Bridging the existing divide between the members of the DTES community and academic research was the overarching motivation in this research project.
Given that the goal of this research was to improve access for members of the DTES community to research on the DTES, the overarching research question became:
How to best meet user goals and needs while accessing DTES-based research through the design of an interactive geographic visualization-based interface, which;
- offers users an explorative learning experience
- provides location-based resources on DTES-based research
- connects topic-based metadata to location or agency-based research within the DTES
With the members of the DTES community as the primary users, an easily accessible map-based visual interface was planned and designed as an alternative point of entry to the existing Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal (DTES-RAP) to access community-based research.
The research was commenced by conducting a literature review to study the theories of community-based research that corresponded to the goals of the research. Here, journal articles dealing with aspects of community engagement, cultural sensitivity, geographic visualization, community mapping, searching as learning were among those that were studied. Following this study, textual analysis and data collection/analysis was done using software such as Voyant and MS Excel on journal articles about the DTES that were available through the DTES-RAP, to bring out locational references and main topic areas addressed in each study. An iterative design-based approach with stages such as empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test, was adopted. The resulting connections between organizations, authors, and topics were represented in a map-based visual interface, designed to promote learning through exploration.
Screenshots of the pages of the interface are shown as below.
An example of interaction within the organizations page is shown below.
An example of an interaction within the Topics page is shown below.
An example of an interaction within the 'Authors' page is shown below.
Community spaces page
An example of interaction within the 'Community spaces' page is shown below.
A few examples of interactions within the 'Help' page are shown below.
Following the prototyping stage, a pilot study of the interactive version of the interface was conducted with graduate students of the University of British Columbia. On receiving the approval of the UBC Behavioural Research Ethics Board, a small-scale usability study was conducted with the members of the DTES community to evaluate the current design and identify areas for improvement. Some conclusions have been drawn and recommendations made based on the knowledge gained through this study.
The link to my thesis in cIRcle (which is UBC's digital repository for research and teaching materials) is available here http://hdl.handle.net/2429/71522.