photo by anja.
An article I wrote a few months ago – called Putting the “Academic” Research in UX – has been published on UXinsight Notes. The article focuses on parallels between UX and academic research. Here’s an excerpt:
Whether in academia or UX, we do research in order to systematically uncover what people need, want, and desire. We do research to avoid coming to conclusions that simply reflect our private beliefs and opinions. By reflecting on the research process in this way, both types of researchers can improve their research techniques, argue persuasively for more time and resources for the research process, and, in the end, better the products (or papers) they are developing and improving.
UXinsight Notes is a brand-new (still in beta!), Netherlands-based platform that looks to be a great resource for those interested in UX research. It aims to connect, stimulate and inspire UX researchers to share and expand their expertise.
The Qualitative Report published my article “A Dating App Autoethnography: Presenting Myself as a Researcher and User”. The full article is available online, and the abstract is below.
Matchmaking mobile applications, or dating apps, have become hugely popular in recent years, with millions worldwide swiping through potential romantic partners. The literature on technologically mediated dating has explored how people manage impressions but has rarely taken an autoethnographic perspective: How does the author, both a researcher of dating apps and a user herself, experience self-presentation? In this paper, I first introduce a theoretical focus on impression management on dating apps. Next, I explain the choice of autoethnography as a method. Drawing from various source materials like personal journaling and chats with matches, I present two autoethnographic pieces: one focusing on my self-presentation as a dating app researcher, and the other on my own dating app use. I follow these by analyzing my motivations and impression construction in the dating app environment, keeping in mind theoretical insights. I conclude with a discussion into the challenges of an autoethnographic approach to impression management.
The Times Higher Education published my response to the question: “What’s your academic pet peeve?” The article is available in the print edition (24-30 January 2019).
The Times Higher Education just published my (tongue in cheek) piece The publication game: how to write an academic article. They’ve kindly allowed me to reproduce it below, for those who do not want to register for access.
This must be in two parts, separated by a colon. The fragment before the colon uses a colloquial expression preferred by your research subjects, something grammatically dubious and profane. This is placed in quotation marks to demonstrate your personal distance from it. The short sentence after the colon establishes your knowledge of the chosen theoretical framework, and alludes to your method.
Strike the necessary balance between showing how many people have already researched this topic and demonstrating the uniqueness of your study. Identify a “gap” in the literature, but head off objections that the “gap” is there for a good reason (such as that it is a worthless thing to study) by using terms such as “urgent” and “unprecedented”. Describe how and why your topic is socially relevant, and justify it with a link to a well-regarded news source. Avoid acknowledging the irony of publishing a socially relevant article in an academic journal.
Provide a multitude of references that show the complexity of your thought and its embeddedness in the literature. In this section, be especially careful to use the passive voice to confirm your neutrality. “Some scholars have been found to define the problem this way (eg, author from long ago, author from not so long ago), and others have been found to define it in this other way (ditto). There are studies to support earlier findings (eg, multiple authors) and there are studies to support later findings (ditto).” The “eg” is essential as it confirms your vast knowledge of the literature: you could have cited many more sources if space had permitted. Mention this in a footnote.
Resign yourself to excluding from your theoretical framework the manuscript you wrote with co-author X, who stopped responding to emails during editing, and the MA thesis you should have co-published last year if your student hadn’t decided that a marketing internship was more important to pursue than a published journal article.
You have chosen a mixed methods design. This serves to unnerve both qualitative and quantitative readers. Offer an explanation of the quantitative survey research that is just complex enough to confuse readers with only an elementary knowledge of statistics. Pepper your description of the in-depth, qualitative interviews with an assortment of terms (eg, naturalistic, reflexivity, phenomenological) that emasculate the quantitative researchers. And sprinkle the whole method section with references justifying your approaches: authors who did similar surveys; authors who did similar interviews in an entirely different subject; and authors who combined surveys with follow-up interviews in different ways. These last references are totally irrelevant to your paper, but that’s OK. No one will check, and they sound impressive.
This section allows a break from external reference validation. In other words, it’s in your own words. Present your findings numbers first, and illustrate the significance of some findings over others by adding asterisks. The qualitative findings are, in essence, an expansion of the colloquial quotation in your title. The longer quotes are indented to emphasise that this is not the sort of language you would use. But their syntactic inferiority and vulgarity serve to amuse the reader. Expletives really make Table 3 come alive.
With an attempt at conversational academic language, summarise your findings. Use the present tense to emphasise the urgency of the work. Then present four thinking points. The first of these was suggested to you by reviewer#1. The second came to you under a very hot shower in the midst of lathering your hair. The third repeats a discussion point raised in a 20-year-old academic article that you’re confident no one has read. The fourth was suggested to you by reviewer#2. The reviewers will be satisfied now that their suggestions are incorporated. They will feel as if they are a part of your work; if not in name, at least in spirit.
As the discussion reaches its conclusion, turn up the grandeur and eloquence of your language. This illustrates your intellectual capacity for connecting your conclusions to the broader (academic) world. Choose an ordinary word or two, like “pattern” or “concrete”, and add “isation” to the end. You know it, and your readers know it: the creation of long neologisms is the essence of theoretical progress – especially if the neologism in question ends in “isation”.
Don’t be shy: self-citation is fine. Your detailed proof of your paper’s legitimacy includes five articles you wrote yourself, and three that you co-authored with others. This number would be higher if it weren’t for the incompetence of some of those mentioned in the theoretical framework. It isn’t important that the self-referenced articles are only sort of connected with the topic of the current piece: their presence further validates your qualifications anyway.
It isn’t necessary to read all the articles you cite: scanning their abstracts works just as well. And don’t feel guilty about including the six articles suggested by reviewer#3, who did not comment on your introduction, theoretical framework, method or discussion, but insisted that you include insights from his friends, collaborators and obscure academics he regards as brilliant. If such minor concessions are what it takes to publish such a brilliant article as yours, they are well worth it.
On Friday June 1st 2018 I gave a talk to the Media Technology master’s students at Leiden University about two topics near and dear to my heart: creativity and autoethnography. The message I ended with was: If you can’t use autoethnography to complete a research product, you can still use it to enrich your research process. Abstract below:
Doing academic research in a creative way is key to uncovering new insights. As a creative researcher, are you really thinking outside the box? For example, have you ever imagined reflecting on and writing about your personal experience in order to better understand your research topic? In this talk I will discuss autoethnography, an approach that combines elements of autobiography and ethnography. We will discuss how autoethnography lets you embrace subjectivity, and in the process, challenges traditional notions of what academic research is.
The Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis just published my article (written with Renata Rocha) called “‘No more blackface!’ How can we get people to change their minds about Zwarte Piet?” The full article freely available online, and the abstract is below.
When Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands in December, he is accompanied by Zwarte Pieten made up in blackface, with afro wigs and bright red lips. Zwarte Piet, translated as “Black Pete,” has created growing controversy as a hurtful, racist caricature. Increasing voices demand change, but most of the population is opposed to altering the tradition. One way forward is to examine attitude change, and gain insight into how we can facilitate this process. This paper introduces the topic and reviews recent academic work on the controversy. Then, using autoethnographic vignettes (Humphreys, 2005), we explore our experiences with the tradition, weaving our stories together in relation to personal history, awareness, and attitude change. We provide an international perspective, as Renata is a Dutch/Cape Verdean woman born and raised in the Netherlands, and Janelle is a white woman, born and raised in Minnesota, who has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. This approach allowed us to write together from an insider/outsider perspective (Zempi & Awan, 2017). Our stories depict attitude change from distinctive starting points, and by sharing them we hope to shed light on how attitude change can occur in relation to Zwarte Piet and broader social injustice issues.