Now that I’ve gotten all my official results from master’s degree, I thought it was about time I made a little post about the research project I slaved and suffered so much for over the summer. If you’d like to read the whole thing, download it here. Or read the abstract:
Literature identifies numerous usability problems associated with managing multiple online accounts, such as users’ propensity to use the same password across accounts.
Federated identity management systems (FIDMS), allowing a single login to access several accounts, are fast becoming an attractive solution to these problems. In particular, FIDMS for eGovernment services may facilitate seamless and integrated experiences of government activities, and reduce administration costs for government departments. This necessitates re-examination of ‘digital identity’ and multiple user account management for implementation in an eGovernment context.
Digital identity research is predominantly technology-centred, focusing on technological feasibility and organisational utility, rather than the underlying human factors of identity management. This study aimed to develop a user-centred understanding of digital identity for eGovernment, managing multiple eGovernment accounts in everyday life, and perceptions of eGovernment FIDMS.
An exploratory, qualitative approach was taken, using semi-structured interviews, and video diary studies capturing 15 users’ in situ interactions with eGovernment user accounts over two weeks.
It was found that users conceptualise eGovernment digital identity as a disembodied, multifaceted, and context dependent construct. Digital identity was found to belong in a layered identity ecosystem, relating to the individual, technology, organisation, society, and ethics. Everyday life interactions with eGovernment were found to be compartmentalised and task-driven, influenced by the dynamic nature of users’ needs and life situations, and the interplay between task, physical location, and device. Problems with managing multiple accounts were observed, pointing towards benefits of FIDMS. However, users had reservations pertaining to security, privacy, and information relevance.
Design implications for user-centred eGovernment FIDMS were developed, such as accounting for continuous changes in user needs, and facilitating completion of primary task while reducing the interruptibility of login procedures.
So essentially, I gave people a Flip Mino camera and asked them to record their account login experiences over two weeks, as well as interviewed them before and after before I transcribed everything and performed a Grounded Theory analysis. It was a tremendous learning experience and I grew a lot in terms of working independently on a project. There was lots of decision-making, time management, and careful resource allocation throughout the three months it lasted. I also got to know a few new people and present my findings at Google’s Victoria offices, which was a lot of fun.
Doing a qualitative project was also quite a contrast from all the quantitative work I did in my undergraduate degree. My BSc Research Project was an eye tracking study, which you can download here.
Having done both types of research, I can see that qualitative and quantitative studies can each by themselves generate lots of insights into a research topic, as well as complement each other by combining different perspectives. Maybe my next big thing will be a hybrid project where I do both. Any ideas of what I can do, interwebs?