A session of two papers:
From User to Participant: Proto-Personas as Inhabiting Literacy Praxis
Ben Lauren and Rich Rice
Meaningful educational experiences should be designed to foster effective user understanding. To do so, users must be situated as participants in the development of their own educational experiences, such as in design, problem-based learning, service-learning, and study abroad co-curricular activities. Drawing on principles of a glocal activity theory to guide mobile application development for intercultural communication competence, this panel discusses how proto-personas can be used to challenge our own perceptions of participants and their goals for enrolling in study abroad programs. This panel also explains how personas can be used to help further guide the development of learning technologies and strategies meant to capture, tag, and distribute participant experience to help communicate across cultures in digital humanities contexts.
Kim Goodwin (2009) explains, “personas are archetypes that describe various goals and observed behavior patterns among your potential users and customers” (p. 229). Developing personas is a recursive process that requires a thorough investigation of participants and involves learning about people in unique ways, especially in multicultural contexts where literacies are complex and frequently politically motivated. As Selfe and Selfe (2004) explain, digital environments can be seen as contact zones that are inherently political: “When users recognize the corporate orientation of the interface, they also begin to understand more about how computers as a technology are ideologically associated with capitalism” (p. 433). Working toward an understanding of audience, though, can be challenging when designing educational experiences for unfamiliar contexts. Empathy for participants is important to help fill gaps in understanding international contexts. “Proto-personas are a technique to provoke empathetic, customer-oriented thinking without necessarily requiring you to do exhaustive customer research or have loads of statistical data to underpin your thinking” (Buley, 2013, p. 132). Proto-personas are based on a comprehensive understanding of participants and motivations gained through user research.
Speaker 1 begins our panel with an overview of some of the challenges of developing a study abroad program in Digital Humanities. Speaker 1 will also discuss how existing technologies fall short of positioning students as participants in the development of their own educational experiences.
Speaker 2 provides an explanation of how proto-personas can be used as a way to engage participation in the development of the educational experience of study abroad programs. Also, Speaker 2 presents example personas, and discusses how each helped to further develop an app meant to support educational experiences.
Speaker 3 ends the presentation with a discussion of how creating proto-personas would also be a useful exercise for students in a variety of Digital Humanities courses to help build empathy when communicating in international contexts and to help create a more rhizomic understanding of audience.
Importance to the Field
When developing educational experiences for people, constraints make it challenging to engage with participants as much as we’d like. Also, when working with unfamiliar audiences and contexts, it is helpful to recast the student-user as a participant. Our panel will be useful to attendees interested in digital humanities, study abroad, mobile application development, participant-centered design, literacy, pedagogy, and intercultural communication.
Buley, L. (2013). The user experience team of one: A research and design survival guide. Brooklyn, NY: Rosenfeld Media.
Goodwin, K. (2009). Desinging for the digital age: How to create human-centered products and services. Indianpolis, IN: Wiley.
Selfe, C. L., & Selfe, R. J. (2004). The politics of the interface: Power and its exercise in electronic contact zones. In J. Johnson-Eilola, & S. A. Selber (Eds.), Central works in technical communication (pp. 428-446). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Shaping our Shared Digital Future: Re-imagining the Digital Humanities as a “Bigger Tent” by Probing Ethics and Research Methods
Alice Daer and Kristi McDuffie
This panel examines the growth and positioning of the Digital Humanities with a particular focus on how its transdisciplinarity might better engage with the social sciences’ approaches to empirical, internet-based research. Specifically, we interrogate various aspects of the Digital Humanities that speak to its historical foundations, its current dilemmas, and its future possibilities as we define them by discussing the ethical dimensions of privacy and surveillance and by presenting research methods recommendations for qualitative empirical research online. Together, these panelists highlight three different ways that DH has evolved and could continue to build upon the disruptive spirit of disruption and critique that categorizes its recent scholarship (Gold, 2012; McPherson, 2012; Bianco, 2012).
Speaker 1 offers an investigation into how the related yet distinct disciplines of digital rhetoric, digital humanities, and Internet communication each discuss how best to consider privacy, big data, and surveillance when embarking on the treatment of “data as evidence,” as Trevor Owens describes it (2011). Arguing for a better balance between the empirical and the hermeneutical poles of digital scholarship, Speaker 2 shows how partnerships like the Digital Ecologies Research Project (DERP) and organizations like the Association for Internet Researchers are actively creating ethical research standards for researchers to implement. In terms of implications, this speaker will address difficult (and, in some cases, unanswerable) questions, including those of informed consent, the validity of social media posts as “evidence,” and the complications that algorithms bring to data collection and analysis.
Speaker 2 considers how many humanists conducting qualitative empirical research online turn to social science handbooks to find detailed methodological guides for procedures, including those related to data collection, sampling, coding, and software tools, in order to propose an alternative. Yet researchers in the humanities, such as digital rhetoric scholars, have rich, variegated experiences conducting empirical research in online data sets. By presenting on research methods implications from a large, qualitative research project on online reader comments, this panelist demonstrates how DH, when it draws upon all of its disciplinary resources, can create its own repertoire of best practices for engaging in qualitative empirical Internet research.