Monday, March 2, 2009

More help with research question and abstract - Please Read!

By the end of class Wednesday, I hope all of you will have your research question developed as well as an abstract of what you want to accomplish in this research (those submitting for extra credit will then be able to do so).

These initial ideas may very well change to some degree over the next few weeks. But we need to start somewhere. In that regard, let's begin with the basics of what we are pursuing:

Research area. I'd like all of us to focus on an area of emerging technology since that's where most of the fertile questions will be.

Some ideas:

* GPS -- This is the next huge mainstream technological phase, and it's coming fast. GPS can locate and track but it can also be used for social networking and games and data gathering and processing. Anything related to mobile communication and the mobile life right now is ripe.

* RFIDs (radio frequency identification tags) -- These are the next phase for UPC codes, or bar codes, the little rectangular pattern on every package that checkers scan for price and product information. Only with RFIDs, people may soon be able to skip the checker and just fill a cart and pay and walk out the door without ever removing an item from the cart. These RFIDs can be injected in skin or attached in other non-visible ways, which means we soon will be able to track anything anywhere, even without people knowing about it. Very Orwellian.

* Accessibility -- As the Internet changes the world, the people without access are being dramatically left behind. There are many issues related to this phenomenon.

* Text messaging -- Many of you have voiced concerns about how this form of communication is eroding society. Prove it.

* Telepresence -- Teleconferencing, web cams, remote applications of technology, remotely created art (such as the WSUV MOVE Lab) etc. We are able to do so much more interaction with each other now, without actually being present. Are there any intriguing issues for you in that?

Those are just some of the many interesting areas in your field right now, ripe for research. Whatever you decide to pursue, think action. What kind of action will you take to develop answers to your question through experiments and research. We are not looking for projects that simply observe and describe behavior.

This will involve at least two variables: A manipulated variable (the one you control) and the responding variable (the one that reacts to your manipulation). It also likely will include controlled variables, or parts of your experiment that don't change from test to test.

You will need to create a hypothesis, or a statement of what you think will happen, and then test that idea. A standard construction for this is: If _______, then _____, because _________.

As a group, you will need to develop a procedure for all of this to take place and for your research question to be answered. To do that, though, the research question must be finely honed and focused.

An example of an unworkable research question: How is GPS technology changing the world?

A better approach: What aspects of GPS technology can be implemented and used on a commuter campus, such as WSUV, to create stronger social networks among otherwise disconnected students?

From there, you will need to gather data and make observations about that data. Then you will need to process all of that material and make a conclusion about what you learned.

I will go over all of this in more detail in class. But please remember that this project will be a major part of your grade in this course, and everything will go much more smoothly if all of this is thought out in great detail by your group before you start, rather than trying to adjust and catch up as you go.

Please bring your thoughts about this project and questions to class Wednesday night. We will be spending time in the third hour working with our groups and developing our questions and abstract.

Until then,

- Brett

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