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“Only if you were in my shoes, you'd see it the way I do!” Reflecting on Professional Identity and Improving Design Practice: An Autoethnographic Phenomenological Study of Disabled Residents in Second Life

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“Only if you were in my shoes, you'd see it the way I do!” Reflecting on Professional Identity and Improving Design Practice: An Autoethnographic Phenomenological Study of Disabled Residents in Second Life

Tzemopoulos, Antonia (2015) “Only if you were in my shoes, you'd see it the way I do!” Reflecting on Professional Identity and Improving Design Practice: An Autoethnographic Phenomenological Study of Disabled Residents in Second Life. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

Reflecting on professional identity and improving design practice: An autoethnographic phenomenological study of disabled residents in Second Life

Antonia Tzemopoulos, Ph.D.
Concordia University, 2015

A limited number of studies have examined e-learning environments for people with disabilities. Essentially, these studies place emphasis on descriptions pertaining to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards and highlight interface design theory. Much has been said regarding interface design but little has been said regarding the interrelationship between the virtual environment, user emotions and the disabled learner. As spaces of learning are changing, going from the once traditional classroom environment to that of the virtual space, there is a growing need to understand how people with disabilities feel within the “pixelated” environment, thus allowing instructional designers to obtain a better understanding of what is a “good design” for people with disabilities.

Virtual environments allow people with disabilities to participate in activities which would not be possible in real life, exploring regions that are bound by diverse aesthetical experiences, various stimuli and sociality. However, a number of questions still remain unanswered and can equally contribute to the improvement of the instructional design practice while fostering the idea of “doing good” for the disabled user. In this study, which extended over a period of one year, research was conducted on adults with various real life disabilities (visible or non-visible) who are active residents within Second Life, a 3D online environment. The researcher, also a resident of Second Life, had an opportunity to interact with members of Virtual Ability Island, an online environment that enables users with a wide variety of disabilities to obtain support, access to health information and develop mastery of navigation of the online world using different tutorials. Resulting from her multiple visits, friendships emerged prior to commencing the research journey. Reflecting as a researcher, she sheds light on some of the challenges she encountered during the research process and how interacting with people from Virtual Ability Island altered her perception of the meaning “designing for people with disabilities”.

The methodology used is unique: a fusion of autoethnography, phenomenology, and narrative research combined with Tillmann-Healy’s Friendship as a Method. Using reflective journaling, casual conversations, field notes and virtual snapshots, the researcher’s thoughts parallel those of the disabled residents of the Second Life community. The Virtual Ability Island residents took the researcher on a visual, emotional and textual journey, sharing their experiences of Second Life. Although, the purpose of this study was intended to create dialogue, as well as evoke emotions, the underlying purpose was to demonstrate that alternative research methods can be considered as professional tools. These tools highlight active listening, emphasize ethical reasoning, and encourage critical self-reflection, while focusing on empathy, compassion and relationship building with the participant(s). They also aid in the interaction and gathering of data from people with disabilities in virtual environments such as Second Life.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Education
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Tzemopoulos, Antonia
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Education
Date:20 July 2015
Thesis Supervisor(s):Venkatesh, Vivek
ID Code:980430
Deposited By: ANTONIA TZEMOPOULOS
Deposited On:27 Oct 2015 19:44
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:51
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