I decided to run some of my thoughts past Professor Ann Macintosh – an expert in argument visualisation and one of the most knowledgeable people in my area of research. Putting to her my thoughts about interface design and its effect on e-participation platform effectiveness, Ann’s immediate reply was to ask “Why is it a PhD and not just something a consultancy could do?“. She was right of course – my ideas had become a little limited in scope and were concentrated a little too much on the practical. Expanding my thoughts, we talked about what I wanted to do: create a method for generating useful information out of the mass of content often contributed online; create a platform to allow users to be fully informed and develop and illustrate useful ideas; evaluate e-participation strategies to discover areas of strengths and weaknesses that could be used to provide improved services in the future. Talking about analysis of content Ann stressed that linguistic analysis is very hard and it has taken years of research to get to the level I am proposing. Acknowledging that I do not have expertise in linguistics I described some of the examples where I thought solutions could be created from the “building blocks” of previous research and Ann agreed that building on others work and combining technologies is do-able. Building a solution is good, but needs to be realistic.
Argument visualisation is one area where there is previous work that could be built on and as we talked about ways to investigate the interests that I had outlined, such as evaluation frameworks for e-participation initiatives, Ann highlighted it as an area on which I could create a solution to be used to evaluate and enhance previous work. Looking at a research question such as “The appropriateness of argument visualisation in evaluation of e-participation platforms” I could create a solution to be tested in empirical works with focus groups and against previous evaluations.
Going in to the meeting I had a range of ideas and a strategy for research that was becoming troublesomely unsuitable to a PhD. Coming out of the meeting I had a clearer understanding of where things were going wrong but I needed to have a real think about the steps needed to rectify the situation and get my research plan back on a firm footing.
Some notes on an idea in the resulting thoughts:
“Role of technology in enabling and evaluating e-participation”
- Designing for deliberation
- Developing systems for argument mapping
- Analysing content
Developing tools to analyse and evaluate e-participation technologies:
Tools to ENABLE deliberation/participation
- Evaluate interface design
- Create innovative platform (blueprint/prototype)
Tools to ANALYSE deliberation
- Evaluate input to platforms
- Summarise input to platforms
Tools to VISUALISE argument/process
- Enhance tools for argument visualisation
- Evaluate use in consultation/participation initiative
Examples for thought:
“Take one or more initiatives and analyse in a novel way to show value of new method”
Approach used by Ricky Ohl in his PhD (Knowledge Cartography, 2008, Buckingham-Shum et al, Ch3)
Create an evaluation technique and evaluate different platforms
- Deliberation assessment
- Integration assessment