Theory and Theory Building

design research, design theory, HCI, hci research, Human-Computer Interaction, theory

I’ve been puttering my way through a lengthy reading list I put together toward the end of the summer. Gathering the list is one of the things I did to fulfill the requirements of my PhD qualifying exam. The other requirements: writing a paper and presenting/defending the content of the paper to my advisory committee.

Anyway, the list is a fairly extensive collection of publications (conference, journal, book sections, and books) on theory and theory building in human-computer interaction and design research (… readings from information systems and management studies are also well represented).

And  as I work my way through I find myself thinking about many potential inroads to the ‘theory’ discourse. In all of these readings it’s quite common to read about the theory-practice gap, which describes the space between theory building in academia and professional hci/design practice.

One of the ways scholars seem to be responding to this issue is by proposing models and frameworks for building theory with practical utility and scientific utility. Examples include Kuechler and Vaishnavi 2012, Gioia and Pitre 1990, Zimmerman, Evenson and Forlizzi 2005, Gregor and Jones 2007. And there are others.

One thing I am curious about is whether these models and frameworks are used (?) and, if so, to what extent they are useful to researchers? Also what are their similarities and differences? I have found fewer examples of papers that compare these different models and frameworks or speak back to them in a meaningful, significant way.

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