What¡¯s the Use?

Methods for Studying the Human Use of Collaborative Systems


Dr. Diane J. Schiano

CSLI, Stanford University, California, USA





Collaborative systems are complex and adaptive in character, requiring careful study of both human-human and human-technology interactions to be well understood.  A variety of social science methods can be applied to the study of the use (and usefulness and usability) of these multi-person communication systems.  This tutorial provides students with a brief but comprehensive overview of research design principles and procedures to aid them in conducting --and/or simply understanding the implications of-- research studies on the human use of collaborative systems.  The major self-report (surveys, interviews) and observational (naturalistic observations, observed task performance) research procedures are characterized in some detail and compared along several dimensions.  Instruction is grounded by extended examples from the author¡¯s work, ranging from ethnographic interviews and observations to on-line surveys and clickstream analyses.  Helpful hints, tools and tips, and useful written and online resources are made available for later use.  Time permitting, the tutorial ends with an exercise to help students extend what they¡¯ve learned to real-life problems.  Students will gain both a sensitivity to research design issues and a ¡°toolkit¡± of well-understood methods that can be deployed readily and effectively, and from which meaningful conclusions can be drawn. 


Intended Audience: 

This course provides a high-level overview of the issues involved in conducting research on collaborative systems and/or in interpreting their findings.  It is intended as an introductory course for anyone interested in the topic, including users, designers, developers, marketers, and managers.  Established user experience researchers seeking to refresh or extend their skills may also be interested. 


Prerequisites:  None.


Tutorial Duration:  3 Hours. 


Method of Presentation: Transparencies and overhead projector.  Tutorial notes will be made available. 


Presenter:  Dr. Diane J. Schiano

 Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI)

 Stanford University

 California, USA

 URL:  http://home.comcast.net/~diane.schiano/

 Email:  schiano@acm.org


Instructor's Biography:

Dr. Diane J. Schiano is a research psychologist interested in the human use of advanced technology.  She is currently a senior consultant for Netraker and a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI) at Stanford University.  She has conducted user experience research for Alta Vista, AT&T Labs, Interval Research Corporation, NASA/Ames, Stanford University, Sun Microsystems and others.  CTS-related research topics include: virtual communities, instant messaging (IM), ¡°blogging¡± (web-logging), and institutional websites. 

Dr. Schiano has extensive teaching experience.  This tutorial evolved from a highly-rated, recurring user-studies methods course she teaches (sometimes with ethnographer Bonnie Nardi) in the Stanford Computer Science Department¡¯s HCI Program.  Related tutorials were given at CSCW and CHI conferences, as well as for private industry audiences.  For further information, see: http://home.comcast.net/~diane.schiano/