EILAB Experience 6 | EILab as a Virtual Space

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EILAB Experience 6: Script

Narrated by April Stauffer | Written by Todd J.B. Blayone


In our last video, we reviewed the concept of research collaboration and the affordances to support collaboration within the EILab. In this video, we will continue to explore the virtual space, through reviewing possibilities for engaging in a collaborative EILab project, anytime and anywhere.

EILab Affordances for Remote Research Participation

EILab researchers and collaborators, anywhere in the world, can leverage the technological affordances of the EILab at all stages of a research study without ever visiting the facility at UOIT. Such levels of remote participation are facilitated through two types of secure remote access.

The first type involves remote desktop control of the observation room workstation. This affordance allows remote researchers, with the proper security clearance, to participate with a local researcher, or even take a lead, at any stage of a research project. It allows remote researchers to control the digital attributes of cameras in the observatory, record observations, store and maintain data files and analyze data via The Observer XT. Moreover, using the communications affordances outlined above, a local and remote researcher can interact during live observations, and data-analysis processes.

Currently there is one significant limitation. Only a local researcher can power up and power down all the equipment, interact in-person with lab participants, and configure the physical properties of computer hardware and other assets. So, for example, a remote researcher can control the pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) features of a particular fixed camera, but she is unable to position a tripod or reorganize the observation room to accommodate a lab participant.

The second type of remote access provides file-level access, playback and analysis of existing recorded observations and related data through an Internet-accessible, EILab server housed in a hosting facility on UOIT’s north campus. This type of access allows researchers to download files to a local machine for playback and coding, using a secondary “coder license” for The Observer XT, and any other form of analysis that does not require software licensed exclusively for use on an EILab computer.

Field-based Research

Field-based research is another avenue for facilitating anytime, anywhere research. Field-based research leverages: 1) portable observation technologies and lab setups, and 2) new techniques for collecting data related to human-computer interactions.

Using portable observation technologies and lab installations, EILab researchers can engage in controlled observation of human-computer interactions anywhere in the world. That is, they are no longer restricted to individuals visiting the physical facility in Oshawa, Canada. This provides opportunities to extend observational data to new types of culturally diverse, international populations, thus answering a criticism of some published research—namely, that it is sometimes overly reliant on convenient samples.

Beyond portability, new data collection methodologies provide access to anonymous usage data from participating users’ mobile device log files, screen capture apps, and GPS signals. This allows researchers to assess human-computer interactions in “realistic” environments (that is, typical usage contexts) mitigating the “artificial” nature of activity in lab settings. Of course, compared to lab-based observation, field-based data collection lacks both a high level of observer control and typically does not allow one to view interactions with the same level of visual and auditory detail. In short, there is always a price for freedom.

Thank you for joining us for our video series introducing the EILab. In the future we will also provide clear, friendly tutorials on the use of EI Lab hardware and software. Stay tuned!