Design and evaluation of adaptive and adaptable information technology

Funding Details
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Grant type: Discovery Grants Program - Individual
  • Years: 2010/11 to 2011/12
  • Total Funding: $60,000
Keywords
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Project Summary

Information technology is complex and the people who use the technology are themselves complex. Almost by definition, therefore, the fit between the technology and its users is complex. Technology today includes a plethora of applications, each includes a multitude of features and each interacts with other applications. There are also many computational devices/platforms which interact together. Those who use this technology have diverse tasks, skills, knowledge, expectations, and motivation. Although there is always room for general improvements to the design of any given technology, most individuals would benefit from having the technology designed specifically to fit their own particular needs. Designing technology to accommodate such individual differences, however, is very difficult to do. The objectives of this research are to explore boundaries between adaptive (system-initiated) and adaptable (user-initiated) approaches to personalized technologies and to derive generalizable design principles. In adaptive designs, the system modifies the interface based on what it knows about the user; whereas in adaptable designs, it is the user who makes the adaptations to the interface. Both approaches have benefits and drawbacks. A third, less well known approach, called mixed-initiative design, is a hybrid in that it attempts to balance the benefits of the other two designs by having the system and the user work together to achieve a personalized interface. Research questions include: (1) What aspects of the personalization process are users willing to let the system to do on their behalf and which do they want to control themselves? and (2) What factors impact users' willingness to personalize? For example, is it the type of application or device, or their level of expertise? The proposed research is in the field of human-computer interaction, with a strong linkage to software engineering. The research questions will be explored in the context of graphical user interfaces and various computational devices, including the desktop PC, electronic whiteboards, and handheld devices.

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