Ph.D. in HCI

20 May 2004 - 10:25pm
10 years ago
16 replies
2794 reads
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On May 20, 2004, at 8:56 PM, Jim Hoekema wrote:

> I would expect someone with a Ph.D. in HCI to have excellent research
> skills, extensive knowledge of methodologies and theories, and the
> ability
> to write papers, but I would never assume or expect any more
> interactive
> design skill than someone without a degree.

That just seems wrong to me. I realize this may be the reality, but it
still seems wrong to me.

Why spend all that time getting a PhD if you end up only being an
academic? How useful is that? I mean... the schooling you get for law
and medicine doesn't give you on the job the training, but people come
out of those education programs ready to work. Why should a PhD in
anything related to HCI, Interaction, or any form of high-tech design
not be the same?

It's a PhD! I expect people with PhDs to be *damn* good at everything
the job entails. I expect people with a Masters to be just a little
less in comparison. Otherwise, why spend all that time studying? And in
fact, what are they studying if not the skills needed on the job?

Andrei

Comments

21 May 2004 - 2:16am
Peter Boersma
2003

Andrei wrote:
> It's a PhD! I expect people with PhDs to be *damn* good at everything
> the job entails.

I expect people with PhD's to be damn good at the abstract levels of the
job: analysis, modelling, evaluating, reasoning, etc. Not the actual
nitty-gritty, detailed design work.

Master Peter
--
Peter Boersma - Senior Information Architect - EzGov
Rijnsburgstraat 11 - 1059AT Amsterdam - The Netherlands
t: +31(0)20 7133881 - f: +31(0)20 7133799 - m: +31(0)6 15072747
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21 May 2004 - 5:17am
Dave Malouf
2005

Hello Educated and uneducated among us,

Reading this thread has inspired me to ask this group if anyone would like
to participate in the education initiative.

The Education initiative has not exactly taken off compared to the others.
Lots of reasons for this that just aren't important, but the education
initiative needs a new leader to take it over and other volunteers to help
that person make the initiative happen.

What is the education initiative? Got some ideas? Then step up and lead it
and make it what you want. Yes, the steering committee as a group will have
final approval, but there is a lot of room to move.

If you agree w/ Andrei that a PhD should be able to be a practitioner of
high regard, if you would just like to create a cirriculum that is specific
to IxD as opposed to HCI, or Interactive Media, If you just want to help
others in the IxD community vet programs that would be best for
practitioners, etc. etc. ... Shoot me an e-mail and lets talk a bit.

[All volunteers will also be added to the workgroup list as all volunteers
are on that e-mail list.]

Thanx,
-- dave

21 May 2004 - 10:54am
Adlin, Tamara
2004

I made a very conscious decision NOT to get a PhD--to stick with the Master's. Part of the reason is that my impression of the PhD process is to enable the student to dive into a very particular speciality in detail--the best description I've heard of the purpose of a dissertation is to move the field just an inch forward with some new ideas and work. Which is great, but it's not a substitute for hands-on experience in a real business environment.

I've become quite good at what I do because of years of experience working with people on various projects. I just don't think that kind of expertise can come from a purely academic background. Business and politics and technical tradeoffs affect my job as an experience designer far too much. So I think PhDs are great, but I don't think that a PhD automatically means on is damn good at everything.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Andrei Herasimchuk
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2004 9:26 PM
To: 'Interaction Discussion'
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Ph.D. in HCI

On May 20, 2004, at 8:56 PM, Jim Hoekema wrote:

> I would expect someone with a Ph.D. in HCI to have excellent research
> skills, extensive knowledge of methodologies and theories, and the
> ability to write papers, but I would never assume or expect any more
> interactive design skill than someone without a degree.

That just seems wrong to me. I realize this may be the reality, but it still seems wrong to me.

Why spend all that time getting a PhD if you end up only being an academic? How useful is that? I mean... the schooling you get for law and medicine doesn't give you on the job the training, but people come out of those education programs ready to work. Why should a PhD in anything related to HCI, Interaction, or any form of high-tech design not be the same?

It's a PhD! I expect people with PhDs to be *damn* good at everything the job entails. I expect people with a Masters to be just a little less in comparison. Otherwise, why spend all that time studying? And in fact, what are they studying if not the skills needed on the job?

Andrei

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21 May 2004 - 12:32pm
Dave Malouf
2005

What do people think about a process where a masters was followed by a
series of internships? Like Medicine or social work, or just that an
internship is a required year in order to receive a masters?

It seems from discussions here and elsewhere that people are resistant to a
pure master/apprentice model for many reasons, but if we just made
apprenticing part of the formal academic that might be interesting? I might
even consider going back to school if that was there.

The other part of a "pure" design degree that gets me is how we can study
design w/o studying the context of where our designs are going to be
used--i.e. in the economic society we live in. The greatest context of
everythng we do is driven by use, but also business. Even if you are working
for NFP you still have economies that you need to deal with.

-- dave

21 May 2004 - 1:05pm
Beth Mazur
2003

Andrei wrote:
> Why spend all that time getting a PhD if you end up only being an academic?
> How useful is that? I mean... the schooling you get for law and medicine
> doesn't give you on the job the training, but people come out of those
> education programs ready to work.

In most places, the PhD has traditionally been a research degree. The JD
and MD are professional degrees.

There are some professional doctorates in design (I was at one
until recently at the University of Baltimore), but I'm not aware
of any that are focused on interaction design.

There is a lot of recent interest in the concept of newer professional
doctorates. Part of this is because there is the idea that going
beyond the Masters level at a practical, rather than research, level
is useful. The other is because the percentage of PhDs that drop out
of their degrees (lots are ABD -- all but dissertation) is higher
than you'd think.

Here's an interesting page with some more info from the folks in
the UK: http://www.ukcge.ac.uk/report_downloads.html

Another good reference is the PhD-Design list; a search of their
archives finds some useful posts from February 2003.

Beth Mazur
IDblog: http://idblog.org

21 May 2004 - 1:12pm
Wendy Fischer
2004

The best advice ever given to me is that if you want
to do a PhD do it for personal reasons, don't do it
for your career or an increase in pay. Getting a PhD
is a long, painful and expensive process. I really
don't think that a PhD makes that much more money than
a Master's person with the equivalent amount of
experience.

And again, I know that there are many excellent
designers without the required Masters in HCI or PhD.

It's interesting to note, Andrei, but you seem to lack
the required degree, as evidenced by your
biography.....and yet you're a principal designer at a
large company and also have managed a team as a
director....

So PhD or graduate degree doesn't equal success.

-Wendy

=====
Test 123 test 123

21 May 2004 - 1:20pm
Wendy Fischer
2004

I like the process where companies promote interface
design by offering internships and working with local
universities to help define HCI programs, mentor
students and participating in events such as SIGCHI to
promote HCI research.

On the flip side, as evidenced by the Yodlee listing
and many design internship postings on craigslist, I
think its a sad fact due to the current job market and
student's desires to get experience any way they can,
that some companies aren't willing to pay students for
an internship and will exploit them for free design
services, particularly if an internship is not done in
conjunction with a university for credit. It costs
students a lot of money, a financial burden many of
them (and us) will carry for years.

If companies are offering internships, they really
should provide some type of stipend for the work the
student is performing, if they are not receiving
credit from the university. I think that it will make
the experience better for the student (which they can
then financially afford the time to do the internship)
and the company will value the intern all the more.

-Wendy

=====
Test 123 test 123

21 May 2004 - 1:24pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On May 21, 2004, at 12:12 PM, Wendy Fischer wrote:

> It's interesting to note, Andrei, but you seem to lack
> the required degree, as evidenced by your
> biography.....and yet you're a principal designer at a
> large company and also have managed a team as a
> director....

Yup. But I would expect, as a *general* rule, someone coming out of a
design program with a PhD to be better than myself at what I do in many
respects, and much more qualified to control the design of a product
than whatever the "Director of Product" might know. That's the gist of
my comment.

I also wasn't aware that a degree was "required." 8^)

Truth is, I went to a truly top notch liberal arts college, realized I
was spending a very large sum of money on a degree and education that
didn't suit me, then dropped out when an opportunity got passed my way
that gave me an exit strategy. I'm the kind of person that should have
taken three to five years off between high school and college to find
what it is that spoke to me, then go back to school to study and pursue
that. As such, I got involved in design things outside of school, found
that I both had a knack and a passion for it, then got too far into the
career thing before realizing I probably should have considered going
back to school to take more time to find and hone my skills in the
craft.

There are many days when I feel the nagging urge to get back to school
and finish off what I should have done when I was younger. Now that I'm
nearly 35 with a family to support, it's becoming harder and harder to
do that. Life goes on.

Andrei

21 May 2004 - 1:54pm
George Olsen
2004

> Andrei Herasimchuk said
>
> Why spend all that time getting a PhD if you end up only being an
> academic? How useful is that? I mean... the schooling you get for law and
> medicine doesn't give you on the job the training, but people come out of
> those education programs ready to work. Why should a PhD in anything
> related to HCI, Interaction, or any form of high-tech design not be the
> same?

Ah there's the rub -- the focus of academia and industry are pretty
different when it comes to education. (Speaking as someone who's father
was a professor and who's taught himself.)

As Beth mentioned professional degrees -- like medicine, law, business,
etc. are effectively masters-level degrees, even if they contain the word
"doctorate" in the title.

To academia, the purpose of PhDs are two-fold - 1) to move the field
forward through research, 2) get the "union card" to teach -- mainly so
you can support yourself while doing even more research.

This distinction is especially apparent in California's higher-ed system,
where by law UC are the "research" universities and focus on PhD programs,
and CSU focus on master's programs and "practical" advanced degrees, like
teaching. (In reality there's crossover because each system wants to
expand its turf.)

In contrast, industry would probably love the sort of "practical PhD"
that Andrei call for. But practicality is a bit disreputable in the
academic world. Hence MBA programs are viewed as "merely training" by
other departments and few MBA programs offer practical courses like sales.

Compounding this is that Catch-22 that developes in new fields like
interaction design. You can't be a full professor unless you've got a PhD,
but experienced practitioners who could teach ID/IA/UE in their sleep
aren't going to go through the effort of getting the appropriate degree.
They can (and do) become lecturers, but that's a position that's got no
real say in how the academic department (and its curriculum) are run. So
frequently these programs are run by folks with little practical
experience (and there's a litany of bad CHI research that's pretty
divorced from reality).

I've talked to a number of academics who realize this is a severe problem,
but culture of academia is too strong to make much headway in resolving
it.

We can argue about whether it _should_ be that way, but that's what it
usually is now.

Which is too bad, because academia can and should complement industry.
Interesting, I've seen some really good examples
innovative-but-still-pragmatic work come from business professors. It's
probably because they lack the scientific pretentions of most CHI
academics.

George

21 May 2004 - 2:19pm
Joan Vera
2004

> What do people think about a process where a masters
was followed by
a
> series of internships? Like Medicine or social work,
or just that an
> internship is a required year in order to receive a
masters?
>

I thoroughly like this. I know I would have benefitted
from this when I
graduated or before hand. Especially since I went
straight from BS to
Masters and while doing my masters I made sure I paid
for school
through
teaching. This last part hurt me greatly once I was
out of school
cause all
businesses would see was my teaching experience and
hardly any
programming
experience. It's not that I didn't want to work in my
field. I just
wanted
to pay for my education without having to get loans
(BTW did I mention
I am
debt free because school loans?).

My school did not have anything related to HCI. A
couple of us did
develop
our own curiculum (with
engineering) to create an interdisciplinary degree
program that focused
on
this since a lot of work was being done in interface
design and virtual
environments. Some departments favored it, others
were a little (very)
uncomfortable with their students doing this. I know
that as part of
getting the degree, we had to work on projects related
to HCI which
greatly
helped with the direction of what we were learning.
I must say though
that
since the work was for one professor or another it was
hard to get
people to
take a resume seriously even with this.

Joan

> It seems from discussions here and elsewhere that
people are
resistant
> to a pure master/apprentice model for many reasons,
but if we just
> made apprenticing part of the formal academic that
might be
> interesting? I might even consider going back to
school if that was
> there.
>
> The other part of a "pure" design degree that gets
me is how we can
> study design w/o studying the context of where our
designs are going
> to be used--i.e. in the economic society we live in.
The greatest
> context of everythng we do is driven by use, but
also business.
> Even if you are working
> for NFP you still have economies that you need to
deal with.
>
> -- dave
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> ________________

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21 May 2004 - 2:35pm
Beth Berrean
2004

perhaps this article about the value of business
schools has a corollary in design curriculum

http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=2685892

beth

21 May 2004 - 2:38pm
Jim Leftwich
2004

Hi All -

Interesting thread here, regarding educational level, what's
expected/required by job candidates, etc..

When I earned my own undergraduate degree in 1983, I was trained in
generalist design, with an emphasis in product and industrial design.
I'd also had some engineering, some programming, and some fine arts and
humanities.

There weren't any HCI programs that I knew of, so I pretty much just
started off with the assumption that I was going to develop my own
approach to the architecture of usage and functionality. I didn't
start using the term "interaction" until about 1988, when I discovered
that Bill Moggeridge and Bill Verplank at IDTwo (later partnered with
David Kelley Engineering and Matrix Design to become IDEO) were using
the term, "Interaction Design".

Since I've been a consultant for all but the last month of the
preceding twenty years and have worked with and hired many people of
various levels of education and experience, I understand that it's not
education, but experience and results that really show the level of a
person's capabilities. Interestingly enough, the person I've worked
with that has the best design, business sense, and strategic
capabilities doesn't even have a college degree at all. He was,
however, backpacking through China getting his own electronic products
manufactured when he was 19, and had those licensed by The Sharper
Image and Skymall catalogs.

The point is, the position of "design leadership" (be it Chief Product
Officer, Director of Design, etc..) necessarily needs to be one
encompassing of much more than simply design skills (product, UX,
graphics, and department managerial skills, etc.), but also a broader
sense of the marketplace, good business and financial insights, legal
and intellectual property experience. Also, such a role demands the
necessary experience to understand and control risks when innovating
completely new things/paradigms, moving to new platforms/scales, or
developing generational leaps like OS9 to OSX.

Like David, I normally assume that degree requirements are always in
the "preferred" category. After all, we know that there's still no
simple way to signify years of broad and innovative experience with the
simplicity and succinctness of a degree appendage on one's name. Also,
most of us that have worked with and hired people with advanced degrees
know full well the variation that exists among that broad category. In
reality, there are competent people with the skills to gain major wins
in industry with a variety of backgrounds. When seeking out positions
as important as design leadership (in an age where design is more and
more being recognized as central to any company's core strategy and
success), the smartest companies will look at the whole person,
experience, thinking skills, experience (including industry contacts
affiliations), and past wins and achievements.

I still think, especially given that advanced education is beyond the
reach of many otherwise qualified and brilliant individuals, that
apprenticeships, and experience be given *at least* equal footing.
Just my two cents, given that I still only have a lowly undergraduate
degree.

Oh, and I've accepted a new position as of last month...

Cheers -

Jim

James Leftwich, IDSA
Director, Design and User Experience
PalmSource, Inc.
Sunnyvale, CA

http://www.palmsource.com/about/

21 May 2004 - 2:40pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I think the opposite though is also true. That Design has value in Business.
I'm not sure if people know about this organization, but NextD is an
intersting organization. http://www.nextd.org/ ... They are having a
workshop next month here in NYC through the Design Art Center of Pasadena.
It's a 1 day thing on a Sat. go to their site for more info.

Thanx!
-- dave

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.
com] On Behalf Of Beth Berrean
Sent: Friday, May 21, 2004 4:36 PM
To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Ph.D. in HCI

perhaps this article about the value of business schools has a corollary in
design curriculum

http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=2685892

beth

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21 May 2004 - 2:50pm
Cindy Alvarez
2004

> The other part of a "pure" design degree that gets me is how we can study
> design w/o studying the context of where our designs are going to be
> used--i.e. in the economic society we live in. The greatest context of
> everythng we do is driven by use, but also business. Even if you are
> working
> for NFP you still have economies that you need to deal with.

Absolutely. There are always resource constraints, and the most brilliant
plan for creating a great user experience will fall flat if only the first
75% is carried out. Especially since "we'll just drop UI to cut costs"
is still so prevalent in companies - I feel like justifying your design
decisions and understanding their impact is very nearly as important as
the decisions themselves.

It would probably be ideal if HCI programs were more like business
schools, in which real world experience was more-or-less required for
admission. Of course, that would probably only work if an HCI degree
earned the same rise in salary as an MBA - I certainly couldn't justify
getting a master's now on strictly financial terms.

Cindy Alvarez

21 May 2004 - 3:10pm
Beth Mazur
2003

Dave wrote:
> I think the opposite though is also true. That Design has value in
> Business.

Which is presumably what led the folks at Harvard Business Review
to declare the MFA as the new MBA: http://tinyurl.com/39chq (item
number 9).

They focus a bit more on beauty and emotion than IxDers would
probably care for, but I like the trend.

Beth Mazur
IDblog: http://idblog.org

21 May 2004 - 3:57pm
Christian Simon
2003

on 5/21/04 12:01, Andri wrote:
> That just seems wrong to me. I realize this may be the reality, but it still
> seems wrong to me.

It seems crazy to me to expect someone with this level of knowledge to be
expected to utilize the range of visual or technical sensitivity in all
aspects of design. Leave some room in your world view for the rest of us
visual designers to do something. <ehehe>

Does a UI designer job warrant these excessive credentials. Seems like if
they were really in-tune with enticing these candidates, they would call the
position something else, like "UI design *guru*".

Check out this job post for a t-shirt designer with a MBA!
http://www.craigslist.org/eby/med/31548844.html

Xtian

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