After my meeting with Ann, Stephen was aware of my difficulties in projecting a structure of research that is worthy of PhD. I talked about the areas I had worked on: case studies; different technologies and ways of looking at e-participation; conversation mapping for analyzing content; argument visualization; interface design and its effect on input. We then started a discussion back at the basics of what is needed for a PhD and what I wanted to investigate: deliberative content? efficacy of an initiative? success of a project (could be in terms of attracting an audience, as well as other factors of success)?
These questions influence the different types of research questions that might be generated: How does interface design effect participation? How does interface design affect deliberative quality? How can we visualize or assess deliberative quality? How can large scale arguments be visualized? These questions should be formulated based upon my interests, as well as a gap in the research.
Stephen highlighted the potential weakness in this approach: is it actually a sociological question? Do opposing groups deliberate less and resort to “flaming” or other polarized techniques, whereas closer communities deliberate more easily? Are more cognitively challenging subjects more or less likely to create deliberation?
I described how I wanted to find ways of summarizing input, helping to create useful data from the mass of large scale social input to a participation platform but described my concerns that the analysis of data using conversation mapping and argument visualisation is “muddied” by the effect of interface design on the quality of data. Stephen remarked that the questions relating to data analysis/visualization are therefore separate from questions about interface design, but postulated that we could link the two. Interface is structurally determinant, has an effect before the conversation is started whereas visualization happens post discussion. Inquiry along the lines of “Integration of design and analysis technologies to create successful e-participation initiatives” could be a 2-3 stage process:
How do you design to allow for deliberation?
- Examples of participation initiatives
Including GIS pParticipation, online forums, voting systems, etc.
- Literature about interface design – HCI, usability, accessibility as well as social science studies of participation
How do you analyse and visualize conversation?
- Conversation map
- Sentiment analysis
- Semantic web / Web 2.0 methods such as word clouds etc
- More traditional methods
- Argument visualization (could form third stage, below)
How do you create a platform structure for deliberation that allows adequate post-conversation analysis to take place?
- Integrating the previous two stages
- Blueprint for successful design
- Potential prototype
With this in mind we discussed the following action points to be undertaken:
- Produce a literature review of materials relating to interface design and participatory systems
- Produce very rough thesis chapter structure which Stephen envisioned as having an introduction, 2-3 chapters about interface design, 2-3 chapters about discourse analysis and further chapters about integrating the two.