Action research · eHealth · Summer school

EHealth summer school in Stockholm, day 1!

So, finally it’s here – the first day of the second week of the EIT Health/ACM SIGCHI summer school! This time in Stockholm. Great to meet everyone again! As I wrote in my last blog post about the summer school, we got a few things to prepare in advance (a made up citation of our own work and slides to a Pecha Kucha). Before lunch most of the participants presented their slides (6 slides each, 20 seconds per slide, 20 seconds to switch speaker). Unfortunately, mine could not be included, since I had a computer break down and couldn’t reach the file. Everyone who presented today did a good job and it was very interesting to hear a few things about the others and their research interests. I will try to present my own tomorrow. 

The Pecha Kucha was not the only networking activity this morning. There was also a “speed dating” session, led by Åsa Cajander, where we should discuss a few different topics with other participants (preferably participants we hadn’t talked to a lot or worked with before). Everyone paired up for the first topic, then we formed new pairs for the second one and so on. This was a very good exercise and I remember that we did something very similar at the last DOME consortium meeting in Skövde. 

When it comes to the theoretical part, concentrated to the afternoon and focused mostly on action research, the speakers themselves definitely deserve their own paragraph here. Those in charge of the more theoretical parts were Bengt Sandblad, Jan Gulliksen and Åsa Cajander. Bengt started to work within the areas of HCI and medical informatics about 45 years ago. Jan Gulliksen was his Ph.D. student. Later on Åsa Cajander became Jan’s Ph.D. student. Three generations of HCI research using action research methodology (see blog image above)! Perfectly organized! As I have written earlier Åsa is the supervisor of students among the participants, so there were actually four generations present!

Bengt talked about some of the highlights from his 45 years in the field. It was especially interesting to hear about some of the earliest examples of incorporating computers in healthcare. We have definitely come a long way since the time when each hospital had one (expensive) computer which was often operated by specially trained technicians! But there are still problems with today’s electronic health records. Bengt highlighted that these systems have much more potential than is being used today and that there are too many problems. One interesting result related to this was that a study showed that doctors loose about 56 minutes/day due to bad usability! The lecture also brought up specific examples of success factors as well as pitalls related to the area of medical informatics research. Jan Gulliksen focused more on action research theory and the method as such. Among other things he discussed different problems as well as advantages with the method. The method is obviously heavily debated. 

The discussion around problems and possibilities formed the basis for an exercise led by Åsa Cajander. We were first divided into four groups in which we should prepare arguments supporting one of four viewpoints on action research. The two extremes were that action research is nonsense and that action research is the future of all kinds of research, respectively. The other two were in between these. After a few minutes we then formed new groups including one participant from each of the viewpoint groups. In these groups the members should try to convince each other of their own viewpoint. It was a very interesting exercise which really highlighted the ongoing debate about the method.