My dissertation, titled Living in Two Worlds: A Critical Ethnography of Academic and Proto-Professional Interactions in a Human-Computer Interaction Design Studio documents how students create a set of proto-professional behaviors in relation to a formal design-focused HCI pedagogy, underscoring the importance of understanding the student experience as an external component of the formal pedagogy. An abstract of the dissertation is included below:

Studio pedagogy has been used broadly in traditional design disciplines for over a century, functioning as a signature pedagogy. This pedagogical approach is increasingly being adopted in non-traditional design disciplines, often without an understanding of why this pedagogy is effective from an instructional design perspective, or how its theoretical structures may function in disciplines outside of the design tradition. In this dissertation, I investigated a Master’s program at a large Midwestern university in human-computer interaction (HCI), one of these emergent design disciplines, capturing the occurrence and underlying structures of communication as they emerged in informal dimensions of the pedagogy as experienced and enacted by students.

To produce a critical ethnography of this site, I collected data as a participant observer for two academic semesters, compiling over 450 contact hours, thousands of photographs, hundreds of hours of audio, and 30 critical interviews that were semi-structured, focused on specific topic domains. Almost two-thirds of the contact hours were located in a non-classroom studio space, where I interacted with students as they worked and socialized. The remaining contact hours were spent in classroom observations during the second semester of data collection, in order to compare and enrich my understanding of the student experience of the formal pedagogy.

Through an analysis of the structures of informal communication between students, I identified system relations that allowed for the constitution of student-led interactions in the studio space and encouraged reproduction of these interactions. Beneath these system relations, I discovered that students worked within two different fields of action: one oriented towards the academic community and related typifications of classroom and professor behavior; and a second oriented towards the professional community. The structure-system relations led by students took place within the proto-professional field, indicating a relationship with the professional community, even while the pedagogy placed students in the student role.

Implications of this relationship between students and the professional and academic communities are explored through the lenses of studio education in HCI and instructional design, indicating a need for more research on adaptation of the studio model in new disciplines, and the evolving identity of students in relation to the professional practice of design.

I successfully defended my dissertation on May 14, 2014 and officially graduated in June 2014. The committee includes the following members:

Elizabeth Boling, MFA (IST), Director and Chair
Dr. Martin A. Siegel (IST)
Dr. Phil F. Carspecken (CEP)
Dr. Erik Stolterman (HCI), Minor Committee Member

Final Dissertation (PDF, 75 MB)