Archive for ‘Researchable Question’

December 6, 2011

Semester Final Review: Thesis Preparation Presentation


Click here to download the PDF of my proposal.

Presentation Slides:

Presentation Video:

This video does not document the whole presentation, but most of it. Thank you to ID Master’s student Mike Falk who recorded it…

Transcript for Presentation:

Hello,{Slide 1}
My name is Alexandria. My committee consists of Denise, Scott, and Martha.

I am interested in how generations and cultures have sought to represent time. I am wondering how this representation informs a person’s concept of time and the relationship that has to someone’s values and commitments. I am particularly interested in this idea with regards to how this affects someones’ ability to manage their work and non-work commitments.

{Slide 2} So to put that in thesis language I have crafted this introductory question for myself…. How can an instrument of time incorporate the metaphor “time as a container for meaning” in order to reduce work-nonwork conflict?

When I say instrument of time, I am referring to any tool which might help someone mark manage or measure time. {Slide 3} This encompasses a broad range of artifacts… including anything from a church bell, to an i-cal, the watch on your wrist or something larger and more experiential such as stonehenge, which some historians assume was constructed for astrological observations.

{Slide 4} The metaphor time as a container for meaning is discussed in the article “Work-Nonwork Conflict and the Phenomenology of Time” by Thompson and Bunderson, two researchers in organizational behavior and ethics. In this article they are challenging a metaphor which is commonly mentioned: the idea of balancing time, or time as a balancing act. They explain that while this emphasizes the quantitative aspect of time, it overlooks our subjective experience of time. {Slide 5} They pose the metaphor time as a container of meaning as a way to recognize the finite nature of time while emphasizing the qualitative aspect of time. This provides a different framework for us to be aware of the nature of how we spend our time, and what significance that might have to our identity and values.

{Slide 6} Lastly, the concept of work-non work conflict has been studied at length within many fields including human resources, psychology, sociology, organizational and behavioral science. Some other terms which researchers have used which relate to this concept include work non work dichotomy, work- life integration or flexibility, and work-life boundary management. {Slide 7} I chose the term Work-nonwork conflict to following suit with the Thomson & Bunderson article as well as this model developed by Joseph E. Champoux. So Work-Nonwork conflict can be thought of the tension that comes about when someone has problems attending to the roles and commitments within these 2 domains. Work, and everything else thats not work.

{Slide 8} There are three subquestions guiding my study.
1. I am interested in how an instrument might help someone negotiate identity affirming activities and identity discrepant activities and how this could be done through multiple modes.
{Slide 9} This idea of identity affirming and discrepant activities is outlined in your handout and following the meaning based model for work non work conflict as defined by Thompson and Bunderson
{Slide 10} 2. I want to understand how the formal qualities or structure of an instrument of time might reflect the time as a container of meaning metaphor or in other words replace or compliment the time as a balancing act metaphor?
{Slide 11} 3. Lastly, I am wondering how people might share this instrument or parts of this instrument in order to connect with others.
{Slide 12} My next steps are simple. Talking to you. I want feedback. Continuing to read from my chosen sources in particular the selected bibliography in the handout. And also conducting an audit. This audit will consider the qualitative and quantitative characteristics in existing instruments of time.
{Slide 13} So with all that said. Lets talk. I would like to hear your thoughts today. But am always interested in longer conversation or feedback. and You can contact me or follow my progress on my blog at


November 26, 2011

Researchable Question, Thesis Reframe (# 6) and Personal Confession

How an instrument of time incorporate the metaphor of TIME AS A CONTAINER FOR MEANING in order to reduce work-nonwork conflict?

 How can an instrument allow for multi-modal interactions, which aid the negotiation of identity affirming activities and identity discrepant activities?

How can the qualities and structure of an instrument compliment or replace the metaphor of TIME AS A BALANCING ACT ?

How can an instrument, or aspects of an instrument, be shared in work and nonwork domains in order to express a symbolic connection or commitment with others?


I finally produced a researchable question! On a more personal note or maybe a confession… Completing the first official draft of this new proposal has fulfilled something in me that made me interested in this subject in the first place: The idea that maybe I am someone who does a better job at paying attention to the nature of time commitments as opposed to the quantity of time commitment. Did you notice?


November 26, 2011

Progress: Time as containers of meaning // Influencing Work-Nonwork Conflict

How can the qualities of an instrument of time encourage the negotiation of the meaning attached to time in order to influence the relationship between time allocation and work-nonwork conflict?

In order to influence how people use their time the article Work-Nonwork Conflict and the Phenomenology of Time: Beyond the Balance Metaphor by Thompson and Bunderson say there must be a shift from a quantitative understanding and analysis of time commitment to a qualitative understanding of time commitment. If we think of time as “a container of meaning” versus something we can “balance” then we can address the meaning we assign to time, and thus influence the relationship between work-nonwork commitments.


Quantitative approach to time and work-nonwork conflict:

Question: How much time do you spend working? not working?
Solution: Balance that time out…

Qualitative approach to time and work-nonwork conflict:
Question: What is the nature of the activities which occupy your time and what is their significance to you?
Solution: Consider the meaning of those activities you are committing yourself to, Does that meaning align with your self-concept

November 25, 2011

Progress: The Sociology of Time // The Calendar as a Symbolic Link

How can qualities of an instrument, which measures time, create a symbolic link with others while responding to the flexibility of the future worker?

How can qualities of an instrument, which measures time, create a symbolic link with loved ones while responding to the flexibility of the future worker?

How can qualities of an instrument, which measures time, create a symbolic link with loved ones by allowing the future worker negotiate times of work and non-work?

How can qualities of an instrument, which measures time, manifest a symbolic link with friends and family by encouraging the future worker to establish times for work and non-work?

How can the qualities of an instrument of time maintain a symbolic link with friends and family despite the flexible schedule and cause the flexible worker to cherish times of work and non-work?

How can the qualities of an instrument of time manifest a symbolic link with friends and family and encourage a flexible worker to cherish periods of work and non-work?


Still having difficulty recognizing a worthwhile and valid subject of study. Looking forward to feedback.

I have been reading some amazing books. I have been learning the differentiation between schedules and calendars. I have recognized that my interest is not in the personal information management realm. The concept of a calendar, which seems to provide a meta-view of one’s time, is more appealing to me than the idea of a personal schedule. Interestingly enough, the personal schedule takes its roots in medieval Benedictine horarium, or book of hours, which strictly dictated the daily activities within the monastery. My interest in the calendar versus the schedule has to do with it’s potential for sharing- something Denise and Scott both mentioned to me when speaking about the calendar. The potential for reinforcing relationship or reinforcing shared meaning between two or more people is exciting to me.

In the book “Hidden Rhythms” by sociologist Eviatar Zerubavel explains his perspective, which he calls sociology of time. His perspective differs from a biotemporal or physiotemporal perspective. A biotemporal perspective of time studies the regulation, rhythms, and functions of organisms. Understanding physiotemporal patterns of time would be the interest of a physicist or astronomer. Another way to understand time is through sociotemporal patterns, which regulate the structure and dynamics of social life.  I would like to base my study from this sociotemporal perspective.

Reading about this concept of the sociotemporal hit home with a poignant statement I read in another book: The Calendar: History, Lore and Legend. In this historical audit of time keeping, the calendar is described as a symbolic link between members of a community. Calendars not only mark time, they also mandate periods of rest, celebration, moments to reflect on the past, and moments to usher in the future. Historically, calendars have also represented the identity of a group of people.  As time progressed more methods and instruments for measuring time were created, discovered, and shared. As people groups developed, institutions sought and fought to standardize time. This was a difficult task, seeing as calendars are “homemade improvisations, compromises with complex astronomical cycles”.

We still use the calendar to instate times of rest, celebration, and tradition. However our lives are dictated by a mechanical time regiment, which has lost ties to both a natural rhythm and often a communal one. As our time has become standardized and our world globalized, our calendar has become homogenized. The 19th century offered a list-like and grid-like arrangement of time with the advent of the personal datebook. Also, people have increasingly converted to digital personal organizers because they value efficiency, convenience, and synchronicity. Ultimately the purpose of the calendar is still there, but how do the formal qualities of the calendar and interaction behaviors of the 21st century digital calendar shape our understanding of time? How have the current mechanisms of time measurement and time management influenced our conception of the calendar as a symbolic link to others?

In what ways might a calendar reinforce a person’s mindfulness to cultivate and celebrate within their own communities- a sense of tradition, honor, excitement, rest, expectancy, ushering in, looking back, etcetera? How can a calendar act as a beacon for new traditions and rhythms in the midst of the 21st century?

November 22, 2011

Progress: Instruments of Time as Artifacts of a Society’s Conception of Time

How can the design of an instrument which represents time address the needs of the future worker?

An Interesting Book…

I think I finally found a book called The ordering of time : from the ancient computus to the modern computer by Arno Borst which is pushing me in the right direction. The argument in the book, which is written by a famous German historian, is that throughout time we have sought to measure and represent time one way or another. He lays out a history of time and describes not only different generations’ conception of time- but also the instruments they use to measure them. He notes that from the sundial to the mechanical clock, to a data processing computer, people have tried to employ instruments to measure time. He says that the purpose, of course, is always the same: to make the most of ones time.

Instruments of time as artifacts of a generation’s conception of time…

Though I was thinking about the affordances of old and new methods of managing time this perspective provides me a fresh way to approach my thesis work. Each instrument of measurement and representation of time has different affordances. I am interested in evaluating those qualities, and understanding the link between that and the societal/conceptual understanding of time. The qualities of those instruments- as artifacts of a society or a time period– as well as literature on different time periods and societal conceptions of time will act as an interesting backdrop from which I can begin my research. From there I have the opportunity to consider what the current and future instruments of managing and representing time might be, and the conceptual frameworks which will both influence those instruments and and be influenced by those instruments. Conducting an audit/analysis of different instruments would allow me to consider how a design could re-introduce/re-integrate or re-imagine  the way it represents time in order to address the needs of the future worker. What are the needs of the future worker, and how can an instrument which orders, represents, and managed time, respond to that? Is efficiency the primary concern of an interaction between a human and an instrument which represents time? With some widely used time management instruments it seems efficiency is a goal as well as connectedness to other online platforms (think about iCal, google calendar, etc).

Stop fixating on the calendar…

It is obvious to me now, that my fixation on the  calendar as a means to represent time was too narrow. It is one instrument among many. (This reminds me of how I felt when hearing David Thorburn compare the development of the film industry to our current technological development at the New Contexts New Practices conference.)
With this new perspective, it seems whatever instrument I make, re-interpret, or add to will be asking the same question people have been asking for ages: how do we represent time, and how can we make the most of the time that we have. It is humbling and poetic to think about designing an instrument which might act as a physical, visual, or informational structure which serves to act as a representation of another person’s life.

Designing for someone or something…

It is now more clear to me that whatever instrument I make, re-interpret, or add to must either respond to a specific set of needs or reoccurring experience. Since the start of this thesis prep I have vaguely thought about the future worker. I can honestly say, I am not completely sure why I have this in my mind- except that it seems there is no doubt that the future worker will be engrossed in interacting with computational devices, and I thought it interesting to introduce new ways of interacting. However, for whatever reason it seems like the needs of the future worker can provide a wide variety of   I already have an idea of some of the characteristics of the future of work, such as increased flexibility (resulting in: work-life integration, taking work home/constantly connected, non-traditional hours/schedule, flexibility in location- working in the wormhole), increase in jobs which deal with intangible information production/manipulation, etc.

A new set of to-do’s…

I am not exactly sure what to do next. I had a list of to-do’s hoping that by doing some different things might point me in the right direction. However with a renewed faith in this idea- brought about by the book- I think I should just attempt to rewrite my proposal before it is too late.

I think I need to clarify what “the future worker” is, and I am wondering if I need to choose a more specific circumstance or experience to which I should respond. Fortunately, I have been gathering lots of articles on problems with work/life balance (listed at bottom of post.)


My previous to-do’s included: (1) to create a ven diagram of the affordances of old and new ways of managing time, (2) to map out behaviors associated with using a calendar (planning on future, reflecting on past etc), (3) reading a book Martha recommended: Cartographies of Time, (4) creating drawings with corresponding facts and sources of main themes about the future of work (5) formalizing the current online version of my proposal (6) create an audit of different methods of charting and managing time

Future of work article titles:  Work-Nonwork Conflict and the Phenomenology of Time : Beyond the Balance Metaphor // Recording the Future: Some Diagrammatic Aspects of Time Management // Advancing Work–Life Integration in Individuals, Organizations, and Communities  //  Less need to be there: Cross-level effects of work practices that support work-life flexibility and enhance group processes and group-level OCB  // Technology-assisted supplemental work and work-to-family conflict: The role of instrumentality beliefs, organizational expectations and time // THE FUTURE OF WORK MOTIVATION THEORY  //  Work, Employment, and Society: Three observations on work in the future

November 16, 2011

Update: The beginning of Thesis Reframe # 6

How can tangible manifestations of commitment in a chronological measurement of time aid in the reflection and negotiation of values in order to encourage work-life balance?

* words I am unsure about are underlined, and yes that is a lot of words


I have been excited to be working, among other things, to develop the remote experience of this years symposium. However, I underestimated my workload in relation to Proposium. My personal deadline for Tuesday was to produce a formal proposal. This was in actuality a two part task. The first was to integrate Scott’s feedback and alter my researchable question. Unfortunately, I have only completed the alterations to the researchable question. Good news is, things are getting more specific.


Scott and I spoke about how focusing on the calendar was like focusing on an object, and would lead me to asking more dead end questions. I needed to integrate the other aspects of my idea into the researchable question. In our list of new things to consider and integrate included:

  • ideas about the meaning behind the form: the representation of time (as opposed to the form itself: a calendar)
  • the behaviors which come about while using a calendar such as: juggling values, expectation of events, self-reflection, and other similar personal experiences


I began by conducting a search for highly cited journal articles and books about a wide array of ideas including: work-life balance, work-life integration, time, the experience of time, time management, calendars, personal calendars, history of calendars, time management-values, temporal experience, representations of time, representation of time in calendar, calendar-time-perception, work-life policy, work-life boundary, personal knowledge management, rational emotive behavior therapy, managing priorities, task lists, action items, Eisenhower box, theory of planned behavior, behavioral change, behavioral modification, self-efficacy, biological cycles, biological perception of time, cognitive models of time, visualizations of time, space-time, time use research, life course theory
Below are some titles of books and articles I gathered as a result:

  • Time, internal clocks, and movement  by Pastor, María A.
  • Judgments over time : the interplay of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by Sanna, Lawrence J.
  • Rhythms of life : the biological clocks that control the daily lives of every living thing  by Foster, Russell G.
  • Empires of time : calendars, clocks, and cultures by Aveni, Anthony F.
  • On the experience of time  by Ornstein, Robert E. (Robert Evan)
  • Recording the Future-  Some Diagrammatic Aspects of Time Management
  • Advancing Work–Life Integration in Individuals, Organizations, and Communities
  • Texture-based feature tracking for effective time-varying data visualizations
  • Work-Nonwork Conflict and the Phenomenology of Time : Beyond the Balance Metaphor


After gathering both journal articles as well as a stack of books with snippets about these various ideas, I realized I was still confused about what I am trying to produce as a result of someone interacting with whatever I might prototype. I am wondering if I could better refine the scope by limiting the goal of my project to an emotional experience, this was Amber suggestion last week. Some possible goals of the project could be:

  1. behavior change, modifying behaviors, behavior shifts
  2. value shifts, value assessment
  3. organizing priorities, assessing priorities, negotiating commitments, managing commitments 
  4. satisfaction from accomplishments, increasing self-efficacy, getting motivated, staying on task, adhering to commitments
  5. connecting intention to action, aligning values and behavior,  
  6. reflecting on the past, expecting the future
  7.  feeling a sense of gratitude, feeling a sense of awareness of a bigger picture

I am having a problem with the idea of what we currently use our calendar for and how I could build off of that practice, address a specific need, choose a specific emotional experience, or situate it with a specific user. I am still at a loss. I need a cause. Right now the general idea is work-life balance… but what does that mean, and how is that achieved? As a side note, I am interested in suggesting a method for self-reflection on values rather than trying to produce behavior change. I feel this still might be too broad but I am not sure. Should I reintegrate the idea of interruption during the workday? Should I situate it within a specific problematic or wanting scenario or workplace?

Any of your thoughts in response to this progress would be helpful. Thanks for reading and thanks for your time.

November 7, 2011

Thesis Reframe # 5

The slideshow below charts the progression of changes in my researchable question. The text below is “version 5” within this progression.

Each element in the proposal below, including the question, is not a refined presentation of ideas- but a first stab at this new question. I will be developing this question will post a more formal proposal early next week.

Researchable Question

How can the changed in a physical state of a tangible calendar aid management and reflection on “work-life” balance? 

  • How can tangible interface aid in the perception of time and time commitments?
  • What role can physical changes play in encouraging time for leisure or work?
  • How can a tangible environment account for calendar management behaviors (planning, rewards, xing out, to-do’s, looking forward, etc) in order to encourage reflection on the past- focus on the present- and expectation of the future?


  • Tangible interface: concrete physical expression of abstract or non-physical information which can be directly manipulated by a human
  • Physical states: what will this include (not sure) smell, volume, vision, haptic, touch, texture, brightness, size, shape
  • “Work-life” balance: healthy attention to leisure/social life/family and work/productivity (sub: managing expectations-internal/external)

Justification: why it is important to design, theories that support, why it is important to society, how you came to this idea, what and why and who can benefit

  • Argument for calendar: The calendar is another flat interface? No because we really need to reflect on how we are using out time. Or the calendar as a disconnected piece of paper on your refrigerator- a nostalgic time keeper
  • Argument for making physical: prolonged interaction with immaterial information, even the work we produce is immaterial (I find myself loving house chores or envying the pot hole filler on the side of the road)
  • For endowing physical characteristics to information: when we pair other modalities to understanding certain information it is easier to comprehend and manipulate. Also the perception/impact is stronger.
  • Audience: people who need work-life balance: for personal use but also good for the worker who is having blurrier lines between work + play + home; people who have flexibility in their job schedule- not the 9-5 job.

Limitations: narrowed setting, experience etc

  • Focus on the representation of one month: enough time to have a feel of the future past and present; enough time to develop a habit; enough time to provide a variety of activity
  • Focus on the personal experience of a calendar: focus centered around singular person viewing/experiencing/manipulating- not designing for many
  • Elements of state change: small scale/large scale? aka- a room or an envelope?
  • Modes of state change- smell sight, touch, size, texture etc.
  • Technological limitations: within 10 year reach, now? What would be practical?

Assumption theoretical and technological, futurecasting, not proving theory but starting with it, technology in future

  • Designers role: the designers role is to provide the experience of the information and make it accessible for people to make the complex able to be understood. The designers role extends past dealing with the palate of the visual- incorporating our entire phenomenology. Design is opening in this way.
  • Physical embodied + complex information = easier to comprehend
  • Responding to future of computing which is increasingly tangible, ambient, out of that computer box
  • Responding to the information society in which we live, the jobs which rely on the manipulation of immaterial information

Bibliography themes

  • Use of calendar: circles, physical models, boxes, paper/digital, behaviors, ad hoc calendars
  • Work-life balance: future of work, health, managing commitments, social/family life, taking time to rest, looking back, self reflection, flexible schedules
  • Tangible computing: current and future trends, possible and far out, home and work use
  • Embodiment: perception of physical and digital information, perception of time, philosophy, looking forward, past present future, metaphor
October 16, 2011

Reframing the Question

How can a designed intervention in a computer mediated activity create an increase in humanized interactions during the workday?

Areas/Questions for narrowing the study:

1. What is the designed intervention?

  • within the computer interface
  • within the surrounding environment
  • within a software interface/online
  • using tangible interface
  • using biofeedback
  • analog intervention
  • series of interventions which are opt in only
  • social interventions
  • self initiated/system initiated/ triggered?

2. What computer mediated activity?

  • What activity or task, you can do millions of types of tasks on the computer
  • What are some traditional or reoccurring tasks which could benefit from humanizing
  • Which part of that process might you intervene?

3. What does humanized interactions mean? ***

  • Humanized might refer to voice, gesture, or other embodied communication between human and computer, what else?
  • What types of interactions are appropriate, and for which tasks?
  • What are people’s tolerances for current or new interactions
  • Are there struggles in the current workflow that these interactions might aid?
  • Identify, project, and build upon technological trends

4. Which workday or workplace am I talking about? ***

  • Find examples of workplace models: creative, corporate, small business etc.
  • What kind of job (data entry, creative, freelance etc) or job satisfaction (bored, overworked, passionate/committed, etc)
  • What is the future of work? (Can you be an advocate for a future landscape? ie Dunn & Raby)
  • Can you build on trends of future work and work environments? (Studies by Roger Martin)

*** seems like a good place to start

October 4, 2011

Interruption as focus

How can a technological system help manage interruptions in order to create a balanced workday?

  • How can a technological system recognize, codify, reproduce, and suggest tactics for managing a positive or negative interruption?
  • How can an activity log track negative interruptions, positive interruptions and productivity?
  • What is the relationship between limiting or allowing certain types of interruptions and specific work related tasks?
  • What qualities are associated with various types of interruptions and how might a technological cue embody or mask out those qualities?
  • How can a series of sensory cues influence time management in the workplace?

The modern workplace is changing and so is the work that is produced. Many workplaces are characterized by prolonged interaction with immaterial information. As a part of the new information age, immaterial labor is increasing. This has resulted in a rise of static prolonged computer usage in academic, professional, and even leisure domains. New problems arise with the advent of this information age. There is a need to manage the constant connectivity and flow of information both during and apart from a productive work day. 

A workday that is centered around computer usage results in fixation on digital information and focus on the screen. Traditional HCI model fixates attention away from environmental interruption. In the traditional HCI model the human becomes a “user” entering into the world of computing. The user communicates with the computer through a face, an interface. This results in a fixed attention on the computer screen. The goal of these facialized interactions are utilitarian, information seeking, and task oriented. This interaction encourages attention to the digital workspace and away from the immediate external environment. I would like to create a balance of focus on both the computer screen and thoughtful attentiveness of self, others, and the surrounding environment throughout the workday. I believe managing external and internal positive interruptions can offer that balance.

Theoretical Assumptions:
There are alternative ways to create a balanced workday. However, my approach is to embrace and control the interruptions which already exist during the workday. This approach is based on a recent study of the role of interruptions in the workplace. I will be working from the four types of interruptions as defined by Q.R. Jett and J. M. George in their study reviewing the positive and negative aspects of work interruptions. These definitions include the following:

  •  Intrusions: unexpected encounters initiated by another person
  • Break: self-Initiated time away from performing tasks
  • Distractions: competing stimulus or activity that is irrelevant to the task at hand
  • Discrepancies: perceived inconsistencies between ones knowledge and expectations and ones immediate observations of what is important to the immediate task at hand or personal well-being

Technological Assumptions:
Work environments incorporating non-traditional HCI interactions
Much advancement has been made in embodied human-computer interaction. Including gestural interface, biofeedback, physical computing, ambient intelligent environments, and other similar fields of study. While the technology has been developed its use in the traditional workday is not common. My interventions would introduce alternative human-computer-interactions in the workplace.



  • Certain work environments do not support or encourage interruptions regardless of their positive or negative affects. 
  • Some interruptions cannot be prevented or predicted.
  • Not all workdays include interactivity with technological systems. I would like to limit my study
  • Incorporating a new technological system within a workday could become a new negative interruption.
  • Sensory cues must be applied appropriately to the workplace without distracting from the overall work environment.