Lund Institute of Technology
Ten years have passed since the first steps were taken towards what is today CERTEC,
Center for Rehabilitation Engineering Research at the Lund Institute of Technology. Most
of CERTEC's activities through the years are documented at http://www.arkiv.certec.lth.se.
The fact that the results and the scope of CERTEC's activities are well-documented does
not necessarily mean that the same holds true for our theory and method. Rather the
contrary. Just like other research units in the field of rehabilitation engineering (in
this publication the term rehabilitation" includes both habilitation and
rehabilitation) CERTEC has kept a remarkably low public profile with respect to theory and
method. Even amongst ourselves discussions about theory and method have been allowed to
remain untamed and project specific.
In the long run this is not good. Many projects may have been presented, but this does
not automatically result in improved theory formation or greater methodological awareness.
On the other hand, the converse may apply: individual projects may benefit from clearer
theories and methods. It is in this spirit and for this purpose that CERTEC's
Core" has been written. When theories are made visible new thoughts become thinkable
and new knowledge possible. When the presentation of method is improved, critical
examination becomes possible.
CERTEC's core wants to combine
This seemingly impossible task has turned out to be possible in the context of case
studies. For this reason, case methodology has become one of CERTEC's
most important theoretical foundations. HMI (Human Machine Interaction) is another
essential theoretical foundation. Whether CERTEC's activities also include action
research we see mainly as a matter of interpretation, to be decided by action
researchers. Without a doubt, there is a strong element of user involvement in CERTEC,
which may, of course, be seen as an indication of action research. However, user
participation can just as easily be seen as a necessary prerequisite for achieving
relevant results. Or as a natural result of research ethics considerations.
Thus, CERTEC's theoretical profile, its core, consists mainly of case methodology, HMI
and its own theory formation. The function of the core is to make it possible to do our
work while keeping our fingers on the pulse in the world of the handicapped, and at the
same time keep a cool and clear head while hunting for new describable"
patterns, new technical solutions and, above all, new findings about the users which come
to light through their use of the new technical solutions.
The core has a strong element of iterativeness. Research projects often begin because
we, or others (preferably the intended user himself), have hypotheses about dreams, wishes
and needs which could be met by the use of a certain new or old (usually new) technology.
Next, the development of the technology requires a certain amount of time before the idea
can be tested by the indiviual in her environment. The result of this testing is often
that the dreams, wishes and needs become clearer or even turn out to be quite different
from what they were believed to be. These types of clarifications or completely new
insights are what CERTEC considers to be the actual results of its research. Their
character is different and more concrete than the results obtained by the behavioral
sciences through the use of questionnaires, in-depth interviews, etc. 1
This is Peter Anderberg. He began studying at the Lund Institute of Technology at about
the same time as the precursor of CERTEC was being created. He failed and interrupted his
studies. After this, he stayed away from Lund and his studies for many years.
In 1995, he resumed his studies with great success; used information technology; began
cooperating very closely with CERTEC. Now he is doing his final year abroad (in the United
States) and will soon have his degree in engineering. After that, he will most likely
become a doctoral student at CERTEC.
The example of Peter is used from time to time in this text to give it cohesion
and to serve as an illustration. The intention is not per se to tell Peter's story,
but to make the general text in CERTEC's Core" more concrete by providing
glimpses from Peter's development. To find out more about Peter's development, please
refer to Att kunna studera på universitet" (Making university studies
possible) (2), which is available from CERTEC. It will be broadcast by the Swedish
Educational Broadcasting Company in the spring of 1997. CERTEC will also make it available
on the Internet in the spring of 1997.
Finally, this report is based on lengthy and continuing discussions at CERTEC.
Consequently, all of CERTEC's staff, not least Peter, are co-authors of CERTEC's
Core". However, I stand as the sole author since I am the one who, through the years,
has been working on what is (or can be made) researchable" at CERTEC, and on
how the research can be carried out. I am also the one who, during the writing of this
report, has been provoking new thoughts (my own and those of others) and who is now
spreading them to a wider audience.
New and relevant knowledge
The need for a language
Technology as a language and a probe
Learning/education and information