD student within Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at Uppsala University, and in this relatively new blog you can follow her refelections about subjects related to HCI and being a PhD student. She writes that “In this blog, I share my reflections, discoveries and tips related to my experience as a newbie in academia” and she describes her research area like this:

“My main research area is the use of ICT in the workplace. I am especially interested in investigating how ICT can be designed in order to fit workers’ needs and characteristics as well as how the use of ICT affects employee’s well-being, working conditions and professional identity. Within the framework of the DISA project, I currently focus on investigating how digitalization in healthcare affects nurses’ work environment.

A further research interest of mine is human-computer interaction (HCI) didactics. In my experience as a teaching assistant within that specific field, I was able to witness how difficult it is to make HCI’s core message come across, especially in regard with often sceptical computer science students. However, I believe it is essential for future software engineers to incorporate HCI methods and findings into their practice in order for better, more usable systems to be brought onto the market. Throughout my PhD studies, I thus hope to be able to take a closer look at how HCI-related skills can be taught to programming-oriented students.”

 

You can also follow Diane on Twitter as @DianeGolay

 

 

 


Christiane Grünloh – My Blog on Research, HCI, eHealth, and Academic Life

Christiane is a PhD student at TH Köln University of Applied Sciences (Germany) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (Sweden). In her blog, she writes about her research in Human-Computer Interaction, eHealth services, teaching, and academic life in general.

I like to think of this blog as a tool and place for reflection, and as an opportunity to share things I learned that might be valuable for others as well.

You can also follow Christiane on Twitter as @c_gruenloh

 

 

 

 


The @htogroup also exist on Twitter, as well as these other HTO group members:

Doctoral defense in Vienna

A time for celebration!

Last Tuesday, Åsa Cajander and I attended the defense of Jean Hallewell Haslwanter’s excellent doctoral thesis. Her work digs into the issues development teams encounter when designing sensor-based monitoring systems aimed at older people, and she uses the problems she identifies to formulate recommendations for both development teams and funding agencies. As such, it is a very relevant read for anybody directly or indirectly working with design and software development projects, even if those are based on other types of technologies.

The defense took place in central Vienna, at the Institute for design and assessment of technology of the Technische Universität Wien (TU Wien). Åsa was one of the thesis’ two examiners, along with Klaus Miesenberger (Johannes Kepler University Linz). Interestingly, the defense proceedings were a bit different from the routines I have seen so far in Sweden. The event was quite short (about 1 ½ hour against the 2 ½ – 3 hours I was accustomed to), and no opponent had been called in. Instead, Jean presented her work during the first 45 minutes – she did a really great job, giving a very concise but clear and to-the-point overview of her research – after which the members of the examination committee and Jean’s supervisor, Geraldine Fitzpatrick, proceeded to ask her some questions. Finally, following the committee’s deliberation session, Jean went back into the room alone to get the notice of the successful outcome of the defense, while this generally takes place in public in Sweden.

The lovely post-defense celebration led to very fruitful exchanges of ideas (at least from my perspective, since I received some very good research tips from Toni Michel!), and I was very happy I had made the trip to Vienna – in spite of the cumulated 4 ½ hours of flight it required! It was a real pleasure to meet Jean and her colleagues, and I very much enjoyed the experience!

HTO are Organizing a Workshop @ Uppsala Health Summit 2018

Uppsala Health Summit is “a recurring international policy arena for dialogue on challenges for health and healthcare, and how we can overcome them”.  In 2018 the theme for the summit is cancer, and the HTO group has been asked to organize a workshop in the area of using existing data for diagnosis and treatment of cancer. We see this as a great opportunity to address this important issue and take it one step further towards a solution.

People who are personally invited are welcome to join this health summit. The project manager on the summit, Madelein Neil, personally invites decision makers, opinion formers and experts.

The HTO group are currently working on setting up the ideas for our workshop. We have had a few discussions and so far, we are thinking of re-using the concept of critical incidents that Christiane Grünloh presented at the INTERACT conference this year. The abstract of this paper is:

Demands for technological solutions to address the variety of problems in healthcare have increased. The design of eHealth is challenging due to e.g. the complexity of the domain and the multitude of stakeholders involved. We describe a workshop method based on Critical Incidents that can be used to reflect on, and critically analyze, different experiences and practices in healthcare. We propose the workshop format, which was used during a conference and found very helpful by the participants to identify possible implications for eHealth design, that can be applied in future projects. This new format shows promise to evaluate eHealth designs, to learn from patients’ real stories and case studies through retrospective meta-analyses, and to inform design through joint reflection of understandings about users’ needs and issues for designers.

On Nailing and Thomas Lind’s PhD Dissertation

Three weeks ago Thomas Lind nailed his PhD thesis onto the log of a birch tree at the department. Nailing the printed thesis is the first step towards getting it accepted and earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Uppsala University. The nailing is also done electronically, and in this Digital world that might be more official than the actual book.  The idea with nailing a thesis is to make it openly available for anyone interested to read and review. It is seen as a step to ensure quality, and a PhD thesis needs to be nailed three weeks before the actual defense.

Yesterday three weeks had passed and we had invited a committee consisting of three well-known researchers within HCI to evaluate Thomas Lind’s work. The committee consisted of

A PhD dissertation starts off by the opponent giving a summary of the thesis placing it in the context of the research area. Professor Netta Iivari from University of Oulu did a splendid job in presenting Thomas Lind’s work.

After this presentation, the opponent has a discussion with the PhD student around the work done. Usually the discussion includes explaining concepts, the Methods used and paths taken. This discussion is followed by questions from the committee and from the audience. When the committee and audience has asked all their questions it is time for the grading committee to have a meeting to discuss the quality of the work.

Thomas has addressed a very pressing issue when implementing new IT in organisations and explores the concept of inertia in sociotechnical systems. His thesis is a contribution to understanding Systems development and change. The presentation and discussion during the dissertation was really interesting, and I especially appreciated the discussion around research communities, and what research community we want to impress.

All people involved did a very good job, and Thomas Lind not only nailed the thesis three weeks ago – he also nailed the dissertation discussion!

 

 

Visiting period at the HTO: Leysan Nurgalieva

Hello! As Jonas kindly nominated me, this is my first scientific blog post and hopefully not the last one. But first of all, let me introduce myself.

My name is Leysan and I am a second year PhD student at University of Trento, north of Italy. My research group works in the field of social informatics, an intersection of human-computer interaction, sociology, cognitive science, and psychology. My background is mainly in computer science but I also have a five-year degree in automation and control systems engineering from Kazan National Research Technological University, Kazan, a beautiful city in Russia where I am originally from.

My main research areas are human-computer interaction and calming interactive design in sensitive contexts such as professional and family caregiving for older adults. I am especially interested in the role of information and the way it could be communicated in order to reduce anxiety related to caregiving and conflicts between caregiving stakeholders like nurses and family members of the nursing home residents.

I am also a member of EIT Digital Doctoral school, whose goal is to provide computer science PhD students with the background in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and create an experience combining research, innovation, entrepreneurship, industry involvement and pan-European mobility. One of the requirements of EIT Digital program is six months of geographical mobility in Europe with the aim to encourage international collaboration and networking within European academia and industry.

EIT Digital is an educational part of the whole EIT initiative, which has several other directions or communities and one of them is EIT Health.

Just a week ago I returned to Trento from the e-health summer school organized by EIT Health, which took place in Dublin and Stockholm. Participation in it was such a great experience, not only from the perspective of invaluable knowledge it provided me with (thanks to the organizers!) but also became an opportunity to discover e-health community and meet research groups that work on similar problems. One of the amazing outcomes of the summer school for me was meeting Åsa Cajander and her research group. After several discussions on our research interests and current projects we work on, we realized that we have a lot in common and I could join them for a visiting period in Uppsala…

And already in the middle of November 2017 I am coming to Sweden to spend my first 3 months at Uppsala University, in the Health Technology and Organisations (HTO) research group. As you see from the photo, we have already had a kick-off meeting with Jonas, Åsa, and Christiane and I am really looking forward to join the team soon!

HCI Seminars in Connection to Thomas Lind’s PhD Defence

Thomas Lind will defend his PhD thesis the 15th of September at 13.15 in 2446. You can read about the thesis in the previous HTO group’s blog post

In the morning before the PhD thesis defence the committee members and the opponent will give seminars. The seminars are open to anyone who is interested. 

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Seminars 

8.15-8.55. Netta Iivari will give a seminar on “Participatory Design and Technology Making with Children”

8.55-9.35. Olle Bälter will give a seminar on “Open Learning Initiative in Stanford’s  Digitalized University Courses”

9.35-9.50 Coffee break 

9.50-10.30. José Abdelnour Nocera will give a seminar related to HCI Education. 

10.30-11.10. Tone Bratteteig will give a seminar on “Research Methods when Design is Part of the Research” 

The seminars will be held in Fakultetsrummet at Ångströmslaboratoriet. 

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Please fill in the doodle so that we know how many to order coffee for. 

If you have any special dietary requests for the coffee break please add that as a comment in the doodle

– Please spread the word to anyone who might be interested in attending. 

Welcome! 

The HTO group 

Upcoming PhD thesis on IT-related Change Processes in Organisations

Yesterday, I handed my thesis manuscript over to the Uppsala University Library for the final prepress processing and subsequent printing of the thesis. After five and a half years of work, culminating in a quite intense spring and summer, this step marks the beginning of the very end of my PhD studies.

The thesis is titled ‘Inertia in Sociotechnical Systems: On IT-related Change Processes in Organisations’, and can be conveniently summarised using its abstract:

The introduction of new information technology (IT) in an organisation is one way of changing the conditions for how tasks and work processes can be designed and performed, as well as how people in the organisation interact with each other. Today, many Swedish workers rely completely on IT to be able to perform their jobs, while experiencing a combination of continuous and intermittent IT-related changes that affect this ability.

The introduction of new or updated IT systems in an organisation is an example of what is referred to as an IT-related change process in this thesis. Because IT has become such an integral part of modern organisations, many change processes in organisations are simultaneously enabled and constrained by the IT systems involved in a change process. In this thesis, I introduce the concept of inertia in sociotechnical systems to analyse IT-related change processes in organisations, and how achieving the goals of these processes is complicated by organisational, social, and physical aspects in addition to technology.

The context of this thesis is the Swedish public sector domains of health-care and higher education, and the result of research studies and experiences from four action research projects in these settings. The contribution of this thesis adds to the contributions of the included papers through the definition of inertia in sociotechnical systems and its subsequent application. The thesis shows that the concept of inertia in sociotechnical systems can be used to understand IT-related change processes as changes to the characteristics of a sociotechnical system, and, in the context of organisations, how these processes affect and are affected by an organisation’s characteristics. This is illustrated in the thesis through the application of the concept on examples of IT-related change processes from the included papers and research projects. In addition, the thesis shows that the use of vision seminar methods can benefit Swedish organisations, since new IT is often introduced without clearly defined, expressed, understood, and accepted goals.

The defense of the thesis (the Swedish custom of public final examination of a PhD student) will be held on Friday September 15th at 13.15, in room 2446 at the Polacksbacken campus of Uppsala University.

The comprehensive summary of this thesis-by-publication style thesis will be published online three weeks prior to the defense.

Seminar on the ethical handling of field research data

Last Monday, I held a seminar on “the ethical handling of field research data”. There are indeed many laws and regulations researchers need to follow when collecting, processing, publishing and preserving research data. In Sweden, the requirements related to good record keeping in public institutions are particularly high since the principle of public access to official documents applies. This is why I decided to prepare a seminar on this particular topic as my examination in the Research Ethics course I took last month at BMC.

Following Åsa’s recommendation, I decided to do an interaction-based seminar instead of holding a more “traditional” presentation. In my preparation, I determined the topics I was interested in and wanted to include in the seminar, and gathered information about each of them.  In the PowerPoint presentation I created for the seminar, I then added a few slides per topic. During the seminar itself, I started off by explaining to my audience which topics I had worked on, and asked them what aspects they were interested in talking about, or whether they had any question related to the topics I had prepared. They mentioned the three following questions of interest:

  • Can I take my data with me when I leave the University? Whom do the data belong to, and what does that imply for informed consent?
  • Video recordings: what do I need to pay attention to when handling such data?
  • What if I have messed up (lost my data, not submitted an application for ethical review, did not ask participants for consent)?

I addressed each topic one after the other, first giving some input with the support of the relevant slides from my PowerPoint presentation, then asking the audience for additions, examples and possibly other related questions. The discussions that each topic / question gave rise to were animated and thought-provoking, and always led to the generation of more questions than what we had started with! In spite of this, it seems that, based on the feedback I received later from some of the participants, the opportunity to discuss and reflect over those different ethical aspects of research was appreciated.

As for myself, I really enjoyed giving the seminar, and feel like I have learned quite a few things on the subject – even if one of them is that the legal framework we work with is difficult to put into practice. One of the main challenges I see is that it is hard to determine when a certain condition is fulfilled in practice. For example, is a so-called “working document” an official document? When does a document become official? Unfortunately, the fact that the interpretation of the different laws and guidelines that apply varies from institution to institution certainly does not make things easier…