OK it’s not that I am what you may call “passionate” about this topic, but I have been embroiled in a research paper over the past couple of weeks with a friend of mine here at UBC. I find it quite interesting, and have written on it before, so I thought for our “free-for-all” post this week, I would share a little bit about what we have been up to here in Vancouver.
Essentially what we are doing is writing a literature review for a study that we are never going to complete. All grads at SLAIS have to complete a course in social research methods (yee haw, I know) and our term project is a literature review and research design for a “study” which we won’t do (because of time constraints, and the small fact that really this should be a thesis). The saving grace is that you can work with a partner. This may be a curse depending on who you know. I got lucky.
What we are studying is the visual aesthetic elements of blogs and how they affect users’ perception of the “purpose” of the blog. This entails researching not only the effects of aesthetic design elements on user perception, but also how those perceptions are influenced by the context of the interaction (i.e. reading a blog). Aesthetic elements of interface design are something I find very interesting, and was surprised to find that until fairly recently, around the year 2000, the study of interface design in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) had not included many subjective elements like aesthetics, and was instead focused mainly on the more objective design, such as usability (i.e. efficiency, measurable ease-of-use, etc.).
The other aspect of our research is a bit more related to this class, in that we have had to investigate a proper definition of blogs as a “genre” on the Web. Aside from that, we will endeavor to break that genre down into visual parts: a blogroll here, a heading there. This is really the forte of my partner, but it has been very interesting to try and classify such a broad area of the Web–blogs–into a single, visual entity. This is going to be a challenge moving forward as we set out to design a study that tackles these issues.
I find this topic particularly intriguing because I have always been interested in art and artists; that personal interest translates professionally into the world of visual information design and interaction. Likewise, I have an interest in the Web, and how people use it to accomplish so many varied tasks. Understanding what dictates someone’s perception of a certain blog is a very tricky thing to figure out, but we are hoping it comes down to visual design.
If you’re still reading, do you have any insights for us as we move forward in this endeavor? Can you identify what visually separates a personal blog different than a news blog? How about a Canadian blog from one based in Dubai? (All of those were weblog award winners, if you’re curious.) If anyone is super motivated, I can point you to about 8 million articles on the topic, most of which will be available through your local library database collection.