Category Archives: Action research

Preparing for a Hearing to Possibly Receive Funding for a Research Programme

We passed the first step towards receiving the funding for our Mistra programme proposal in their call Societal Transformations for Climate Action. Our programme is called: “Fast Forwarding for Fair Futures. Environmental Governance, Participation and Collaborative Learning for Societal Transformations”. I have spent the weekend preparing for the hearing this week. I think that we have a strong proposal, and I am very proud of the team behind the work, especially of Anne Peters, who have really worked hard with this and is such an excellent and impressive researcher. I really want to do a good job at the hearing, and I know that preparation for any presentation is key. So working this weekend was the only option when looking at my calendar for the week.

Building a fundamentally altered society is a challenging job. It requires disrupting existing practices and changing values, norms, and cultures. Any efforts to do so create moral dilemmas, political opposition, and conflicting ideas and interests.

Taking on such a task requires joined bands, creativity, and secure collaboration. In our Mistra programme, we bring together scholars from various disciplines, working in environmental governance, sustainability, civil society organisations, education and information technology. Together with civil society partners and local and regional authorities, we will endeavour to work towards carbon neutral and just societies.

The team comes from Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agriculture Sciences (SLU), Luleå University of Technology (LTU), Ghent University and the University of Bristol. Civil society partners include the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Hela Sverige Ska Leva, Fridays For Future, Omställningsnätverk, and education associations Akademi Norr. Since last summer, we have worked on the proposal, and some of us at almost full-time speed.

Our research covers three regions of Sweden – Uppsala, Gotland, and Norrbotten. These regions provide different insights into civil society’s roles, the opportunities and hindrances connected to digitalisation and questions of justice reflecting the diversity of contexts in Sweden.

Central to our work is learning about different societal transformation processes and methodologies to work collaboratively and effectively toward climate transitions. Throughout this programme, the various actors will critically reflect on the different approaches to identify best practices for approaching action research for societal transformation. That way, we will achieve climate action in various empirical contexts and transform how academic and non-academic partners collaborate for climate action, empowering all of us to continue striving for fair futures.

Working with a Definition of Excellent Digital Competence

I will be a part of a team that will work on a definition of Excellent Digital Competence (Digital spetskompetens) in the spring 2020. The project is funded by The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) and The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ). The work will be led by Professor Jan Gulliksen and the other members of the team are Arnold Pears and Mattias Wiggberg. The team is composed of people with complementary skills to create the best possible working group, and my area of speciality in comparison to the others is the gender perspective.

Excellent Digital Excellence is likely to include a basic broad knowledge of the basics of digitalisation as well as in-depth expertise in one or more sub-areas, such as programming technology, AI, data security or user experiences, just to name a few. Digital excellence also certainly includes some form of documented practical experience of actively participating in several successful development projects.

The OECD notes that the lack of digital specialists and digital excellence is a bottleneck for innovation and growth in Sweden. The need is expected to increase in the coming years as digitalisation develops and new technologies such as AI will have an impact.

In order to work with this on a political level there is a need for a definition of Excellent Digital Competence, and we will work with this using several different methods:

  • Literature studies to map the state of knowledge, analyses of identified documents
  • Short interviews to capture the different needs of the target groups, both from industry and academia
  • Continuous reconciliation meetings with clients to clarify the work and give it direction and to iteratively refine and improve the quality of the result
  • Workshop / Focus groups to discuss and anchor proposed definitions, as well as to anchor the work and to get input into problem picture
  • Design thinking methodology for developing creative innovative solutions

I think it will be great fun to work in this project! I think that the topic is of high importance, and it will be great fun to reconnect with Arnold Pears, Jan Gulliksen and Mattias Wiggberg.

Making Films as a Part of Your Learning: Adoption and Evaluation of the Self Flipped Classroom Concept

We got some funding for pedagogical development work from the Faculty of Science and Technology at our university. This will give us the possibility to explore the self-flipped classroom concept in two different courses, and to evaluate the effects of the approach. The idea that we have used so far is that students make films that other students learn from. The films are discussed in workshops to get a thorough understanding of them.

I will collaborate with Mats Daniels and Anne Peters in this project, and hopefully we will also get some help from Anna Vasilchenko from NewCastle University.

Here is the abstract of the application: 

Learning by making, as pointed out by for instance Seymour Papert, is a well known strategy for efficient learning. However, the ideas are rarely used in practice. The self-flipped classroom (SFC) concept is a promising idea for using the learning by making approach with a reasonable time cost for students. It is also a student contributing pedagogy, which is one of the focus areas in our faculty. We will adopt, implement and evaluate the SFC concept for two different courses, where we will have a focus on making videos. The overarching aim for this project is to develop pedagogically anchored strategies for using the SFC concept that will help teachers who want to use this concept in a scholarly manner. This work will include tailoring the SFC concept to two different course contexts, studying how the pedagogical interventions are received by the students, including effects on their learning, and working on dissemination of findings and observations.

Improving the Digital Work Environment – Presenting at a NIVA Course on Digital Work Environments


Ever since I started as a PhD student I have worked with different action research projects related to improving the digital work environment in organizations. Actions research is the methodology that I have explained previously in my blog, see this blog post which is the first one is a series with five blog posts about action research.

As a PhD student, I worked in a being collaborative project called “Aim Healthy” (Satsa Friskt), where are we worked with digital work environments in eight different government organizations. You can read more about the story behind my PhD thesis here, and the actual thesis is found in DIVA.

Digitalization creates a new kind of work, and also affects the work environment. Many times, this is a positive thing, but many times it’s also quite troublesome. Research have come up with many good ideas about how to improve the digital work environment. These ideas include processes, methods, management principles and better design of the systems. However, it is a very difficult to implement these ideas in practice and to help organizations change in a direction that would lead to better digital work environments.

Last week I presented some of the experiences that I have made from working with this the last 15 years. My HTO research group currently have many projects related to the digital work environment. Below are posters presenting three of them, and the posters are also links to blog posts on the HTO group’s blog that present this work:






Workshop on Education in a New IT system

I attended a workshop about education in the new economy system this week.  It was a very well organised workshop with representatives from all stakeholder groups involved in the education of the system. The discussion was facilitated by a workshop leader, and we discussed who would get education and and what the education should contain.

The workshop started with a presentation by me and Annika Björklund from the local Ladok project. I presented some general ideas from a study I did on economical staff and IT a few years ago, and Annika presented the ideas they are working with in relation to the Ladok project.

Annika has asked users what they want from education, and they said what is found in this slide:

  • Local support. How do we solve that?
  • Screen sharing with the support people
  • Courses that go deep into topics
  • Workshops where it’s possible to discuss your day to day problems with an expert.

workshop Ekonomi .png

I am very much looking forward to following this project. One part of the project will be rolled out in October, and the rest later on next spring.

Collaborative Project with the Department of Finances

My research group, the  HTO group have just worked out a contract for a participatory research project with the finance department at Uppsala University.

In this project we will collaborate with the department of finances and do action reserach related to the following areas:

  • Usability mentoring about working in different roles with the aspect of digital work environments in mind.
  • Vision seminars about the future work with economy with a special focus on communication, development of competencies and deploymen of IT.
  • Education and the introduction of new IT systems.

We will be recruiting people to this project – so look out for the ad.We are looking for reserachers who have a PhD in areas related to digital work environments, and who are looking for a post doc position in a dynamic and growing reserach group.


DOME conference on Medical Records Online in Skövde

We had a great Dome conference in Skövde about our research on medical records online. There were 12 reserachers present during this conference from a large number of universities. The first day there were some presentations of new and upcoming studies of the effects of patients reading their medical records online.

Erebouni Arakelian who has a PhD in medicine joined a Dome meeting for the first time and presented the plan for a study on the patient group that she is working with, and that she has done studies on before. She will do 30 interviews during the coming years, and has already gotten ethical approval for her study.

Bridget Kane who does reserch in HCI and in Computer Supported Collaborative Work also joined the meeting for the first time and she did a presentation of her previous studies and what she has done in her work. She has covered a very interesting, and large area related to eHealth.

It was interesting to hear about the plans for the upcoming studies, and to discuss what areas we should look more into based on previous findings. Here are some of the upcoming  studies:

  • Interview study with cancer patients by Ereboni Arakelian as a follow up to the national survey sent out in the fall of 2016 and the interviews made around 2013.
  • Interview and survey study with health care professionals at the Oncology department about the effects on the work environment. Jonas Moll it in charge of this study and bloggs about this study here if you want to know more. (this study is a part of the Disa project)
  • Interviews with patients in primary care about their use of medical records online (as a part of Maria Hägglund and Isabella Scandurra’s project Pacess)

There were some new members of the consortium present at the conference, and some old members have moved on to other research areas. I am however really glad to see that we have created an open and well functioning community where newcomers are very welcome.

Hello World! – Experiencing Usability Methods without Usability Expertise

During my PhD studies we did a very interesting study on how system developers understand and experience usability methods. The paper was written by Elina Eriksson, Jan Gulliksen and me and it gives some answers to interesting questions. 

This paper was one of the hardest papers to publish, mostly due to the use of several methods for data collection which is a bit non-traditional. However, after a few submissions and re-submissions it ended up being a paper well worth reading. You find the paper here:

The paper’s abstract: 

How do you do usability work when no usability expertise is available? What happens in an organization when system developers, with no previous HCI knowledge, after a 3-day course, start applying usability methods, and particularly field studies?

In order to answer these questions qualitative data were gathered through participatory observations, a feed back survey, field study documentation and interviews from 47 system developers from a public authority.

Our results suggest that field studies enhance the developer’s understanding of the user perspective, and provide a more holistic overview of the use situation, but that some developers were unable to interpret their observations and see solutions to the users’ problems. The field study method was very much appreciated and has now become standard operating procedure within the organization.

However, although field studies may be useful, it does not replace the need for usability pro fessionals, as their knowledge is essential for more complex observations, analysis and for keeping the focus on usability.

Collaboration with the Department of EMR in Region Uppsala

We have had a very good collaboration with the department of EMR in the Region Uppsala since a few years. We call this collaboration the Dive (Digital work enVIronment and Ehealth) project, and we are a group of 3-4 reserachers who participate.  This collaboration has been in the form of an action research project where researchers from our department worked togehter with people from the EMR department in designing a new IT system for surgical planning. We have also collaborated in doing some evaluations of usability aspects that has been used in the deployment of the system. We will also do follow up evaluations of usability. Now we have moved on to looking into decision support systems, and my collegues do vision seminars and will work on a design.

The department of EMR also collaborate with us around the IT in Society class  that has resulted in a report, a presentation and also visibiliy at Vitalis 2017.

The Disa project is also supported by the department of EMR, and we collaborate around this project too. This project includes around 10 reserachers who will look into the effects of digitaliczation in health care and the project will result in concepts and a eWorkenvironment framework possible to use when implementing IT in health care. The department of EMR has an excellent and very active representative on the advisory board of the project who has helped us a lot in understanding the organisation.

In these kinds of collaborations it is crucial to find a win-win situation, where both the reserachers and the organisations feels that they get energy and effect from the collaboration. In our case the collaboration in the  Dive project has given us much insight in eHealth development and in the complexities of working with IT in health care, which is crucial to be able to work in that area. And I know that the department of EMR are very pleased with the input regarding design that we have given hem. The Disa project has just started, and hopwfully that will result in a win-win too.

We are extremely happy about this colllaboration, and strongly recommend other reserach groups to try the same approach to collaboration!

My PhD thesis: Usability – Who Cares?

It’s been almost seven years ago that i defended my PhD that is a collection of eight papers related to the establishment of User Centred Design (UCD) in organisations when developing IT for work. You find the thesis in the university system Diva.

The fundamental idea on which the thesis work is is based is that future work situations, usability of systems, and users’ needs, must be considered when developing computer systems for work, in a manner which involves the entire organisation. Usability needs to be a part of, for example, the organisational culture, strategy documents, budgets, and methods for procurement. During my PhD work I participated in large action research (see blog posts about this) projects in eight different organisations.

It took me eight calendar years to finish my PhD education (!), but four years of full-time work since I got three of my children during this period. We have paid parental leave in Sweden, and I was off for a bit more than a year for each kid.  My supervisor Jan Gulliksen was very engaged, and the best supervisor I could get. Towards the end of the process I was a single mother of three boys, and with the support of my parents and collegues I managed to wrap things up.  This was not easy, as you can imagine. But somehow this very stressful life situation made the thesis writing the fun part of life! I honesly also think that the text became better since I just wrote down things I have learned without any aim of it being perfect or complete.

The thesis has three research questions:

  1. What happens when UCSD is introduced in a public authority?

I was also interested in the values and perspectives of people involved in the organisation as well as how UCSD can be introduced through new methods that affect the values and perspectives of the stakeholders including the system developers in the organisation. Therefore, this thesis also aims at understanding the following questions:

  1. How do perspectives of stakeholders in systems development projects affect the work with UCSD, usability and users’ health in the organisations studied?

The final question addresses the issues of how we can address the introduction of UCSD and change perspectives:

  1. What new methods can be used to introduce UCSD and to influence perspectives?


Many answers to the questions in the thesis are still valid today, and it is indeed very difficult to establish a human centred perspective and UCD in organisations. One can wonder why this is the case? Some of my findings presented in the thesis are presented as the problems with establishing UCD when developing computer systems for work:

Some organisational problems found in the study presented in papers Sandblad et al (2003) and Cajander (2007).

Organisational problem Description of problem
Focus on surveillance and control ·    Detailed supervision of work and work performance through computer system.

·    Some saw surveillance as contributing to productivity

·    Some expressed that surveillance implied mistrust from management level

Administrative work was regarded as trivial ·    It-professionals claim that they have a good picture of case handling and core business.

·    Administrative staff believe that their work is much more complex than is generally understood


Development of IT systems based on technology and process descriptions ·    Abstract models of work as flow diagrams guide the development of new computer systems.

·    This has lead to some inflexible computer systems that shape work

·    Situated nature of work (Suchman, 1987) not taken into account

IT-department and users – two separate worlds ·    Alienation between groups and little understanding of the needs of the other group
Usability in systems development ·    Little or no usability activities in system development.

·    Few usability goals in the requirements specification

·    Usability activities often limited to test

·    Usability perceived as a vague and unclear concept

I also explore some (at the time of the thesis) new methods to work with the establishment of UCD:

  • System developers doing field studies to see the context in which the computer systems they build is used.
  • Usability coaching
  • Usability Index
  • Management’s perspectives on usability
  • Collaborative policy writing

I hope that some of you who work with usability take the time to skim parts of the thesis!