Immersive Empathic Design for Interdisciplinary Collaborations

May 11th, 2011

Julian Chen’s PhD Dissertation
Julian Chen’s PhD Dissertation


EVL PhD candidate Yu-Chung Chen presents his dissertation Immersive Empathetic Design for Interdisciplinary Collaborations, Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 2pm in the EVL Cyber-Commons.

Modern scientific discovery requires interdisciplinary collaborations. But it is hard to design a useful system to support this, and it is even harder to design a system for people who are working in a different knowledge domain. The high domain knowledge barrier can make it difficult for a person who is outside the domain to imagine the experience of a user within. This can lead to systems that were designed, implemented, and deployed without sufficient knowledge of the domain they will be used in, leading to a low willingness of users to adopt the new system. The goal is to move beyond collaborative technology showcases in the laboratory to workplace deployments that solve real-world problems.

In this dissertation I propose the immersive empathic design approach for interdisciplinary collaborations. The proposed method suggests system developers step out of the laboratory environment and be empathic with their new system’s potential users’ through immersive hands-on experience, so the system being designed will better fit the users’ needs and expectations. The domain knowledge obtained in the immersive experience forms a sustainable common ground between collaboration parties. It affords authentic user experience and more context-sensitive inquires in later design and development activities.

In the exploratory case study of geological core drilling, computer scientists were embedded in the core drilling workplace setting. On-site hands-on “experiential learning” and off-site reflection analysis inspired innovations in the workplace setting while still maintaining domain-specific perspective. The CoreWall system designed with the proposed methodology has now been widely used in geological core drilling expeditions around the world, including the National Lacustrine Core Facility, the British Ocean Sediment Core Research Facility, the Antarctica geological drilling project, and on the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program’s JOIDES Resolution scientific drilling vessel.