The public defense of Jonatan Lundin´s doctoral thesis in Innovation and Design
The public defense of Jonatan Lundin’s doctoral thesis in Innovation and Design will take place at Mälardalen University, room Filen (Eskilstuna Campus) at 13:00 on January 31, 2020.
Title: “Shaping thought through action. A study of the use and design of technical information”.
Serial number: 307
The faculty examiner is Professor Harald Schaub, University of Bamberg, and the examining committee consists of Associate professor Eva Insulander, Stockholm University, Professor Thomas Porathe, Norwegian University of Science and Technology och Associate professor Yvonne Lagrosen, MDH.
Reserv is Consulting Senior Lecturer Kristian Sandström, MDH.
This dissertation deals with the design of technical information based on the searching and reading behaviour of process operators and maintenance technicians. Industrial professionals, who use tools like software or measuring equipment, are sometimes unable to get the support they need from searching and reading in a text- and image-based tool manual in order to perform work tasks. If such a manual is the only available source of information, the user will either give up or attempt a workaround which ends up compromising the safety, quality, satisfaction, efficiency or effectiveness of the work task.
Research within technical communication and human-computer interaction suggests how manuals can be designed to support users in accomplishing tasks. These suggestions are based upon studies of how individuals approach the use of tools and tool manuals, as well as how the design of procedural and declarative information supports users in the performance of various tasks. However, there is limited knowledge about how users search and read manuals, and how manuals can be designed to support such
searching and reading behaviour.
The aim of this dissertation is to contribute knowledge to technical communicators about how technical information can be designed to support industrial professionals in accomplishing their work tasks. Two
empirical studies were conducted in which process operators and maintenance technicians were observed in order to understand how they search and read information to perform work tasks using various tools. The
results show, for example, that some participants were unable to perform a task after searching and reading the manual.
Previous research in technical communication and human-computer interaction illuminates that the user bases their actions with a tool on the mental representation they have shaped about it. Therefore, the
behaviours observed during the studies were analysed on the basis of psychological theory in order to gain a deeper understanding of how the mental representations participants shaped, influence—and were
influenced by—searching and reading behaviours, as well as the task behaviours during tool use. The analysis highlights that, if a participant lacked relevant knowledge about what results are possible to achieve with a
tool, they shaped goals and goal plans that were not possible to accomplish with it.
This dissertation's contribution is a design method for technical communicators that will enable them to support users in the shaping of mental representations about what results are possible to accomplish with a
tool. The method involves the design of tangible tokens that signify the results and components of a tool. As the end user arranges these symbols into a result model they are supported in their process of shaping a mental representation about what results are possible to accomplish with a tool.