AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY OF THE USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ARTIFACTS IN NATURAL WORK SETTINGS
 
Lahlou, S., Laboratory of Social Psychology, France and Nosulenko, V. and Samoylenko, E., Russian Academy of Sciences & Laboratory of Design for Cognition, Russia/France
 
At the Laboratory of Design for Cognition (EDF R& ) a paradigm called experimental reality was applied to analyze usability of information technologies. In a setting of 300 m2 designed for heavy observations where environment conditions are controlled, real workers operate their ordinary work on a long-term basis. Subjects are left free, but their activity is recorded and analyzed in detail. Three protocols are applied: 1) video and sound recording of activity from a first person perspective with "SubCams", miniature video cameras fitted in the users' glasses); 2) user's spontaneous vocal comments produced during his work; 3) user's verbal comments during systematic comparison of artifacts with functional scenarios. A comprehensive database was created in order to run a comparative analysis. Statistical analysis of verbalizations (duly coded and quantified) revealed dimensions of subjective evaluations, and enabled linking subjective characteristics with objective parameters (e.g. type, number, duration of operations). The units of analysis refer to users' concrete goals and tasks determining the structure of operations carried out in their activity while using the artifacts. Application shown: comparative analysis of three devices (iPAQ, Palm and PC) for the same tasks (sending e-mails, Internet search and organizing meetings). Analysis revealed what functions are most effective with each artifact, as well as a system of parameters underlying user's preferences. A so-called profiling of artifacts defined operational directions of improvement, in order to improve the functional comfort and satisfaction of users.