SIAT - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Leveraging Neoliberalism: Participatory Politics in Canada

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-08-28
Abstract: 

Over the past two decades, there have been dramatic changes in how people participate in politics. Increasingly, people are turning away from political institutions in favour of more informal and unconventional modes of political participation. These modes are often facilitated by networked communication and allow for more 'participatory' forms of political culture. As a governing ideology that operates on multiple levels, neoliberalism has been central to these transformations. By influencing the values, practices, and institutions in Western democracies, it has transformed ideas of citizenship, publicness and democracy by weakening public institutions and privileging a focus on selfimprovement, private life, individualism, and market-oriented actions.

 

In this dissertation, I focused on emerging forms of political culture in Canada with a concern for the relationship between neoliberalism, the theoretical work on participatory politics and developments in practice. Through a series of three case studies, the aims of my project are to: 1) Demonstrate the diversity of this expanding field of practice in Canada and investigate the key characteristics, practices, and contradictions associated with initiatives; 2) Explain how patterns of participatory politics relate to and sometimes contest patterns of neoliberal governance; 3) Assess the degree to which emerging forms of participatory politics represent consequential approaches to public action.

 

While political participation has changed dramatically over the past two decades, we still lack empirical data on how the dynamics of neoliberalism have reshaped political culture in paradoxical ways that both constrict and widen the opportunities for political efficacy. This is the case despite the urgency to develop new ideas that address younger generations whose retreat from traditional methods of public participation, threatens the legitimacy of formal democratic institutions. There is a need to better understand how participatory politics provides avenues for agency that are currently unavailable through institutionalized politics in neoliberal societies such as Canada. In identifying the similarities, differences and limitations of the case studies, this dissertation will assist in assessing competing claims regarding participatory politics and help to inform interventions in policy and education that aim to foster a more robust democracy.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Stuart Poyntz
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Interacting with design alternatives: Towards new tasks and tools

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-11-28
Abstract: 

Designers work with and through multiple design alternatives. Despite this well-known fact, current computer-aided systems force designers to work with one design at a time, in what has come to be known as the single-state paradigm. Consequently, designers employ various ad hoc and limited workarounds to support their normal and preferred practice. In recent years several research projects have developed concepts and systems to support working with multiple design alternatives. I conducted a user study with an existing alternatives-enabled system, namely the “Design Gallery System” (Mohiuddin et al., 2017), which revealed patterns of use, barriers and usability issues of the system. This helped me to improve the structure of the Gallery System, designing new interactions to support users’ needs and barriers presented by the existing system. Based on the first study and a basic object design comprising alternatives and collections, I designed and led the implementation of a new alternatives enabled system: Design Gallery II. A qualitative study of the new system reveals several patterns of use that show ways designers use and might use an alternatives-enabled system. These patterns of use help us: (a) understand design guidelines and principles for building and evaluating an alternatives-enabled system; (b) find the features an alternatives-enabled system needs for supporting design tasks; (c) extract and compare design patterns and designers’ search behaviour using such systems. A no-comparison creativity support index evaluation (score 89.26/100 (SD=10.43)) provides additional ideas for future system design.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Robert Woodbury
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Identifying contemplative intensity in cognitive architectures for virtual-agent minds

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-11-29
Abstract: 

This interdisciplinary dissertation identifies contemplative intensity in cognitive architectures for virtual-agent minds. This research semantically interprets contemplative intensity through rubrics derived from Kantian Aesthetic Philosophy and Crawfordian Interaction Design. This dissertation adopted mentalist rather than behaviorist epistemological approaches towards exploring the artificial psyche and the interactive capabilities of a virtual-agent’s mind (from mechanistic finite-state machines to “deep thinkers”). A qualitative methodology was selected to triangulate hermeneutic exegesis alongside an expert interview validation process. These methods scrutinized the: state-of-the-art; architectural cognitive components, interconnections; and their relationship to five speculative virtual-agent contemplation scenarios. This hermeneutic exegesis was conducted with graph-based flow-chart representations of these scenarios. These graphs were created with the PyPhi calculator which normally deals with quantitative measurements of consciousness (i.e. Integrated Information Theory, aka. IIT) rather than the qualitative assessment of contemplative intensity. These flow-chart examples represent the component configurations of three established cognitive architectures: ACT-R, SOAR, and CLARION. The purpose of this study was to determine whether contemplative intensity could be detectable through IIT-graph visualization at an architectural level in a virtual-mind and which cognitive architecture (and/or architectural components) was most likely to intensify contemplation for this mind in a virtual world. These flow-chart illustrations representing architecturally enhanced minds helped categorize virtual-agents according to their overall cognitive capabilities and provided discussion inspiration for the experts during the interviewing process. A combination of solo hermeneutic exegesis and expert opinions determined that the IIT lens could not sufficiently qualify contemplative intensity for virtual-agent minds at an architectural resolution level of flow-chart analysis. On a positive note, the experts confirmed the validity of the mentalist epistemological perspective as well as the initial assumption that CLARION was the best architecture to intensify contemplation. However, these experts attributed their CLARION preference to architecturally-agnostic metacognitive properties rather than to CLARION’s idiosyncratic architectural configuration. These experts also insisted on the value of extra-architectural mechanisms and algorithms as well as the semantics from the virtual environment. These additional findings further confirm the qualitative limitations of the IIT lens for architecturally identifying contemplative intensity in virtual-agent minds. This dissertation concluded with proposed heuristics and suggestions for future research.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Stephen DiPaola
James Bizzocchi
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Efficiently navigating virtual environments with simulated reference frames and body-based sensory information

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-09-25
Abstract: 

Despite recent advancements in technology, there remain a number of major challenges in Virtual Reality (VR) such as spatial disorientation and motion sickness. People tend to get sick or get lost when they navigate a virtual environment for a while. This dissertation presents two experiments investigating two phenomena that significantly contribute to human spatial updating in VR locomotion. In the first study, we designed and evaluated two Simulated Reference Frames, i.e., Simulated Cave and Simulated Room, using a mixed-method repeated-measures experiment. Results showed that the Simulated Room can improve participants performance and reduce their perceived motion sickness. In the second study, we implemented four locomotion interfaces providing translational body-based sensory information at different levels, in order to investigate at which level the information might be enough for sufficient VR locomotion. Results showed that leaning combined with real rotation can help participants perform as good as when they are physically walking.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Bernhard E. Riecke
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Virtual reality as a medium for designing and understanding transformative experiences: the case of the overview effect

Date created: 
2018-08-28
Abstract: 

A unique experience of seeing the Earth from outer space produces a profound emotional reaction in most astronauts leading to a cognitive shift increasing their feeling of connectedness and a sense of responsibility for our planet. This experience, called "Overview Effect", is a remarkable example of a transformative experience. However, such phenomenon is not only inaccessible to the majority of the population, it's also inaccessible to most researchers interested in studying it. Can Virtual Reality (VR) serve as a novel medium for creating environments that invite transformative experiences? I propose a transformative framework suggesting how VR can facilitate progression though a transformative experience; analyze interviews of astronauts and derive specific design and evaluation guidelines for a virtual experience of the Overview Effect; describe the development and report on the initial study with a VR experience "AWE", inspired by the Overview Effect. The results suggest that VR is a viable transformative medium.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Bernhard Riecke
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

The role of narrative units in the design of coherent plot structures for single-player action video games

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-04-23
Abstract: 

The implementation of interactive narrative in video games has been a challenge for game designers since the earliest days of text adventures. One way to address this challenge is to explore the relationship of narrative units and game mechanics. During the rise of structuralist attitudes in the early twentieth century, the categorization of constituent units in narrative was foregrounded in the work of the Russian Formalists, and in the writings of the literary semioticians who followed. Conversely, in contemporary Game Studies, it can be argued that narrative in games has not been adequately investigated at such a granular level. I use the classic humanities technique of close-reading to identify and analyze the role of modularized narrative units in a selection of commercial single-player game titles: NHL12, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, and the Deus Ex franchise. By looking at these artifacts, I have compiled a list of characteristics that affect the design of interactive narrative in digital games. My work concentrated on the identification and understanding of the various manifestations of the narrative arc within the experience of the unfolding story. As my basic observational tool, I relied on the phases of the narrative arc as defined by Kristin Thompson (1999): setup, complication, development, and resolution. Using these concepts, I identified distinct instantiations of the narrative arc at various scales across each game. I observed the boundaries of the narrative arcs in each game, which provided insight into how these arcs inter-relate. I noted a hierarchical system: smaller narrative modules are systematically embedded within the larger narrative arcs. In addition, I found that the narrative units were cumulative in their effect on the ongoing game story. Narrative knowledge accumulates as more modules are played. In some instances the modules are designed so that the narrative experience works regardless of the order in which they are played. This research reveals design poetics that can be applied to future interactive narrative projects. A better understanding of how to integrate story into the gameplay experience in a satisfying way benefits analysts, designers and players.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Jim Bizzocchi
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Design-oriented HCI through postphenomenology

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-07-19
Abstract: 

This doctoral dissertation presents a reflexive account of a design researcher exploring a way to complement human-centered approaches in design-oriented Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) through postphenomenology. This endeavour is based on the possibility that human-centeredness in HCI may obscure aspects of the understanding of humans, technology, and the relations that come about between them. Postphenomenology, a contemporary strand of the philosophy of technology, seems to offer a holistic view and conceptualizations that can deepen an understanding of the human and the many different kinds of relations that can emerge with technology in the context of HCI. Motivated by this, the objective of this dissertation is to explore how postphenomenology can contribute a holistic perspective on human-technology relations that can help complement and expand human-centered approaches to design research and practice. To address this, postphenomenology is introduced as a novel analytical framing. Then, two cases of reflective design research practice are presented that illustrate how postphenomenology can be of value as a productive analytical lens by using it: (i) to retrospectively analyze an empirical design ethnography study of guide dog teams, and (ii) to analyze a Research through Design (RtD) deployment study of the table-non-table. In addition to that, to provide a vertical grounding of this research and scaffolding for future research opportunities an analysis of a range of prior RtD projects through the lens of postphenomenology is synthesized in an annotated portfolio. What is revealed in design-oriented HCI through postphenomenology, as demonstrated in this dissertation, is a holistic perspective on the matters concerning the field of HCI that can be complementary to previous ways of understanding. Postphenomenology opens up a view of the human that in one way decenters the human and puts technology and the mediating effect of technology at the center. In this, the human, still a central concern, is understood as technologically mediated. This perspective overcomes a narrow view of the human present in human-centered approaches and it can help HCI researchers get a holistic view of the human while taking into account the relations that in fact ‘make’ the human.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Ron Wakkary
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Movement affect estimation in motion capture data

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-05-01
Abstract: 

The problem that we are addressing is that of \emph{movement affect estimation}: estimating the emotional states of motion capture data as input. Motion capture data contains just a skeleton and no information about body type and facial expressions. The motion capture data consists of professional actors and dancers performing movements such as walking, sitting, and improv. Machine learning models are then built using these motion capture to learn the affective states behind these movement. Overall, we conducted a series of three experiments. First, using the labels that were given to the actors as the ground truth, our Hidden Markov Models (HMM) models were able to reach over 70\% accuracy in prediciting the affective state, out of a total possible 9 affective states. Second, we attempted recognition through establishing a ground truth using ratings. We used a continuous approach by asking university students to rate each movement in valence and arousal simultaneously. The ratings are then used as ground truth labels for supervised machine learning with stepwise linear regression. This achieved a high coefficient of determination, the performance metric we used in this experiment. In our third experiment and in light of more literature review after the first two experiments, we gathered more data using a crowdsourcing platform and modified our machine learning techniques by switching to rank-based methods. In this case, rather than assigning an absolute numerical rating value to quantify the affective state of the movement, each movement is now ranked relative to other movement along the dimensions of affect. Results are then analyzed using the Goodman-Kruskal Gamma. The performance of models in this approach show that it is highly dependent on the movement type in that consistent movement pattern lead to a more consistent ranking. It also appears to be more effective for recognizing affect in postures.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Philippe Pasquier
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

ʔeləw̓k̓ʷ – Belongings: Embodied cultural values in tangible interaction design

Date created: 
2018-04-10
Abstract: 

In this thesis through an exploratory study I investigate the ways that an interactive tangible tabletop about aboriginal heritage enabled museum visitors to experience intangible cultural values. Belongings is a tangible tabletop that uses replicas of ancient and modern belongings of the Musqueam people to interact with digital activities and content. I situate my research by describing the system and a previous study that lead to the redesign of the tabletop. I then describe the field interview methodology for my study that took place at the Museum of Anthropology (UBC) with 20 visitors. Based on thematic analysis of responses, I present 10 themes, from which I derive design guidelines for tangible tabletop design for intangible culture heritage. Guidelines highlight the importance of the fidelity of replicas, breaking museum practices and using objects that visitors can relate to in order to enable visitors to experience aboriginal values through tangible interaction.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Alissa Antle
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Feeling you close to me: Mediating an infant's presence through an exploration of tactile interaction

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-04-19
Abstract: 

Touch is invaluable in parent-infant interactions, but there is a lack of research and design supporting tactile interaction in baby monitors. An exploratory study was conducted in the homes of 10 parents to understand the usage of baby monitors in everyday child-care routines. Parents’ responses revealed that the unfiltered videos in baby monitors require significant cognitive effort to interpret vital signals of their infants. In this thesis, I utilize a research-through-design approach that explores how tactile interaction can support a more direct communication channel to inform parents of their infants’ well-being and enhance presence in the computer-mediated connection. Four usability studies were conducted on four wearables prototypes that were iteratively designed. The final prototype, ombex, iterates from previous shortcomings and adopts pneumatic feedback to construct a more convincing association to breathing. Findings affirm that the tactile interaction using pneumatic feedback in ombex elicited an endearing connection as if a loved one is close by.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Senior supervisor: 
Thecla Schiphorst
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.