Immersed in cyberspace : an evaluation of a grounded theory approach to a study of user preferences

Alan MacLennan

Abstract


This paper describes a piece of research intended to establish user preferences for the design of virtual worlds for information retrieval, and reflects critically on the methodology adopted. Over 100 students and staff at Robert Gordon University were interviewed, in three cycles of literature review, interview, development and testing. A grounded theory approach was taken, in order to reach conclusions based on user experiences, rather than on the literature. Findings were that preferences appear to be based on affective, rather than structural, criteria, the most influential being familiarity, quality, representation, mediation, etc.

The effectiveness of the grounded theory approach in this piece of research is evaluated, with particular regard to the typical criticisms to which such an approach is subject. It is concluded that there is value in the approach, but the limitations of the approach are acknowledged, and strategies to reduce the effect of these are discussed.

Keywords


virtual worlds; information access; VRML

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