The lifeblood of any discipline is its students. Because they are acquiring the knowledge of the discipline for the first time, they add new perspectives and provide their own contexts. They also bring a sense of enthusiasm and even joy to their work. Because our field focuses on the nexus between humans and technology, and because technology changes at such a rapid rate, usability and user experience is a discipline that may rely more on the new ideas and enthusiasm of young researchers than most of the long-established human sciences, including Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, which study relatively static human processes.
The goal of this Special Issue of the Journal of Usability Studies is to provide a forum for students to show their work in the field. The process for this special issue was to set the ground rules for what would count as a student paper, as well as the length and format, then to send out a call for papers. We received more papers than we could publish, so we asked a set of reviewers to read up to three papers and evaluate them. The paper reviewers are listed below. The seven papers published here were the best of the fourteen submissions.
Note that the papers fall into three categories—Voting Applications, Educational Applications, and Methods and Approaches—with one separate paper, “What is Meant by User Experience? Analyzing Usability/User Experience Professionals’ Dynamic Representations of Self,” with a focus on the people who work in the profession, not interaction of users with specific technologies or methods. Perhaps these topic areas would be expected from young professionals. Students are inherently interested in educational artifacts, like textbooks and applications. Experts often tell us to write about what we know, and our authors have done so. Voting might be seen as an unusual area for usability and user experience researchers, but, especially given events with voting technology in the recent past in the United States and a desire to perfect democracy, perhaps the voting papers are not so surprising. If you are eager to make your mark within a field, as we would hope that our students want to do, trying to improve the methods is a great place to start. Hence a focus on methods and approaches. Finally, the paper on the professionals’ representation of self might come from students wanting to understand how more established professionals think about their discipline—understanding your field by understanding those already in it seems like an appropriate thing to do. But perhaps we are reading too much into the papers. Perhaps rather than showing us some deeper currents of thinking by these students, they reflect a variety of influences including their advisors’ interests, technology that was readily available for research, and so forth. Whatever the reasons for the choices that they made, we believe that we have a set of seven interesting papers and hope that you will find them of value to your thinking about our discipline and its future.
Special Issue Reviewers:
Bill Albert, Bentley University
Carol Barnum, UX Firm
Randolph Bias, University of Texas
Jim Creager, North Carolina State University
Joseph Dumas, UX Consultant
Jean Fox, U.S. Department of Labor
Tharon Howard, Clemson University
Phil Kortum, Rice University
Mary LaLlomia, Microsoft Corporation
Mary Lee, NetApp
James Lewis, IBM
Beth Loring, Radius Product Development
Jen McGinn, Oracle Corporation
A. Moiz Penkar, Booktrack, NZ
Paul Schmieder, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Carol Smith, Thermo Fisher Scientific