Rigor and relevance in interaction design research

Establishing Criteria of Rigor and Relevance in Interaction Design Research by Daniel Fallman and Erik Stolterman is a paper about the epistemological underpinnings of interaction design. It addresses the problem of ‘disciplinary anxiety’ that is often felt by people in this field and the inherent discussion about what constitutes ‘good research’ in terms of rigor and relevance.

The author uses the following model, called the Interaction Design Research Triangle, to map out a two-dimensional space for plotting the position of a design research activity drawn up in between three extremes: design practice, design studies, and design exploration:

Some comments from the authors:

The three forms of research do not randomly advocate certain research methods, techniques, or tools, instead they are a consequence of years of trial and error, practice, and experience, through and by which appropriate methods have emerged. The methods that have survived have been and are continuously tested against the purpose of the approach and they have thus proven over time to deliver the kind of results looked for in a way that makes sense. We therefore make the argument that the only way to discuss and examine rigor and relevance for interaction design research is to do it in relation to the three forms of research and to their particular purposes.
this is not done consistently in our field today. This sometimes leads to misunderstandings, confusion, and mistakes when design research papers and articles are reviewed, assessed, and evaluated. We argue that reviewers often come to apply the wrong notions of rigor and relevance to a particular research effort by not taking into consideration what form of research it is.

Why do I blog this? Currently writing a research project about the role of user research in interaction design, this kind of article is relevant to set the theoretical framework in the document I’m working on.