CERTEC's Core

January 1997 Certec's core


Center for Rehabilitation Engineering Research

Lund Institute of Technology


Summary

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

Example

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.

Peter Anderberg

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.


Bodil Jönsson


Table of Contents

Introduction

New and relevant knowledge

The need for a language

Technology as a language and a probe

Methodology

Theory

Learning/education and information

References


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