Added by Michael Twidale, last edited by Michael Twidale on Jan 15, 2008  (view change)


Enter labels to add to this page:
Wait Image 
Looking for a label? Just start typing.

This is the home page for the LIS590RPE CS598RPE Rapid Prototyping and Evaluation space.

Doctoral seminar in Rapid Prototyping and Evaluation.


  • Instructor: Michael Twidale (twidale at uiuc dot edu)
  • Semester: Spring 2008
  • Prerequisites: Doctoral student status; Non-doctoral students may enroll by emailing the instructor to obtain permission
  • Time: 1300-1550 Mondays
  • Place: 109 LISB
  • Assessment: A series of homeworks and short assignments and a final paper

Course Overview

This course will explore high speed and low cost techniques for the rapid creation, prototyping, development and testing of research ideas. This involves the development and use of novel computational applications to help students to create demonstrators, proofs of concept and rapid analyses as they grapple with a research idea. This will allow students to practice techniques for initiating and exploring novel research ideas and quickly developing test cases that can be the basis of subsequent analysis. It draws on themes employed in the development of novel applications of mobile and ubiquitous computing and from the demo-oriented approaches of the MIT Media Lab.


This course is intended to help research students work towards very rapidly exploring complex design spaces by constructing and analyzing proofs of concept in very short spaces of time. It will attempt to explore how to get around certain common pathologies in researchers and people involved in innovative systems development:

  • Procrastination by excessive prior planning: Taking too long to get to the first prototype
    • You have an interesting idea. What can you do in the next few hours to explore and elaborate on that idea?
  • An excessively precious attitude to ideas:
    • Ideas are cheap.
    • Have lots of them.
    • Now figure out ways to explore them, see if they are good or can be adapted or ditched in favor of something better. Repeat. Endlessly.
  • Powerful abstractions with no good applied exemplars: Building a fabulous toolkit or infrastructure, but having few or no ideas about uses or applications that can exploit, illustrate or challenge the abstract design.
  • In-box thinking: failure to exploit novel combinations of hardware, software, infrastructure, use context and user needs to create innovative applications that can also advance a research agenda.
  • Seeing only through our evaluation tools: failure to consider that giving people new technological possibilities means that not only may they do some things better (which is fairly easy to measure), but that they may do completely different things, which is far more interesting but is inclined to be ignored in formal evaluation measures.
  • Fears of venturing into uncharted territory
    • What if you want to explore something new and the old traditional methods don't work?
    • What if conventional methods measure, evaluate or focus on the wrong things?
    • How do you design better methods?

Who Is This Class Intended For?

This is a Doctoral Seminar offered jointly through the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the Department of Computer Science. It is open to students from other departments.

It is chiefly intended for doctoral students to help them with the creation, extension and refinement of research ideas involving the development of novel computational technologies. Masters Students may enroll with permission of the instructor. It is suitable for Masters students intending to do a small scale research project, perhaps leading to a thesis or conference or journal publication, or a student intending to enter a doctoral program.
The focus is on exploring research ideas using a range of methods to get a quick overview of a field or a concept space prior to undertaking more conventional, more detailed, rigorous and slower methods. The class is appropriate for students interested in doing research and is applicable both to students who already have a research area in mind and those who are still exploring multiple options.

The class is aimed both at people who consider themselves as mostly a developer or as mostly an analyst.

The techniques to be covered have been developed and used in the context of interdisciplinary work and so likewise it is hoped that we will have students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. By working together on various short projects we will learn how to select and apply efficient methods to help enable innovation and effective exploration of a design spaces and the critical aspects of designing to fit actual needs and uses.

An incomplete list of possible backgrounds:

  • Library and Information Science
  • Computer Science
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering (esp. novel applications of networks and image processing)
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (esp. product design)
  • Fine and Applied Art (esp. computer graphics, information design or industrial design)
  • Architecture
  • Urban Planning
  • Education (esp. computers and learning)
  • Management (esp. product innovation)
  • Speech Communication (esp. technologies for social networking)
  • Sociology (esp. ethnography, ethnomethodology and workplace studies)
  • Anthropology (esp. ethnography)

Some Questions the Course Will Explore

  • How do we create novel computational applications and functionalities that can really help people?
  • How can we explore a new design space by developing proofs of concept to help us think about what is possible?
  • How can we start exploring new ways of analyzing the evolving interaction between people ever-changing technologies and the contexts in which they are used?
  • How can we advance our chosen areas of research in the context of a flood of new technological possibilities affording by new hardware, software and infrastructures?
  • Is it possible to apply rapid and agile methods not just to the development of products, but to the doing of research?


Issues covered will include:

  • Exploring a design space
  • Efficient ways of uncovering related research
  • Grouping and organizing elements of a literature to uncover a research space
  • Cultural probes
  • Ethnography and Systems design
  • Scenario Based Design
  • Paper prototyping
  • Participatory Design
  • Affordance Analysis
  • Rapid prototyping in various programming languages
  • The use of web mashups as a resource for innovative and rapid prototyping
  • Technological collage
  • Techniques of appropriation
  • Extreme programming
  • Extreme evaluation
  • Extreme research
  • Planning, running, evaluating and iterating high speed pilot studies
  • The creation and use of public demos as research vehicles
  • Art pieces as research setting mechanisms
  • The use of play and games to inspire inform and evaluate research
  • Applying techniques from improv-theatre for exploration of novel application ideas
  • Applying creativity to analysis, design and problem-solving
  • Tools to support rapidity: writing, photos, audio, video, blogs, wikis, annotating
  • Collaborative aspects of RPE: annotating, commenting, open source models, sharing

Classroom and assignment activities will include:

  • Discussing research papers
  • Team brainstorming and creativity exercises
  • Short micro-studies
  • Limited time design challenges
  • A final term paper applying the techniques to your own research topic
  • The scrapheap challenge as a way to developing creative design ideas by bricolage
  • Collaborative case studies: bring along your research challenge and we apply the methods of rapid prototyping and evaluation to try and address it
  • A final term paper on a design/evaluation research challenge of your choosing. It should be in the format of a submission to an appropriate conference, and include in the text or in an appendix a narrative of the design iterations, evolving design ideas and experiences of applying the methods covered in the class to this particular challenge

Useful Pages