Reflective Informatics: Conceptual Dimensions for Designing Technologies of Reflection



so in many ways this paper is actually a sequel to one that I and my co-authors published last year disks in that paper we reviewed literature on designing technologies some support reflection domains ranging from personal informatics to health to education we saw a marked increase in the the number of papers that were using reflection as a keyword however despite this increase only about a third of those papers we reviewed actually defined the term reflection even though they were using them as a keyword and even fewer of them cited any kind of theoretical or conceptual grounding for that definition fitzpatrick at AWS high 2010 known a similar gap pointing to the quote fuzziness in which the term reflection is used within the HCI community this paper addresses that gap to do so it reviews conceptual and theoretical literature on reflection from a range of disciplines and traditions it then describes I'll then describe how the paper synthesizes across these bodies of literature to draw out three conceptual dimensions of reflection that could be useful to inform design there finally in the spirit of reflection I'll conclude with some reflexive considerations about how we approach the phenomenon of reflection in interaction design so there's conceptual and theoretical frameworks for reflection that can be found in a variety of areas this paper organizes that works not just in terms of the different disciplines from which it comes but really moreover in terms of the epistemological traditions that they represent specifically it considers work from four different approaches more primarily in philosophy working cognitive science work in education and work involving critical approaches the paper provides a literature review for each of these areas but for the purpose of the talk I'll just describe one or two exemplars from each of these traditions first one of the earlier explorations of reflection in in Western intellectual tradition at least comes from Kant's and his critique of the power of judgments judgement for Kant deals with assessments that we make about the world around us how we weigh our experiences and he distinguishes two types of judgments the first which he calls determining judgment answers the question what kind of thing is this determined judgment essentially attempts to interpret novel experiences in terms of categories and existing categories and classifications reflective judgments on the other hand occurs when novel experiences can't be made sense of with our existing interpretive schema thus for cons reflection is a process of restructuring the schema by which we interpret and make sense of the world second in cognitive science there are many dual process models of cognition that distinguish between on the one hand automatic for heuristic processes and on the other hand more conscious intentional and reflective modes of cognition one example of a fairly fine-grained approach comes from developmental psychology specifically King and kitcheners model of reflective judgment incidentally they make no mention of Kant's concept by the same name this model includes developing through seven different stages of thought from less reflective to more reflective across these various cognitive or frameworks reflection is characterized by intentional non automatic deliberate cognition third scholars in education have have explored how reflection might be beneficial for various aspects of learning for example Donald Shawn famously analyzed what he termed reflective practitioners to understand the processes by which various professionals investment bankers baseball pitchers jazz musicians city planners understand how it is that they do what they do he makes a distinction between reflection on action which occurs post post hoc and reflection in action that is reflection that's intimately bound up with and inseparable from action in the world and so for Shawn reflection really involves the kinds of tacit learning that occur through the conduct of situated embodied doing finally although it doesn't always use the term reflection many critically oriented design approaches have similarly aligned goals as though none Raby put it critical design quote asks carefully crafted questions and makes us think its purpose is to stimulate discussion and debate we can see that this sensibility has a lot in common with the other of us with the other approaches to reflection that I've described as an example how listen read strums system chatterbox shown here pseudo-random lis splices together snippets of office emails in doing so it provides a different way of knowing what's going on in an office challenging traditional approaches to office software that focus on efficiency and productivity in general critical approaches see knowledge as contingent upon and arising from particular historical circumstances empower structures in which that knowledge is created and in many ways critical design provides a means of drawing attention to those power dynamics and historical contingencies as well as suggesting alternatives so looking across these diverse perspectives we can see both differences in commonalities in the paper I discuss some of the differences between these approaches but for the purpose of this talk I'll really just focus on commonalities and specifically I wanted to describe three dimensions that that show up in various ways across these different traditions that may be useful in informing or inspiring designing for reflection first breakdown is really featured prominently in several conceptualizations of reflection for instance inconsequent reflective judgment occurs precisely when novel experiences don't fit with our existing conceptual schema for Shawn reflection occurs when there's some sort of puzzling troubling or interesting phenomenon that disrupts our problematizes the normal conduct of practice one example of how this can be leveraged in design comes from Lindley at all who suggests a the speculative speculative design proposal that they call shoddy pop this is an email server that randomly delays the delivery of an email messages for an unpredictable amount of time and they suggest that doing so facilitates a breakdown of our normal expectations for email with respect to immediacy thereby providing space and time for reflection on the content of the message in general breakdown involves incorporating this kind of violation of expectations into design second many frameworks of reflection involve conscious intentional consideration or investigation of the situation in many educational approaches the the process of reflection really involves closer examination of previously formed understandings in King and kitcheners model of reflective judgment reflection involves interrogating not only what one knows but also how one knows it one example of this of designing around inquiry comes from a system called considerate developed by crippling an animal who consider it was was designed to help voters form opinions on and reflect about various ballot propositions importantly the system distinguishes between statements that are made about an issue and arguments to support those statements so in this way having the the arguments to support those statements really creates a separate space focus specifically on facilitating inquiry furthermore as shown at the the bottom of this screenshot after reading these arguments a user can also return to revise her his original position and this point leads to the third dimension that ultimately reflection involves change it's not just about examining the current state of things but about envisioning alternative for example in contraflexure of judgment ultimately it involves transformation of the conceptual schema with which we interpret the world also as I've described the cognitive approach is distinguished between heuristic processes and reflective systems heuristic processes generally follow a set of prescribed rules but reflective systems change the rules by which those heuristic systems operate one example of transformation in design can be seen in the the Chatterbox system that I mentioned a moment ago if you were to approach this system with a traditional office software focused on efficiency and productivity the system becomes nearly incomprehensible Chatterbox in some ways requires a transformation of the users of the viewers perspective in order to make any sense of it so these examples show how each of the dimensions I've described might play out in design in the spirit of reflection and I want to take a reflexive turn on the paper itself specifically I'll consider some of the assumptions underlying this work examine the implications thereof and offer some alternatives that is break down inquiry on transformation first the paper is in many ways predicated on the notion that reflective thinking is in fact valuable and this isn't particularly exceptional a similar commitment can be seen in much of the other work in HCI around designing for reflection however there may exist situations in which reflection is less appropriate or even harmful for instance a doctor at the operating table might benefit from Shoni and style reflection in action on the operating procedures that she or he is performing but the doctor may become distracted by reflection on say the economic or socio-political inequalities perpetuated by her his country's healthcare system indeed excessive reflection might result in a sort of paralysis by analysis it becomes dilatory as to the conduct of normal daily practice and so I'd suggest that research in this area may benefit from means of articulating such situations in reflection become in which reflection becomes potentially harmful I also want to take a moment to consider some of the complexities involved in evaluating these systems designed to support reflection now for this talk I'll just I'll just touch on two points first asking if a system makes users more reflective seems a potential reduction of a fairly complex phenomenon the that might not get out what we actually want to know about reflection instead one might ask rather than how much reflection the system supports one could ask what kinds of reflection for example one could use King and kitcheners stage based model or flaking Fitzpatrick's levels of reflection to look at the types of reflections that occur but these frameworks are still couched in terms of being more or less reflective as an alternative the three dimensions that I've proposed here provide a pent potential value to a framework one could consider for example the specific instances that occasion breakdowns the kinds of inquiring activities conducted or the types of transformations that occur this move from quantification of reflection to qualification can help us better grapple with the complexity of reflection second traditional HCI often asks the question did it work in this context that very quickly becomes did users reflect did your system make users reflect which almost inevitably requires assessment or reflection of or assessment or measurement of reflection per se as an alternative we might think about evaluating these system not in terms of whether or not they make users more reflective but rather as interventions in the the process of reflection doing so moves reflection from a problem area in need of a solution to a situation where we want to understand the impacts of posing various kinds of interventions thus this approach can open opportunities to deepen our understanding both of the phenomenon of reflection itself and of the impacts of our designs so to reiterate this paper fills a noted gap in the HCI literature by reviewing reflection from a variety of epistemological traditions it provides a vocabulary for articulating what exactly reflection is and implicitly what it is not as well as how we might go about designing around reflection importantly the paper doesn't advocate for one or another single perspective on reflection conceptualizations in areas from cognitive science to philosophy to education can all beneficially inform design also I don't want to suggest that the three dimensions I've articulated here represent a final list of how to design for reflection rather the papers meant is a statement to advance our discourse in this area work on designing and evaluating systems to support reflection should try deploying these dimensions to examine which are helpful which need revision and what other dimensions we might want to consider so by providing this shared vocabulary we can enable productive dialogue among the various application areas where designers have sought to support reflection from personal informatics to education to workplace collaboration to social relationships this paper provides the conceptual and theoretical grounding to support those conversations and advance our work around designing for reflection really quick I want to thank the NSF for supporting this work the Flickr users who shared their photos my colleagues and the anonymous reviewers providing valuable feedback and all of you for you our time and attention so thank you Eric we have time for questions again microphones in the room Chris Austin I'm coach about Newcastle University um I think I'll be very useful if I'm quite only understanding one thing that appears to me perhaps missing though is that we sometimes do a lot of reflection and sometimes it's more productive than others but there might be moments of breakthrough or reflection that particularly gives us a new form of transformative and understanding as you see I just wanted to be came across and initial perspectives on that and that moment of be food which may be what we're trying to design for perhaps yeah it's a really good question I mean looking at the the theoretical literature on reflection it's not often described as this kind of heterogeneous process where you have moments of mulling through and then there's the sudden burst of a breakthrough I think it could be really interesting especially if what you're looking at is trying to design for reflection thinking about it's tempting to say how do you design for those moments of breakthrough or how do you make those moments of breakthrough happen but I think it would be just as devout just as valuable to design for those other more mundane moments of reflection where you don't feel like you're necessarily advancing your understanding but there may be subconscious or unconscious productive work that's being done there so yeah there's there's definitely some opportunities there all right so wrong with car it's Simon Fraser University so thank you and just so you do it you mentioned I mean you gave us three three dimensions of reflection that you mentioned of course that this is open and more perhaps could be added to or further refinement so I'm just curious if you could actually if you yourself have thought about that and what you might want to share with us yeah so so one of the things that that I think is interesting and that I think Chris's question alludes to a little bit is the temporality of reflection so so there's a the example from Lindley at all the the shaadi pop system that delays delivery of emails to try to make space for reflection it does it by making time for reflection to give you more essentially time to think and reflect there's interesting literature from again the behavioral economics tradition looking at decision processes and when the reflective system or comes into play versus the heuristic system and I think some kind of dimension around temporality could be really useful in terms of informing design and how do we make that time to have reflection

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