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

Mattias Arvola is a researcher in cognitive science, which is to say, science about thinking, with particular applications in interaction and service design. He teaches interaction design and user experience to students in cognitive science, graphic design and communication.

Mattias ArvolaMattias Arvola Photo credit Jalal Maleki

Mattias Arvola is a cognitive scientist who is interested in design. This means that he studies how thinking takes shape in design, how we can shape thinking through design, and how studies of thinking provide input to the design of products and services. He researches design that shapes how interactive systems are used, in which the user experience and the aesthetic human-centered aspects of digitalization are central. This includes the overall perceived and lived qualities that characterize the situation in which the system is used, and the values that make the situation meaningful to the people who are participating in it.
Arvola’s research is both applied and theoretical. The applied research is driven by pragmatic questions about how to design for collaboration, how to design for learning, and how to design for all. The theoretical research is about design methods, design theory, and design education.

Design for Interaction with Autonomous Systems

The HISOS project (Human interaction with intelligent system-by-systems), which is being conducted in collaboration with RISE and Saab Aeronautics, studies how to design efficient and safe control of swarms or teams of drones. The drones and humans are considered to be interdependent teammates. Arvola also participates in a project on management of drone traffic in cities, where he does scenario-based design.

Photo credit Mattias Arvola

Design for Cooperation

One of Arvola’s current research projects addresses how a news item is created in a newsroom. The research team has followed the path of the news from reporter to publication in the paper and on the web. The work is, among other things, about how news items are placed (spatially, temporally and categorically) among other news items. One observation from the project is that the design of the news depends on contributions from many actors in collaboration and on the physical limitations and capabilities of the media (the web versus paper).
Arvola’s doctoral dissertation was an analysis of the experiential qualities of interactive systems in co-located collaborative situations (a family’s living room, a customer meeting at the bank, and a studio in design education). The dissertation also included the development of design patterns for such situations. The results showed that design for co-located collaboration should focus on a user experience characterized by participation, autonomy, spontaneity, and politeness. This can be achieved by a design with different degrees of privacy, combinations of shared and private devices, and a drag-and-drop user interface between devices.

Photo credit Mattias Arvola

Design for Learning

In design for learning, Arvola has developed and released applications for location-based media in outdoor education. The application Minnesmark is an example of such a system. The results show that mobile computer augmented reality (AR) can be used to focus a user’s attention, raise questions, invite action, visualize symbolism and timelines, offer a point of entry into a situation, and support reflection.
In relation to learning, Arvola has also contributed to the development of simulations for student teachers that allow them to learn classroom leadership in the SimProv system. The results of that project indicate that, throughout the course of the simulation exercise, the student teachers moved between non-understanding and understanding, that they experimented with different choices in the scenarios, and that the understanding developed through shifts in their perspectives. The student teachers also had reflective conversations about the choices they made and the ethical consequences of those choices.

Design for All

In the area of design for all and accessibility, Arvola has supervised and contributed to research on multimodal and haptic user interfaces (which can be felt, seen and heard by the user) for people with deafblindness, such as the Sightlence game and the VibEd editor, which is used to prototype haptic games. The results highlight the need for simplicity, flexibility, feedback, and predictability in interactions of this type.

Design Methods

An underlying theme of many of Arvola’s research projects is an effort to abstract the results into design methods. The work has included methods for evaluating the user experience for a product or service, including practical, organizational, aesthetic, communication, technical and ethical aspects. Other studies have focused on design techniques in sketching and prototyping, as well as difficulties and opportunities in methods such as personas , facilitation of co-design workshops, and genre analysis as an inspiration for design. A particularly interesting part has been the study of how bodily expressions and gestures support the articulation and exploration of design ideas.



Design Theory

One level of abstraction above methodology is design theory, in which Arvola has explored what design is in general and what good user experience and interaction and service design are in particular. Research results at this level include a conceptualization of interaction and service design as creating a structure for users actions mediated by artifacts. It includes proposing a perspective on a room for manoeuver, that is, some things are made easily accessible and placed close at hand and other things are placed further away for the users.

Design Education

Education in design has been a recurring research theme over the years. This work has aimed to define what learning progression is in a design studio , how to support learning between students in the studio, and how to grade student projects with a focus on the design process rather than on the product that has been designed. Many of the practical experiences from this work have been gathered in the textbook “Interaktionsdesign och UX – om att skapa en god användarupplevelse” (Interaction Design and UX – About Creating a Good User Experience), published at Studentlitteratur.










Interaction Design and UX – About Creating a Good User Experience by Mattias Arvola








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