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    Research recast(ed): Following up with Dr. Isabelle Sperano and Robert Andruchow
    (2022) Ekelund, Brittany; Cave, Dylan; Sperano, Isabelle; Andruchow, Robert
    Today we recap episode 2 with Dr. Isabelle Sperano and Robert Andruchow, where we catch up on the educational video game, Life on the Edge, and follow up on how things have been going with the City of Edmonton. You can learn more about the design program at You can get a refresher on this project by listening to episode 2 of Research Recast(ed).
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    Story in motion: creative collaborations on Tłı̨chǫ lands
    (2023) Ruiz, Adolfo; Rabesca, Tony
    This exposition describes a creative collaboration in the self-governed Tłı̨chǫ region of Canada’s Northwest Territories. As part of this collaboration, Indigenous research methods and participatory experiences facilitated a process by which regional oral history was visualised and translated into animation. As a long-term project, this research was based on relationships through which a non-Indigenous researcher was able to learn and exchange knowledge with elders and youth from the region. Community workshops facilitated image-making, storytelling sessions, and interaction between generations. The animated film that emerged through this research is an embodiment of cultural knowledge and cultural continuity.
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    Life on the edge: supporting students’ learning of cell biology
    (2023) Sperano, Isabelle; Byrne, Liam; Bong, Ji Yae; Shaw, Ross; Andruchow, Robert
    The video game "Life on the Edge" is an educational game that aims to instruct and engage undergraduate biology students on the intricacies of cell biology. Developed by a collaborative team comprising researchers and students from biology, design, computer science, educational technology, and music at MacEwan and Concordia University, the game aims to provide an interactive and visually stimulating environment to help undergraduate biology students learn and understand cell biology concepts effectively. The development process is also complemented by research to evaluate the game’s effectiveness in enhancing students' game-based learning experiences. In this session, participants will be afforded the opportunity to engage with the game and provide feedback to the game's creators on new game features currently under development.
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    Research recast(ed): S1E2 - A conversation with Dr. Isabelle Sperano and Robert Andruchow
    (2021-09) Ekelund, Brittany; Cave, Dylan; Sperano, Isabelle; Andruchow, Robert
    Today we learn about a video game that predicted COVID-19, how acting techniques can build a better digital experience, and how empathy is everything when it comes to design. Joining us in the studio are Dr. Isabelle Sperano, an Assistant professor of Digital Experience Design at MacEwan University, and Robert Andruchow, Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor for MacEwan’s Design Studies program. The two have previously worked together on Life on the Edge, a biology video game in partnership with Ross Shaw, which will launch this fall. Currently, they are teamed up with the City of Edmonton on a new project, Digital Experience Design in large Organizations and Digital Transformation, mapping the City’s digital ecosystem.
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    (Re)storying empathy in design thinking
    (2023) Strickfaden, Megan; Ruiz, Adolfo; Thomas, Joyce
    Storytelling can be associated with temporality, memory, emotion, embodied ways of individually experiencing life, and social ways of collectively experiencing the world. Storytelling is also a kind of re-storying of human experience that has the potential to drive design solutions in very significant directions. We believe that storytelling has the potential to be a cornerstone towards breaking down assumptions about others and revealing beliefs and values about the people that designers call their users or audiences; and as such, storytelling can be significant to human-centred design processes and towards building empathy in design thinking. This paper highlights some of the central ideas around storytelling, re-storying and empathy from the fields of design studies, contemporary literature, psychology, and philosophy. This includes explorations into how designers invest time into storytelling and how this can lead towards deepening empathy and understanding of others’ circumstances. Our core assumption is that storytelling and re-storying are key ways to connect one person with another and to bring together groups of people through sharing and exploring details about individual experiences including intimate and emotional qualities of the human condition. Moving from our highlighted core concepts we put these to work through three projects created by authors and presented as case studies to better understand temporality, memory, emotion and embodiment, and to explore how empathy can be enacted. The three case studies are: a self-knowing activity called Embodied Maps; an activity that has been made into a short film called Evolving Lines; and an ethnographic film created to explore low vision and the urban environment called Light in the Borderlands. Each of these case studies are examples of different types of re-storying, woven together to shed light on and facilitate deep reflection and meaningful conversations about oneself and among people who carry distinct cultural knowledge and disparate lived experiences. Storytelling and re-storying in each of these case studies are developed through sustained and respectful dialogue over hours, weeks, and months as part of design inquiries leading to and facilitating meaning-making processes. This paper promises to illuminate how storytelling and re-storying can be used as a means to being a more empathic design thinker and move towards innovative design solutions that are more suitable, functional and, ultimately, valuable to people.
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    User experience and digital government: exploring a practice-based participatory approach to identify research opportunities
    (2022) Sperano, Isabelle; Andruchow, Robert; Petryshyn, Luca; Chu, Vik
    In this case study, the research team (RT) explores user experience design in relation to digital practices adopted by governments. The goal of this first phase was to identify research opportunities. To do so, the RT adopted a practice-centered participatory research approach (Holkup, 2004). The RT began a partnership with a municipal government (City of Edmonton). Regular meetings were held with the partner organization to discuss—among other things—the organization’s structure, current and future projects, the digital editorial strategies implemented by the organization, and the organization's issues and constraints when designing digital services. This allowed the teams to identify not only interesting research questions but also potential teaching collaborations related to work-integrated learning. In this paper, the practice-based participatory research approach is explained, the timeline and the outcome of the partnership are presented, and the lessons learned through that process are shared.
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    User testing for serious game design: improving the player experience
    (2022) Shaw, Ross; Sperano, Isabelle; Andruchow, Robert; Cobzas, Dana
    This case study reflects on our use of user testing during a research project in which we designed a serious video game, “Life on the Edge.” The target audience of the game is first-year post-secondary biology students. As we designed the game, user testing was a critical component that allowed us to identify issues. Any issues that interfere with the flow or enjoyment of a video game can be distracting to players. In what follows, we will describe the research design and discuss the processes for testing a serious video game that will allow you to identify game issues successfully. How you recruit participants, test players, and prioritize player feedback is a component of effective user testing and improving your game. With user testing, we were able to identify problems in the game, prioritize them, and address them. By using variable user testing methods, you can adapt to the changing needs of your game project and develop a successful serious video game.
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    Exploring new usages of journey maps: introducing the pedagogical and the project planning journey maps
    (2019) Sperano, Isabelle; Roberge, Jacynthe; Bénech, Pierre; Trgalova, Jana; Andruchow, Robert
    Journey maps are graphical and textual representations that intend to outline an experience over time with a product, a system or a service (Kalbach 2016). In this article, we first describe how this visualization tool is used in interaction design. Secondly, through two case studies, we describe two innovative ways of using this tool. In the first case study, we present the pedagogical journey map, a journey mapping approach meant to be used by teachers as a collaborative design tool to support the creation of pedagogical activities. In the second case study, we introduce the project planning journey map, used as both a prospective and retrospective project planning tool to help student designers plan and reflect on their design process. This paper is meant to support the use of the journey map as a prospective design method by academics and practitioners (from fields such as interaction design, user experience design, prospective ergonomics, education, and engineering) addressing issues related to the design of innovative products and services.
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    A place we call home: curriculum for land-based education
    (2022) Ruiz, Adolfo
    This paper describes initial research into the creation of curriculum that combines visual communication design with local Indigenous knowledge in the Tłıchǫ ̨ Dene region of subarctic Canada. This curriculum is intended for regional youth, and to be accredited by the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. Situated outside dominant models of design education, the following sections illustrate the significant role that embodied knowledge and relationality can play in land-based pedagogy. As part of this discussion, the field of design is situated as an intermediary between an Indigenous community and a Western academic institution. Through a reflexive, narrative form of writing, the following sections provide an account of consultations between the principal investigator and Tłıchǫ ̨ community members during the early stages of research in 2019. Consultation during this time led to the creation of two curriculum drafts that are presented in the following pages.
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    When design is inspired by theatre: acting techniques as prospective design methods
    (2021) Roberge, Jacynthe; Sperano, Isabelle; Rivenbark, Leigh; Rubio, Daniel Caja
    In acting training, psychophysical exercises are used to strengthen the relationship between mind and body, thus fostering a deeper understanding of the character [1]. Intrigued and inspired by the potential value of these techniques in design contexts, we explored their application for interaction designers as research methods in a pedagogical setting. To do so, we first created a single-session workshop that introduced design students to basic actor movement techniques in the winter of 2019. The goal of the workshop was to help students empathize with their users and discover solutions when designing digital products. Later, in the fall of 2020, we used reflections from the first activity to develop two longer workshops; both consisted of three sessions and were carried out consecutively in two different universities. In this article, we present a case study of those three workshops. After discussing considerations for the evolution of the workshops, we describe how each was conducted. Finally, we share our findings and insights that arose throughout the process.
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    Teaching acting techniques to designers: observe, embody, create
    (2021) Sperano, Isabelle; Rivenbark, Leigh; Roberge, Jacynthe; Rubio, Daniel Caja
    To design quality digital products, designers need to understand the user and their experiences on a deep level (Ritter et al. 2014). To do so, design practitioners have developed research methods that mainly focus on an “intellectual” approach to gain insight through quantitative research and analysis. While useful, these approaches often undervalue the role of the body in the process of understanding the user. In response to this, a more embodied approach to user research has emerged. Methods such as roleplaying and bodystorming are increasingly used to gain new kinds of insight during the design process (Burns et al. 1994, Schleicher et al. 2010, Wakkary et al. 2007). However, designers often encounter limitations with these methods (Think Design 2021). Some have trouble engaging in role-playing exercises due to a lack of acting training. Others struggle to apply insights to their work. Our team developed a workshop for design students exploring how acting techniques can be used as design methods to address these challenges. It was conducted in interaction design classes (Winter 2019 and Fall 2020) in 2 universities. Our goal at the Interaction Design Education Summit 2021 was to present this workshop to design instructors and practitioners so they can share it with their students or design teams. In this article, we describe an overview of the workshop and discuss potential benefits, challenges, and limitations of this approach to design.
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    Creative, interdisciplinary undergraduate research: an educational cell biology video game designed by students for students
    (2020) Sperano, Isabelle; Shaw, Ross; Andruchow, Robert; Cobzas, Dana; Efird, Cory; Brookwell, Brian; Deng, William
    In a three-year, practice-based, creative research project, the team designed a video game for undergraduate biology students that aimed to find the right balance between educational content and entertainment. The project involved 7 faculty members and 14 undergraduate students from biological science, design, computer science, and music. This nontraditional approach to research was attractive to students. Working on an interdisciplinary practice-based research project required strategies related to timeline, recruitment, funding, team management, and mentoring. Although this project was time-consuming and full of challenges, it created meaningful learning experiences not only for students but also for faculty members.
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    The content audit: who should conduct it?
    (2019) Sperano, Isabelle; Andruchow, Robert
    A content audit is an assessment method widely used in content strategy to identify, describe, quantify, and evaluate the content quality of a website or of a larger information space. The use of content audits has grown in the last several years, mainly due to the increasing complexity of digital information ecosystems (websites, social media, wearables, etc.). To this day, very little research has been conducted on this method. However, the content audit is widely described and discussed in a large body of literature, mostly written by content strategy, information architecture (IA), and user experience (UX) professionals. These publications can constitute a rich ground for initiating a more formalized reflection about this method. This realization led us to a further examination of a corpus of 200 publications (books, Web pages, blog articles, journal articles) about content audits. These results are part of a larger study about content audits that aimed to present an in-depth examination of them as a digital information assessment method. Many dimensions of the method were analyzed (audit definitions and types, audit activities, audit criteria, etc.).
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    Interaction design and educational video games: motivating undergraduate students to explore new territories
    (2019) Sperano, Isabelle; Andruchow, Robert; Shaw, Ross
    Can interaction design students design a game that is educational and fun to play? In which areas could undergraduate interaction design students be involved when designing an educational video game? What unique learning experiences could be acquired by designing an educational video game? What are some challenges for the integration of educational game design in design education? To answer these questions, we partnered with a Biological Sciences professor interested in developing a video game for undergraduate biology students. We thought this could be both an interesting interaction design problem to tackle and an engaging pedagogical experiment. To do so, we hired undergraduate interaction design and computing science students to work with us on the concept and then on the development of a video game prototype.
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    BiblioMaps - a software to create web-based interactive maps of science: the case of UX map
    (2018) Grauwin, Sebastian; Sperano, Isabelle
    Maps of science, allowing the exploration of large‐scale bibliographical datasets, are meeting an increasing interest across a broad range of audiences: students, educators, researchers, policy makers, technology developers, etc. This paper presents BiblioMaps, a freely available software that can be used to create web‐based interactive maps of science. Our toolkit uses a mixture of statistical techniques and similarity measures on bibliographic metadata extracted either from the Web of Science or Scopus. After processing, the data is used in web‐based interactive visualizations. The main visualization is a map of topical clusters ‐ gathering publications based on shared references ‐ whose characteristics can be easily explored in detail. As an example, we discuss some insights gained by exploring maps based on a corpus of about 10,000 "User Experience Design" research publications.
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    Introduction: a new adventure for the interaction design education summit
    (2018) Sperano, Isabelle; Miller, Dianna; Joatton, Jean Baptiste; Tabard, Aurélien
    This year, during IxDA’s Interaction Week 2018, the Education Summit explored design education through a mix of inspirational talks, practical hands-on advice, and pragmatic workshops. Attendees and presenters represented a range of design educators working in higher education settings as well as industry practitioners who teach in both traditional education settings and in industry settings to both design and non-design professionals.
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    Review: James Kalbach, Mapping experiences: a complete guide to creating value through journeys, blueprints, and diagrams, O’Reilly Media, 2016
    (2017) Sperano, Isabelle
    After the success of Designing Web Navigation in 2007, James Kalbach returns with the publication of Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value Through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams. In this book, the author proposes an incursion, according to theoretical and practical perspectives, into the visual representation of the user experience. Specifically, he collects knowledge about what he calls the alignment diagrams, a generic expression that includes all the maps of the interaction between a user, an existing system, and an organization. The user experience is based on moving and multifaceted concepts that induce a certain complexity and representational challenges. Thus, the author wonders: how can one adequately visualize the user experience? The information ecosystem of an individual? The service chain of an organization? What are the benefits of such schematic representations?
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    Review of Content audits and inventories: a handbook
    (2015) Sperano, Isabelle
    After the publication of The Language of Content Strategy, XML Press expands its collection entitled The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Book with a book devoted to an evaluation of digital content: the content audit. To date, it is certainly the most comprehensive book on the subject. Indeed, if hundreds of publications address this method in popularity, Paula Ladenburg Land is the first to offer a book that is devoted entirely. Thus, the author offers a complete and detailed work, necessary for any professional interested in evaluation and design of digital content (web, social networks, etc.).
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    De l'idéation au concept: les défis du designer dans un projet de nature prospective
    (2013) Kavanagh, Éric; Roberge, Jacynthe; Sperano, Isabelle
    Ideation is an essential process to any prospective design project. That collaborative process is cognitively demanding. Observing designers (n=133) working on prospective design projects allowed us to identify three categories of ideation problems recurrently occurring. Firstly, we identify the problems related to participants’ preparation. We notice that certain intellectual stance or lack of general knowledge is a handicap to some and impairs their ideation capability. Secondly, we introduce problems related to the focus of the ideation process. Those problems particularly affect the way the idea is developed and its scope. Finally, we discuss the idea externalisation difficulties, where we mainly deal with the language and sketching competencies required for the materialization of ideas.
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    Évaluation de la qualité des contenus numériques: regard sur la méthode d’audit de contenu
    (2017) Sperano, Isabelle
    For twenty years, the Web has emerged as the preferred media for a variety of organizations (governments, businesses, organizations, etc.) to transmit a substantial amount of information to their recipients. The proper implementation of these imposing information structures depends, among other things, on information specialists and communications from various fields of expertise, including information architecture (IA).