Bringing Research to the Community
Contributed by Joanna Williams, Marketing and Communications Strategist
The McMaster Digital Transformation Research Centre (MDTRC) launched an innovative mobile user experience lab which will allow them to take their research tools on the road – to go directly into local communities.
This Mobile User-Experience Lab (MUXL) is uniquely designed to remove accessibility barriers for people that are typically underrepresented in research. In fact, the need to overcome this inclusion barrier, especially when it comes to older adults, was the primary inspiration for this new mobile lab.
“Individuals may not be able to participate in research due to various barriers including physical, physiological, financial, and support barriers,” explains Nour El Shamy, PhD student and MDTRC lab manager.
The new mobile lab will help to address these challenges through an innovative approach which brings research directly to the people.
“The purpose of the MUXL is to make sure that we get a deeper understanding of how technology impacts us,” explains Milena Head, MDTRC director and professor of Information Systems at the DeGroote School of Business. “By taking it to the field, we make sure there are no segments of the population that are left unheard, and we also get an understanding of how people use technology, where they use technology.”
By travelling directly to participants, researchers can study users as they interact with information technology, then take those learnings to help make products and services more accessible for marginalized individuals. “In the end, this will then result in technology experiences that are inclusive for all. That is our goal,” says Head.
Khaled Hassanein, dean of the DeGroote School of Business is co-founder and inaugural director of the MDTRC. He was also principal investigator for the Canada Foundation for Innovation grant that resulted in this new mobile research lab.
The DeGroote School of Business partnered with the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour in the Faculty of Science to develop the MUXL, which Hassanein says is an excellent example of successful collaboration across disciplines and faculties at McMaster University.
“This project showcases the best of interdisciplinary collaboration,” says Hassanein. “McMaster’s Research Centres and Institutes truly demonstrate that collaborative approaches not only strengthen our research, but also strengthen our ties to the community.”
He is excited to see the new mobile unit in action, working with business and community partners to help reduce barriers to access, foster digital inclusion, and enhance equity in research.
“In a short time, we have witnessed tremendous shifts in the role of technology in business and society,” explains Hassanein. “The McMaster Digital Transformation Research Center and this new mobile unit is a prime example of how we can explore digital transformation in an inclusive and responsible way that looks at technology’s bright and dark sides from the vantage points of all segments of our society.”
About the MDTRC
The MDTRC is designed as a knowledge hub to engage in three primary mandates focused on digital transformation: collaborative multidisciplinary research, outreach to academic and non-academic partners, training, and education, as well as the development of custom training and educational content.
The centre operates at the nexus of business, neuroscience, psychology, computer science, communications/media/social media fields, engineering, and economics.
Read more about the MDTRC and Milena Head’s research in this Brighter World article: New research improves digital accessibility for older adults.
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