Reasearch: proof that interaction = increased knowledge?

30 May 2013 - 6:01am
3 years ago
7 replies
6226 reads
John Gibbard


 Because I rather blindly tend to assume these things, and would rather not, has anyone seen any research or proof that interaction with a site (or other digital experience) improves knowledge? 

Ideally this would be proof that interaction results in you finding a product/service more relevant to you ... it would be good to know if you've seen something.

Happy to discuss,

John (@smorgasbord)


31 May 2013 - 2:43pm
John Gibbard

Meh, I guess it was always optimistic to think we'd actually have research to back up our work and that this discussion forum was still alive.


31 May 2013 - 5:11pm
Scott McDaniel

1) You're asking in a forum with a horrible interaction model - I had to log in, reset a password then go through several time outs just to reply.  

2) Your ask was pretty vague and bordering on incoherent, but hey, blame our lack of research.

31 May 2013 - 9:53pm

Hi John,

I'm not sure if I have understood well, but... Surely it will depend on a myriad of things, including which kind of interaction you are looking at, which kind of knowledge is aimed, and which kind of (digital) experience is happening.

The research on "lurking" and "posting" behaviors in social networks (for instance) would be a start. I'd also take a look in the work of Kimmerle/Cress with Knowledge Building in wikis.

My 2 cents.


1 Jun 2013 - 5:02am

Hello John. What you are requesting will be embedded in the study of psychology and philosophy, which human factors and subsequently interaction design will use as the basis for experiments to discover whether interaction/experience equals knowledge learning.

Whether experience and interaction over time with an application will equal knowledge will largely be based on how information is encoded. When someone produces 'meaning making' through their interactions, the thematic knowlege of how to use it will be far greater. For instance, using a graphics editing application such as Photoshop encourages 'meaning making' over time on an individual basis. How you would approach a problem and how I would approach it may be very different. We form thematic concepts of interaction processes. On the other hand, let’s say using the LinkedIn search to find a particular role of interest within a specifc industry and region, is more intuitive but would only have a shallower encoding in our memory of the process. In conclusion, knowledge will depend upon how deeply encoded our learning is through interaction and the meaning making that we form during processing.

More modern and recent thinking (See Eddie Obeng) is that learning content is not a good strategy in today's ever expanding information rich world, and instead we need to use tools and frameworks to provide us access to this knowledge. However, there will be engagement with and development of knowledge around how we best use these tools and frameworks. Again, knowledge acquisition around this will depend upon meaning making and how deeply we encode our use of, for instance, the company wiki or other knowledge management tool.

See the following:


Information Equals Knowledge, Searching Equals Learning, and Hyperlinking Is Good Instruction


An Empirical Investigation of the Microstructure of Knowledge Acquisition and Transfer Through Learning by Doing


A critical review of knowledge management as a management tool

Information Equals Knowledge, Searching Equals Learning, and Hyperlinking Is Good Instruction

1 Jun 2013 - 6:00am

Hi John,

I'm wondering, by "interaction with a site", are you referring to the user's manipulation of controls or the user's consumption of site content?

As in, I arrive at a grocery shopping site for the first time. I don't know how the site works, but as I use (interact with) it I progressively develop a mental model of the underlying system – Vs – the more pages I explore on the more knowledge I collect about Interaction Design and the nature and quirks of other people who post on the site.

And when you're saying "improves knowledge" do you mean the user's knowledge or the user's ability, or are you refering to a system that learns about the user preferences and becomes more knowledgeable of them, to be able to serve them a more relevant product/service?

Cheers ~ j


1 Jun 2013 - 10:01am
Larry Tesler



Your quest started out broad: "any research or proof that interaction with a site (or other digital experience) improves knowledge". Is the following a suitable research question to address that? "Does interaction with make the user's expectation of tomorrow's weather more accurate than passive weather forecast consumption via TV, radio or newspaper?"

After that broad opener, you offered a somewhat unexpected "ideal" example: "Ideally this would be proof that interaction results in you finding a product/service more relevant to you." Would the following research question address that? "If users who have expressed a product need are given a few hours to find a product that meets that need, will they judge discovered products more relevant to them if found through interaction with one Amazon search result page design or through interaction with a competing Amazon search result page design?

If such research is what you seek, then would it be OK for the researcher to measure relevance by detecting whether or not users bought something during the session? Well, guess what, that's what Amazon's A-B tests assess. Amazon does not generally deploy a new design widely until an experiment has shown that randomly chosen users of that design have "converted" more (or spent more money) than randomly chosen users of other designs. Google and many other companies assess proposed designs in similar fashion. Even brick and mortar retailers conduct such experiments. They vary floor layout, lighting, signage, background music, sales training methods, return policies and so forth and see what affect those variations have on sales.

These days, the relevance research is built into the search service. 

3 Jun 2013 - 8:15am
John Gibbard

Thank you

A bad day prompted my provocation and, if I'm honest, a little frustration with the curious blend of apathy and bloat in the community where - in my humble opinion - the board has become largely a place for job postings, calls for papers and conference announcements. To be taken down a peg or two by Scott Mcdaniel was a highlight even though I dispute his assertion that my original post bordered on incoherent. 

Anyway, grateful thanks to those of you who got to the nub of what I was asking about. Some context: I work in a creative agency where we deal with a lot of campaign-led 'experiential' sites and marketing folk that understandably (however misguided) want us to produce rich, deep interactive sites, apps, tools & (eeugh) games. Often these are done to promote a new product or service. So, hypothetically, a client might ask us to tell their customers about a technology like High Definition TV. We have a perenial debate about whether getting a user to do something to learn about that is better than simply showing them words & pictures. For example, an interactive video that shows regular definition which you can manipulate to show and contrast high definition might be a better way to teach the user about it rather than a block of copy and a couple of photos. The same is true of interaction design to explain mortgages, investment programes or even the new pliable leather used in the latest car seats.

As an empirically-minded person I liked the idea that someone might have studied this and put out some research. My query was intentionally broad because I wasn't quite sure what was out there and I was hoping the hive-mind of IxDA would help me shape the query. That has, thanks to Kevin Rapley & Larry Tasler, happened and I'm closer to finding a few things that support my argument.

In summary, i was looking for empirical evidence that that old tired Confucious quote "I do and I understand" was grounded in psychology.

With thanks,

John (@smorgasbord)

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