ers draw on both the science of
decision making but also the art
Is it any wonder then, where
our collective schizophrenia
comes from? We are fraught
with existential angst by the
very label of the occupation.
We are not entirely sure if we
are information scientists or if
we are artists. We create our
own professional identities as a
bricolage, choosing pieces that
suit us and rejecting those that
don’t. If there are no standards,
there is freedom.
Freedom Ain’t Free:
A Call to Action
Interaction designers may feel
blessed to draw on the scientific
tradition for one research project, and on the interpretivist
tradition for another. This may
feel liberating. But it has its cost.
Professionals command higher pay, status, and autonomy
precisely because they have
agreed to subscribe to a canon
of collected knowledge. They
accept that they must prove
their familiarity with, say, contracts law even though they do
not plan to use it and could easily do without it, thank you very
much. Professionals do endure
such irrelevant learning because
they recognize the benefits of
having their occupation controlled, even somewhat, by their
peers. They enjoy greater freedom at work [ 3]. They have higher salaries [ 4]. They can even
withstand the slings and arrows
of globalization and maintain
their professional autonomy [ 12].
Professionals know that by sacrificing a little, they get a lot.
So a call to action. Interaction
designers, now is the time to
define the theoretical boundar-
ies of your knowledge. What
exactly constitutes an interac-
tion and how exactly might one
design it? What is the difference
between an interaction designer
and an information architect?
What, by extension, constitutes
interaction design research?
And finally, for once and for all,
does an interaction designer
need to care about sample size?
a group of independent practitioners. Indeed, it is physicians
that all other professions look to
emulate [ 14]. While there have
been many recent changes that
limit physician autonomy [ 15],
physicians continue to maintain
a near monopoly over the legal
ability to prescribe drugs (in the
United States, nurse practitioners can prescribe some drugs).
The lesson from these two
professions is first to ensure
that practitioners, not companies, drive professionalization. The Interaction Design
Association and the Information
Architecture Institute are great
starts in this direction. But
second, interaction designers
must gain exclusive control
over a certain body of knowledge. For example, interaction
designers may seek to “own”
design. Interaction designers
may end up with several schools
of thought—which is perfectly
acceptable (there are, after all,
Jungian psychiatrists as well as
Freudians)—but at the very least
we will never waste another single pixel on the dreaded sample-size question!
[ 8] Bryman, A.
Research: How Is It
Research 6 (2006):
[ 9] Alasuutari, P.
and Cultural Studies.
California: Sage, 1995.
[ 10] Denzin, N. and
Lincoln, Y. “The
Practice of Qualitative
Research.” In Handbook
of Qualitative Research,
ed. Denzin, N. and
Lincoln, Y. Thousand
Oaks, California: Sage,
[ 11] Borja De Mozota,
B. Design Management:
Using Design to Build
Value and Corporate
Innovation. New York: All
Worth Press, 2003.
[ 12] Faulconbridge,
J. and Muzio, D.
Globalizing Law Firms.”
Work, Employment and
Society 22 (2008): 7–25.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sam Ladner is a sociologist with an interest in the
design of technology and
its effect on organizations.
She mixes private-sector
consulting work with academic research
and teaching. Using a range of methods
including interviewing, observation, and
ethnography, she consults on digital product design, organizational change, and the
social aspects of technological innovation.
Ladner holds a Ph.D. in sociology from
York University. Ladner currently works for
her own firm as consultant and principal
with Copernicus Consulting Group and frequently partners with design firms.
[ 13] Noble, D.F. America
by Design: Science,
Technology, and the
Rise of Corporate
Capitalism. Ne w York:
Oxford University Press,
[ 14] Ritzer, G.
and Walczak, D.
“Rationalization and the
of Physicians.” Social
Forces 67 (1988): 1–22.
[ 15] O’Connor, S. and
Lanning, J. “The End of
of the Postprofessional
Physician.” Health Care
Management Review 17
March + April 2010
© 2010 ACM 1072-5220/10/0300 $10.00