The SAGE Handbook of Digital Technology Research


Edited by: Sara Price, Carey Jewitt & Barry Brown

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part 1: An Introduction to the Field of Contemporary Digital Technology Research

    Part 2: New Digital Technologies: Key Characteristics and Considerations

    Part 3: Research Perspectives for Digital Technologies: Theory and Analysis

    Part 4: Environments and Tools for Digital Research

  • Copyright

    Notes on the Editors and Contributors

    Jeffrey Bardzell is an Associate Professor of HCI/Design and new media in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University – Bloomington. Having done his doctoral work in Comparative Literature and Philosophy, Bardzell brings a humanist perspective to HCI and is known for developing a theory of interaction criticism. His other HCI specialties include aesthetic interaction, user experience design, amateur multimedia design theory and practice, and digital creativity. Currently, he is using theories from film, fashion, science fiction, and philosophical aesthetics to theorize about users and interaction, especially in the context of user experience design and supporting creativity

    Sonja Baumer has a multidisciplinary background in developmental and clinical psychology, as well as in media and communication studies. She has been associated with the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, University of California, San Diego, since 2000. From 2006 to 2008 she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, on the project ‘Digital Youth: Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media’. In addition to studying youth's interactions with digital media, Sonja's research interests also include topics related to the role of play in the development of self-regulation. Sonja is also a practising psychotherapist helping children and youth with atypical development improve self-regulation skills and impulse control.

    Sonja Baumer has a multidisciplinary background in developmental and clinical psychology, as well as in media and communication studies. She has been associated with the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, University of California, San Diego, since 2000. From 2006 to 2008 she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, on the project ‘Digital Youth: Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media’. In addition to studying youth's interactions with digital media, Sonja's research interests also include topics related to the role of play in the development of self-regulation. Sonja is also a practising psychotherapist helping children and youth with atypical development improve self-regulation skills and impulse control.

    Catherine Beavis is a Professor of Education in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Australia. She teaches and researches in the area of English Curriculum, Literature and Literacy Education, concerning young people and digital culture, with a particular focus on video or computer games; the changing nature of text; and the nature and implications of young people's engagement with video games for English and literacy education. Her work explores contemporary constructions of English, texts and literacy; the role of game play in young people's lives, games as spaces within which young people play, connections between game play, identity and community, and the critical examination of the in-school use of video games.

    Sara Bernardini is a Research Associate in the Planning Group at the Department of Informatics of King's College London. Her research interests are in the area of artificial intelligence and include autonomous intelligent agents, automated planning, technology-enhanced learning, human-computer interaction and knowledge representation and engineering. Before joining King's College, Sara was a Research Fellow at the London Knowledge Lab where she was part of an interdisciplinary team that focused on building an intelligent virtual agent for helping autistic children develop social communication skills. Previously, in 2005–2007, Sara was a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center (CA, USA) where she worked on developing autonomous planning agents for space mission operations. Sara received her PhD in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Trento, Italy and her Master Degree in Computer Science and Engineering (magna cum laude) from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy.

    Kirsten Boehner is a Visiting Fellow at the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research focuses on intersections of divergent perspectives and practices in both design and evaluation of digital technology. Kirsten holds a PhD from Cornell University in Communication with a focus on Human Computer Interaction.

    Barry Brown has recently moved to become a studio director at the Mobile Life research centre in Stockholm. His recent work has focused on the sociology and design of leisure technologies – computer systems for leisure and pleasure. Recent publications include studies of activities as diverse as games, tourism, museum visiting, the use of maps, television watching and sport spectating. He has also edited books on music consumption (with Kenton O’Hara), and mobile phone use (with Richard Harper and Nicola Green). He was previously an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego, a research fellow on the Equator project at the University of Glasgow and a research scientist at Hewlett-Packard's research labs in Bristol. His qualifications include a degree in computer science from the University of Edinburgh, and a PhD in sociology from the University of Surrey.

    Leah Buechley is an Associate Professor at the MIT Media Lab where she directs the High-Low Tech research group. The High-Low Tech group explores the integration of high and low technology from cultural, material, and practical perspectives, with the goal of engaging diverse groups of people in developing their own technologies. She is a well-known expert in the field of electronic textiles (e-textiles), and her work in this area includes developing the LilyPad Arduino toolkit. Her research received a 2011 NSF CAREER award and has been featured in numerous articles in publications including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Popular Science, and the Taipei Times. She received PhD and MS degrees in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BA in physics from Skidmore College.

    Paul E. Ceruzzi is the Chair of the Space History Division at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. He is the author of several books on the history of computing and aerospace technology, most recently A History of Modern Computing(2003); and Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner(2008). His current research concerns the use of computers for long-range space missions, which is told in a new Smithsonian exhibit on satellite and space navigation, which opened in April 2013.

    Luigina Ciolfi is a Reader in Communication in the Communication and Computing Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University (UK). Her research focuses on the design and evaluation of interactive technologies to support human interaction based on an understanding of the relationship between people, activities and their locales. She has studied heritage sites, urban spaces and work settings through the lens of place as a notion for understanding human interaction (both individual and social) in context. She holds a Laurea (summa cum laude) in Communication Sciences from the University of Siena (Italy) and a PhD in Computer Science/ Interaction Design from the University of Limerick (Ireland).

    Charles Crook is a developmental psychologist who is currently Professor of Education and Director of the Learning Science Research Institute at the University of Nottingham. He has researched a socio-cultural approach to the adoption of new technologies for learning and recreation.

    Steven Dow is an Assistant Professor at the HCI Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where he researches human-computer interaction, innovation, design education, and crowdsourcing methods. He is recipient of a National Science Foundation grant and Stanford's Postdoctoral Research Award, and co-recipient of a Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Grant. He received an MS and PhD in Human-Centered Computing from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from University of Iowa.

    Andrew Feenberg is Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Technology in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, where he directs the Applied Communication and Technology Lab. His recent books include Between Reason and Experience: Essays in Technology and Modernity(MIT Press, 2010), and (Re)Inventing the Internet(Sense Publishers, 2012). His work attempts to inform philosophy of technology with the results of research in STS. His background includes extensive experience with computer networking. He is recognized as an early innovator in the field of online education, a field he helped to create in 1982. His current work includes analysis and critique of the role of technology in Heidegger and the Frankfurt School, and research on the politics of online community.

    Nicolas Friederici is an ICT4D & Mobile Innovation Associate at infoDev, a partnership programme at the World Bank. Nicolas was a Fulbright scholar at Michigan State University where he received an MA in Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media. His thesis examined how negative emotions affect online support seeking for health problems. He also worked in a research project on broadband economics and policy and co-taught a class on social computing. In 2010 Nicolas was awarded a Diploma in Media Studies and Media Management from the University of Cologne.

    Sara M. Grimes is an Assistant Professor with the Faculty of Information, and Associate Director of the Semaphore Lab, both at the University of Toronto. Her research explores various aspects of children's digital media culture(s), play studies and critical theories of technology, with a focus on digital games. Her previous work has appeared in journals such as New Media & Society, The Information Society, The International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, and Communication, Culture & Critique, and includes discussions of the cultural politics of children's virtual worlds and online communities, examinations of the ethics and politics of online marketing targeted at children, and the articulation of a critical theory of digital game play (co-authored with Andrew Feenberg). Her current research focuses on the democratic rationalization of children's play and creativity within commercial, web 2.0 user-generated content games and platforms.

    Larissa Hjorth is an artist, digital ethnographer and Associate Professor in the Games Programs, School of Media & Communication, RMIT University. Since 2000, Hjorth has been researching the gendered and socio-cultural dimensions of mobile, social, and locative media and gaming cultures in the Asia-Pacific. She is particularly interested in the relationship between intimacy, co-presence and place. Her books include Mobile Media in the Asia-Pacific (London, Routledge, 2009), Games & Gaming(London: Berg, 2010), Online@AsiaPacific: Mobile, Social and Locative in the Asia-Pacific region(with Michael Arnold, Routledge, 2013), and Understanding Social Media (with Sam Hinton, Sage, 2013). In addition to numerous journal articles, Hjorth has co-edited four Routledge anthologies, Gaming Cultures and Place in the Asia-Pacific region(with Dean Chan, 2009), Mobile technologies: From telecommunication to media(with Gerard Goggin, 2009), Studying the iPhone: Cultural technologies, mobile communication, and the iPhone(with Jean Burgess and Ingrid Richardson, 2012) and Mobile MediaPractices, Presence and Politics: The challenge of being seamlessly mobile(with Katie Cumsikey, 2013).

    Eve Hoggan is an Aalto University Science Fellow and the vice-leader of the Ubiquitous Interaction (UIx) group at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology, Finland. Hoggan received a PhD in crossmodal audio and tactile interaction from the University of Glasgow, UK in 2010. Prior to obtaining her PhD, Hoggan interned in Barcelona with Telefónica I+D in the multimedia research team and also at Nokia Research Center in Helsinki. Her work involves long-term ‘in the wild’ studies of multimodal interaction with the audio and haptic modalities, multi-touch surface interaction, and increasing the bandwidth of remote interpersonal communication through the use of novel haptic interaction techniques.

    Ty Hollett is a graduate student at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Teaching and Learning, with an emphasis in Language, Literacy and Culture. His research focuses on literacy learning as embodied, mobile and social practice. He is currently exploring the use of mobile devices by adolescents in and out of school settings.

    Lars Erik Holmquist leads the Mobile Innovations group at Yahoo! Labs in Sunnyvale, California. Previously, he was Professor in Media Technology at Södertörn University and manager of the Interaction Design and Innovation lab at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science. He was a co-founder and research leader at the Mobile Life Centre, a joint research venture between academia and industry hosted at Stockholm University, with major partners including Ericsson, Microsoft, Nokia, TeliaSonera and the City of Stockholm. He received his MSc in Computer Science in 1996, his PhD in Informatics in 2000, and became an Associate Professor in Applied IT in 2004, all at the University of Gothenburg. In his work he has developed many pioneering interfaces and applications in the areas of ubiquitous computing and mobile services, including location-based devices, handheld games, mobile media sharing, visualization techniques, entertainment robotics, tangible interfaces and ambient displays. All of his work has been carried out in multi-disciplinary settings, mixing technology, design and user studies, often in close collaboration with industrial stakeholders. His first book, Grounded Innovation: Strategiesfor Creating Digital Products, was published by Morgan Kaufman in May 2012.

    Kristina Höök is Professor in Interaction Design at KTH, Sweden. She also has a part-time position at SICS. She started the Mobile Life centre in 2007 – a centre that has now grown to include around 50 researchers, working in close contact with industrial partners such as Microsoft Research, Ericsson, Nokia, TeliaSonera, IKEA, ABB and Stockholm City. Höök is most known for her work on social navigation, mobile interactions, affective interactions and design for bodily experiences. She has published in highly rated platforms such as ACM SIGCHI, DIS, NordiCHI, ToCHI, IJHCS, and the Royal Society in the UK.

    Eva Hornecker is a Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Germany. Previously, she was a lecturer in the Dept of Computer and Information Science at the University of Strathclyde, and held post-doctoral positions at the Open University, the University of Sussex, and the University of Canterbury, NZ. Her research interests focus on the design and user experience of ‘beyond the desktop’ interaction. This includes multitouch surfaces, tangible interaction, whole-body interaction, mobile devices, physical and physically embedded computing, the support of social/collaborative interactions, and the social/societal implications of technology.

    Heather A. Horst is Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communications and Co-Director of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University, Australia. An anthropologist by training, Horst's research is primarily concerned with the implications of and changing relations to media, technology and material culture in everyday social life across a range of national and transnational contexts. Horst is co-author of The Cell Phone: An anthropology of communication(with D. Miller, Berg, 2006) and Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out: Living and learning with new media (with M. Ito et al., MIT Press, 2010) and is currently writing an ethnography on digital media and family life. She has contributed articles on new media, technology and material culture to Global Networks, International Journal of Communication, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Journal of Material Culture and New Media & Society, She recently co-edited, with Daniel Miller, Digital Anthropology(Berg, 2012).

    Gary Hsieh is a joint-appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University. His research focus is on studying, designing and developing technologies to enable people to interact in ways that are efficient and welfare-improving. He has conducted research at a number of industry research labs, including Microsoft, IBM, Intel and Fuji-Xerox. He received his PhD from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and his BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Carey Jewitt is Professor of Learning and Technology and Head of the Culture, Communication and Media Department at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her research interests are the development of visual and multimodal research theory and methods, video-based research, and researching technology-mediated interaction primarily in educational contexts. She is a founding editor of the Sage journal Visual Communication, and Director of MODE (Multimodal Methods for Researching Digital Data and Environments), a National Centre for Research Methods Node funded by the ESRC ( Carey's publications include The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis now in its 2nd edition (2009, 2013) and Technology, Literacy and Learning: A multimodal approach(Routledge, 2008).

    Matt Jones is a Professor of Human Computer Interaction in the Future Interaction Technology Lab ( He has been a Visiting Fellow at Nokia Research and an IBM Faculty Award holder for work with the Spoken Web group at IBM Research Delhi. Over the past 17 years he has worked on mobile interaction research and design projects internationally. He co-authored the book Mobile Interaction Design with Gary Marsden (John Wiley; more details are available at:

    Wendy Ju is the Executive Director of Interaction Design at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University, and an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Program in Design at the California College of the Arts. Her research focuses on fundamental practices across design disciplines, and on the expressive properties of physical motion in modern-day interaction. Wendy has an MS from the MIT Media Lab, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.

    Victor Kaptelinin is a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeå University, Sweden. He has held teaching and/or research positions at the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, Moscow Lomonosov University, and the University of California in San Diego, USA. His main research interests are in interaction design, activity theory, and educational use of information technologies. His recent book, co-authored with Bonnie Nardi, is Activity Theory in HCI: Fundamentals and reflections(Morgan and Claypool, 2012).

    Anna Kouppanou is a primary school educator and also teaches Philosophy of Education at the European University of Cyprus. She holds a BEd and an MA in Cultural Perspectives in Education and Psychology from the University of Cyprus. She is currently pursuing a PhD degree at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her thesis is an investigation of Martin Heidegger's understanding of nearness in relation to technology, space, time, metaphor and imagination. Her research interests include philosophy of education and technology, phenomenology, existentialism, new media and ethics.

    Cliff Lampe is an Associate Professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on how large, distributed groups are supported through mediation by information and communication technology, and the effects of that mediation on social processes. His work has included studying sites like Slashdot, Wikipedia, and Facebook, as well as creating online communities related to environmental journalism, economic development, water conservation and energy efficiency. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the Kellogg Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. He received his PhD in Information from the University of Michigan in 2006.

    Kevin M. Leander is a professor in the Language, Literacy and Culture programme at Vanderbilt University. His work applies and extends spatial theories in the analysis of identity, literacy and learning. Leander has a special interest in changes in literacy as social practice through new media technologies. His most recent research (with Mariette de Haan and Sandra Ponzanesi, Utrecht University) examines the socialization and identity practices of migrant youth through new media. A second project (with Rogers Hall, Vanderbilt University) examines the use of spatial representations and spatial practices in the routine work of professionals.

    Wendy Mackay is a Research Director at INRIA Saclay, France, where she heads the In|Situ| research group in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Paris-Sud. She received her PhD from MIT and created a multi-disciplinary research group at Digital Equipment that produced the world's first commercial interactive video system (IVIS), a pre-Hypercard multimedia authoring language and over 30 multimedia software products in the 1980s. She then created a research group at Xerox PARC's EuroPARC lab that was among the first to explore media spaces, tangible computing and mixed reality interfaces. She is a member of the ACM CHI Academy and has published over a hundred research articles in the area of human-computer interaction. She has served as Chair of ACM/SIGCHI, co-editor-in-chief of the journal IJHCS and on the editorial boards of CACM, ACM/TOCHI and RIHM, as well as programme or associate chair of ACM CHI, UIST, CSCW, DIS, IUI and Multimedia. She is chair of CHI’13 in Paris, France. Her research interests include co-adaptive instruments, tangible computing and multi-disciplinary, participatory design methods.

    Paul Marshall is a lecturer in interaction design at University College London. His research interests centre on the concept of embodied interaction and how it can be applied to the design and evaluation of technologies that extend and augment individual human capabilities. This has included work on physical interaction and tangible interfaces; on technologies for face-to-face collaboration; on the design of technologies to fit specific physical contexts; and on extended cognition and perception.

    Robert J. Moore is a Research Staff Member at IBM Research – Almaden, where he examines work practice, social interaction and human-computer interaction. In the past he has worked as a researcher at Yahoo! Labs and at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and as a game designer at The Multiverse Network. Moore's past research includes studies of user interaction with search engines using eye-tracking, avatar-mediated interaction in virtual worlds, face-to-face interaction in print shops, work practices in automobile assembly plants and telephonemediated interaction in survey call centers. He holds a PhD and MS and BA degrees in sociology with a focus on ethnomethodology, conversation analysis and ethnography.

    Yoosoo Oh received his BS in the Department of Electronics and Engineering from Kyungpook National University (KNU, Daegu, Korea) in 2002 and his MS in the Department of Information and Communications from Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST, Gwangju, Korea) in 2003. In 2010, he received his PhD in the School of Information and Mechatronics from GIST. From 2010 to 2012, he was a postdoctoral researcher in the Culture Technology Institute at GIST. In 2012, as a Research Associate, he joined KAIST, Daejeon, Korea. He has been an Assistant Professor with the School of Computer & Communication Engineering at Daegu University (Daegu, Korea) since September 2012,. His research interests include context and activity fusion and reasoning, context-aware middleware, ubiquitous virtual reality in smart space, HCI and ubiquitous computing.

    Kaśka Porayska-Pomsta is a senior lecturer in technology-enhanced learning at the London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education, University of London. She holds a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh, School of Informatics. She specializes in adaptive technology for learning, including learner modelling in relation to context, affect and motivation and natural language feedback generation. From 2004 to 2006 she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh, School of Informatics working on the EU-funded (FP6) LeAM project. In 2006 she became the principal investigator of the ESRC/EPSRC-funded ECHOES project, which aimed to design a virtual environment for young children, both typically developing and with autism spectrum conditions, to support them in developing social interaction skills. In the same year she secured an RCUK Academic Fellowship and further funding from ESRC and EPSRC to continue the ECHOES project.

    Sara Price is a Senior Lecturer in Technology Enhanced Learning at the London Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education. She has a background in psychology, with extensive experience in HCI. Her research interests focus on the role of digital technologies for learning, approaching technologies as external tools that offer new opportunities for interaction and cognition, in particular the role of embodied forms of interaction on cognition. Much of her work involves the design, development and evaluation of emerging digital technologies (mobile, tangible, sensor, haptic), and exploration of ways in which they can enhance learning through mediating new forms of thinking and reasoning.

    Yvonne Rogers is the director of the Interaction Centre at UCL and a professor of Interaction Design. She is internationally renowned for her work in HCI and ubiquitous computing. She is known for her visionary research agenda of user engagement in ubiquitous computing and has pioneered an approach to innovation and ubiquitous learning. Her current research focuses on behavioural change, through augmenting everyday learning and collaborative work activities with interactive technologies. She has published over 200 articles and is a co-author of Interaction Design: Beyond human-computer interaction with Helen Sharp and Jenny Preece, the definitive textbook on Interaction Design and HCI, now in its 3rd edition, that has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. She is a Fellow of the British Computer Society and the CHI Academy. She has been awarded a prestigious EPSRC dream fellowship to rethink the relationship between ageing, computing and creativity.

    Paul Standish is Professor and Head of the Centre for Philosophy of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. His most recent books are Stanley Cavell and the Education of Grownups(Fordham University Press, 2012) and Education and the Kyoto School of Philosophy(Springer, 2012), both co-edited with Naoko Saito. His sustained interest in technology is reflected in a number of publications, including Enquiries at the Interface: Philosophical problems of education online(Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), co-edited with Nigel Blake. He is Associate Editor of the Journal of Philosophy of Education.

    Laurel Swan is a Research Fellow with Design Interactions Research at The Royal College of Art, London. Her research has examined the mundane practices of everyday family life – from making lists to archiving memories to managing clutter. More recently her research has shifted to focus on the practice of design and the crossover between different design communities. Laurel has various degrees in history, English, psychology and computer science.

    Niall Winters is a Senior Lecturer in Learning Technologies for Development at the London Knowledge Lab (LKL), Institute of Education, University of London. He works primarily in the field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D), where his main research interest is in the participatory design of mobile applications and activities for education in developing regions. The current focus of this work is on supporting the training of healthcare professionals in East Africa. Aligned to this, he has an emerging interest in the design of innovative technologies for postgraduate medical education.

    Woontack Woo received his BS in Electronics Engineering from Kyungpook National University (KNU, Daegu, Korea) in 1989 and his MS in Electronics and Electrical Engineering from POSTECH (Pohang, Korea) in 1991. In 1998, he was awarded his PhD in Electrical Engineering Systems from the University of Southern California. In 1999, as an invited Researcher, he joined ATR, Kyoto, Japan. From 2001 to 2012, he was a Professor in the Department of Information and Communications and Director of the Culture Technology Institute at Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST), Gwangju, Korea. Since February 2012 he has been a Professor with the Graduate School of Culture Technology at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST, Daejeon, Korea). The main thrust of his research has been implementing ubiquitous virtual reality in smart space, which includes Context-aware Augmented Reality, 3D Vision, HCI and Culture Technology.

    Kirsty Young is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney. Dr Young's research examines the impact of digital technology across the lifespan, with particular emphasis on understanding how the social media permeating daily life can be utilized to facilitate learning in formal educational settings. With a background in Special Education Dr Young also has a keen interest in the use of mobile devices to facilitate literacy learning for individuals with reading delays or disorders. As a member of the UTS Human Research Ethics Committee, Dr Young is also actively engaged in the promotion of ethically sound online research.

    Nicola Yuill is the manager of the Children and Technology Lab in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex. She studies how technology can be used to support collaborative work and play in children with typical and atypical development, based on theories of social and cognitive development. Her PhD work on Theory of Mind led to research in children's language comprehension, followed by work on understanding language ambiguity in riddles and word play, and mothers’ conversations with their children. This prompted her interest in technology's role in how children learn through conversation, culminating in setting up the ChaTLab. The underlying theme of this work is the role of social interaction and collaboration in learning and development, and how this can be supported by the design of technology, as informed by developmental theory. How do interactions between peers support learning? How do parents scaffold children's learning at home? Also, how might technology be used creatively and innovatively to support these interactions?

  • Afterword: Looking to the Future

    SaraPrice, CareyJewitt and BarryBrown

    This Sage Handbook of Digital Technology Research offers a wide-ranging foray into important and contemporary perspectives of digital technology research. It has situated the research field historically, culturally and politically; highlighted key characteristics and pertinent issues for digital technology research for the twenty-first century and their implications for research; introduced central theoretical and analytical approaches; and illustrated exemplary research across a number of different technologies and sites of practice.

    As this book shows, a broad range of methodological approaches can legitimately be used in digital technology research, ranging from exploratory approaches (which offer valuable opportunities for novel discoveries and new directions in this nascent field), to situated approaches (which offer contextualized research), to more experimental approaches to technology-based research and in many cases a ‘mixed methods’ approach is taken. One of the challenges facing researchers undertaking digital technology research is choosing the appropriate methodology and we hope that the chapters in this book offer a valuable foundation for supporting readers’ selection through understanding the challenges of different methodological approaches and ways to use them effectively.

    The specific challenges of researching digital technologies and undertaking research with digital technology are discussed across the parts and chapters in this book. Some of these challenges are focused and specific to methods or sites of research – for example, defining and managing ‘context’, managing online information, contrasting lab-based versus in-the-wild studies or fostering innovation. Other methodological challenges are, however, more overarching. For example, as many of the chapters in this handbook have shown, the rapid development of technology and co-evolution of social-cultural practices presents a number of challenges for research. One consequence of new technology designs, new interfaces and new infrastructures is that technologies and devices are often novel to users, are not embedded in existing practices and routines and in many cases demand different kinds of practices. While this is exciting and compelling and, as seen in some chapters in this book, it can be central to the provocative nature of the research, it also brings significant challenges to some areas of digital technology research.

    As an example let's take education, where research is exploring innovative technology use in teaching and learning. In this context, the impact of the ‘novelty’ of a technology on the research process and findings needs to be considered and accounted for. Cutting-edge technologies are often functionally unstable, interfering with the smooth running of digital environments and either requiring on site technical support or the running of studies ‘off site’ or in a lab-based context. New technologies and devices are generally not embedded into the practice, curriculum or policy context of education and, as such, often require participants, or users, to engage in new practices. This not only creates a complex relationship between the innovative applications and established practices but also highlights the need for fostering appropriation by the target user group. For example, in education contexts, not only does research need to address the learning value of new technology learning tools, but also the need for teachers to be able to design, adapt or even build technologies for them to become valuable teaching tools. One issue arising here is that the hype and users’ expectations are not matched to the way the new technology can be embedded or appropriated into current practice.

    Other key challenges for researching digital technologies addressed across the handbook include developing methods and procedures to effectively make use of automatically generated data – for example, computer-logged data stored by gaming systems. As several chapters highlight, in terms of analysis, the use of digital technologies in itself generates more disparate means of storing records – for example, data collection may include video data, audio data, as well as data relating to digital activity (computer-logged data), which may include GPS data, body sensor data, as well as system activity. Such data collection results in diverse forms of data records – for example, video with audio, separate audio and computer-logged data, which can prove problematic for analysis when one needs to cross-reference the status of events at any one time, thus highlighting the need for recorded data to be synchronized to precisely, to the second. Such issues are important when considering methods of data capture that span media and are used to support post hoc analyses. Digital technologies also give rise to large amounts of automatically generated data, both digital video data and computer-logged data. This provides exciting opportunities for social science research, opening up access to rich data sets, while also generating large amounts of data to manage and analyse, and raising questions of how to get good ‘quality’ data. For example, the lengthy duration of digital video data may be streamed in real time, providing richness in terms of quantity, but not necessarily in terms of quality content for the research questions. A significant challenge, therefore, is to develop more sophisticated and effective methods for ‘quality’ data collection and analytics – particularly ways to automatically capture relevant data and facilitate pertinent analytical procedures.

    Linked to both these challenges are the methodological issues raised across a number of chapters concerning scale and scalability of research – moving from micro analytical approaches to macro concerns and generalizing from the particular. Much digital technology research, as the chapters in this handbook suggest, is also conducted over short timescales, often in the form of one-off interventions, and the challenges of longitudinal studies with technologies is exasperated by the rapidly changing technology environment and the impracticality for work and educational environments, for instance, of investing heavily in new technologies to be researched over time. Extensive deployment and implementation is, therefore, scarce. Another associated challenge is that of researching technologies in authentic contexts, as people's lived experiences of technology tends to occur over several different sites and unfolds over long stretches of time. This means there is often no reliable test bed for researching either extensively or longitudinally. Consequently, large numbers of disparate case studies emerge, making coherence of findings problematic.

    These and other challenges associated with the continued refinement and development of methodologies need to be addressed to ensure research responds to the particularity of digital technologies and the full potential of undertaking research with digital technology can be realized.

    Extending this issue of methods for effective capture and analysis of automatic data, discussed above, raises the question of how to make good use of data that can be sourced differently through digital technologies. For example, the ubiquitous, worldwide pervasive nature of networking and online technologies gives rise to the potential for accessing a wider number of users. The point made across this handbook is that digital tools generate and support new forms of data and, perhaps more importantly, they offer new ways to represent knowledge, engender new practices and create and connect local and global communities in new ways. Central to this is the fostering of innovative and transformative ways of interacting, expressing and forms of thinking. As the chapters in this handbook illustrate, such changes mean that non-verbal forms of interaction, and thus non-verbal forms of data, are becoming more prominent within social research on digital technologies across a range of theoretical and methodological approaches and research contexts – for instance, in relation to theories of embodiment, space and place. As these and other chapters indicate, this is pushing the development and use of digital technologies for research purposes. For example, gesture, both through interaction with touchscreen interfaces and bigger body movements, can be automatically captured through sensor technologies, in real time and across different spaces. As many authors in this handbook note, further work is needed to extend existing methods and to develop new methods that look beyond people's talk and take account of ways of expression through bodily interaction, including gesture and action. Contemporary digital environments are therefore inherently multimodal, both in terms of representation modalities (e.g. texture, colour and shape of objects as well as digital representation) and interaction modes (e.g. talk, gaze, manipulation, gesture). This explores the value of taking a multimodality approach as a new way of describing and classifying ‘embodied’ forms of interaction and examining how embodied action can be played out differently in digital environments, such as learning, or in medical practice contexts.

    In summary, this handbook provides an understanding of the ‘space’ and ‘scope’ for researching digital technologies, pointing to some of the important ways in which people use technology and the current status of research that uses digital technologies, as well as the main challenges of identifying and engaging with appropriate theoretical and methodological approaches. We hope that it provides a comprehensive ‘toolkit’ of theoretical perspectives to further develop the field of digital technology research.

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