Interesting Fact about the Iterative Process: It Never Ends

This week’s quest to narrow an interest to a research question has been tricky; in an addition to the other complications others have mentioned, I’ve personally been struggling with the politics of omission: how can you be sure that, in circumscribing a frame, your exclusions will not plague your findings with a slew of shaky biases, rendering the entire project valueless to the academic community? 

But longitudinal exploration prohibits latitudinal progress (or a shallow one at best), so a backbone must be grown and a decision must be made. I think this is where Luker’s iterative process becomes a useful way to approach this stage of research. I found if I progressed with the understanding that what I’ve done is not ‘set in stone’ I was much more willing to let myself explore a path. In other words, completing a step was not the end of the phase but just another lap in a cycle. I would write my interests, ‘review the literature’ and adjust. I would ask a question, consider methodologies to answer it, and ask another question. While this process can hypothetically go on forever, I found it a good way to explore my interests and discover what area exactly I was intrigued by.  

I also thought this would be a good forum to share a little bit of this process (although it is rather lengthy just for a blogpost, so I included an edited version after the  break). 


My research interest is form and function.
Apparently these terms are not used in academic journals, though they are pretty much building blocks in the design community. Translating them into academic language took awhile, particularly because ‘form’ and ‘function’ span quite a vast understanding than its synonyms.

My research interest is the aesthetics of information studies.
Very broad, lacks audience. Also, I seemed to struggle with deciding if I should focus on the ‘design process’ of the information (i.e. the intended message), or the reception of such aesthetics (i.e. the perceived message). In the end, I think it is the effect of the aesthetics of information that I’m going to explore.

My research interest is the phenomenological role aesthetics has on the visual presentation of information.
The literature understands ‘information’ as graphs and charts — am I willing to limit the scope to this, excluding things like typography and page layout, as if any other form of communication lacks information? I realize I’ll have to limit it to something, just not sure if taking this assumption is the right way. Also, is there a difference between information and communication? Is one quantitative and one qualitative?

How can quantitative information be displayed and what are the aesthetic differences in relation to the content?
This approach is an exploration of ‘how’ something has been done; although looking at different depictions of numeric data is interesting, it needs to be more specific in its purpose.

How different does the visual presentation affect the communication of a message?
Opens up to A/B testing, where people are randomly assigned to explore one of two versions of a designed artifact (e.g. a website) and then somehow tested on what they gathered from the knowledge. Does one design help the users understand more than the other, despite the 'information' to be the same?

** currently, I'm looking to different case studies I could explore with this last question; the visual presentation of *what*? Banking records, a history lesson, an organization?

***currently, this quote has been a muse, keeping me focused:

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting - the two last questions in particular would both be great paths for study, although, yes, I imagine you would have to narrow them quite a bit. In terms of A/B testing, if anyone else is interested, MailChimp ( is a good way to send out html email to different groups and you get a lot of analytics to evaluate the impact. Another website that might interest you, in terms of data visualisation, is Information is Beautiful ( which our professor also has on her blog. I also came across a bit of a weird blog post visualizing people's interests based on their declared ethnic background on a dating website: ( ) I think it makes fairly good point, though, that visualization through tag clouds can be as powerful as graphics for conveying meaning.