Tech Report

Aesthetic and Ethical Implications of Participatory Hypermedia Practice

This report summarizes my first year of doctoral study at KMi and presents a proposal for the remaining work leading up to the dissertation. My research concerns expert human performance in helping people construct representations of difficult problems  a practice I refer to as participatory hypermedia construction (PHC). I am particularly interested in what happens when practitioners encounter sensemaking moments, when they must improvise in order to move forward, and in the aesthetics and ethics of their actions at such moments. Little is known about the practice of constructing hypermedia representations despite more than twenty years of existence of tools and surrounding research. What are the components of expertise in this domain? What are people who are able to work fluidly with the medium, especially in highly dynamic and pressured situations, actually able to do? In what ways does this expertise compare to that of analogous professions and practices? My research aims to provide answers to these questions. In the past twenty months, I have explored a variety of approaches to begin to characterize and categorize PHC expertise, including a literature review, experiments in collaborative hypermedia authoring, and a grounded theory and critical incident analysis of in situ expert practice. I have constructed a preliminary taxonomy of practitioner moves and performed a deep analysis of the aesthetic, ethical, expertise, narrative, and other dimensions of a series of critical incidents. These activities have given me a good understanding of the issues, timeframes, and risks associated with performing this kind of analysis, which provides the basis for a proposal to create a survey and critical review of the contributions and gaps in existing research literature; provide a language for characterizing expert practice in participatory hypermedia construction, including a taxonomy of concepts; validate the language and taxonomy against deep observation of in situ practice, and extend the work of other researchers looking at analogous practices.


Technical Report KMI-05-17, Knowledge Media Institute, The Open University, UK

ID: kmi-05-17

Date: 2005

Author(s): Al Selvin

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