Associate professor in cognitive science, with research in interaction design and user experience (UX)

Mattias Arvola is a researcher in cognitive science, that is to say, the science about thinking, particularly applied in interaction and service design. He is programme coordinator for the Bachelor’s programme in cognitive science, and teaches interaction design and user experience for students in cognitive science, and graphic design and communication.

Mattias Arvola’s research is at the intersection of cognitive science, interaction design, and service design, with a focus on situated cognition and the activities, the consciousness, and the experiences that emerges in the design and in the use of interactive products and services. The research aims to investigate how the world is made conscious by designers and users sense-making activities.

The research is both applied and theoretical. The applied research is driven by pragmatic research questions about how to design for cooperation, how to design for learning, and how to design for all. The theoretical research concerns design methods, design theory, and design education.

Design for Cooperation

Arvola’s PhD thesis was an analysis of the experiential qualities of interactive systems in co-located collaboration (the family's living room, the customer meeting at the bank, and the studio in a design education). The dissertation included also the development of design patterns for such situations. The results showed that design for co-located collaboration should focus on a user experience characterised by participation, autonomy, extemporaneity, and politeness. This can be achieved by designing a privacy gradient, with combinations of shared and personal devices, and a drop connector between devices.

Design for Learning

In the field of design for learning, Arvola has developed and made public applications for place-based media in outdoor education. The application Minnesmark is an example of such a system. The results indicate that augmented reality (AR) can be used to set the focus, raise questions, afford actions, visualise symbolics and timelines, offer a point of entry, and facilitate reflection.

In relation to learning, Arvola has also contributed to the development of the SImProv simulation, which teacher students can use in the learning of classroom management. The results of that project describe how teacher students moved between non-understanding and understanding during the simulation. They experimented with different choices in the scenarios, and the understanding was developed through shifts between perspectives. The teacher students also engaged in reflective conversations about the choices they did and the ethical consequences of them.

Design for All

Arvola has contributed to and supervised in the research area design for all and accessibility, by the means of multimodal and haptic user interfaces (that can be felt, seen, and heard) for people with deafblindness, as for example in the Sightlence games and the VibEd editor, which can be used to prototype haptic games. The results highlights the need for simplicity, flexibility, feedback, and predictability in the human-computer interaction.

Design Methods

An underlying theme for many of the research projects has been a strive to abstract the results from design products to design methods. It has involved methods for assessing the user experience for a product or service, including practical, organisational, aesthetic, communicational, technical, and ethical aspects of use-quality. Other studies have focused on means for expression and Gestaltung in sketching and prototyping, as well as difficulties and possibilities in methods like Personas, co-design facilitation, and genre analysis for inspiration from precedent designs. A particularly interesting part of the research has been how embodied performance and gestures facilitate the exploration of design ideas.

Design Theory

On an abstraction level above methodology is Arvola’s research about design theory, which explores what design is in general and what interaction and service design is in particular. The research results at this level includes a conceptualisation of interaction and service design as the structuring of mediated action and as the proposition to the user of a perspective on an interaction space.

Design Education

Education in design has been a recurring research theme over the years. That work has aimed to define what progression is in a design studio, how to support learning between students in the studio, and how to assess and grade students’ projects based on the design process rather than the designed product. Many of the practical experiences has been gathered in the book "Interaktionsdesign och UX – om att skapa god användarupplevelse” (Interaction Design and UX – On Creating Good User Experience) published by Studentlitteratur.

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