Two evenings ago when I was wide awake after sleeping during the day (my first cold in over a year and I was well and truly out of it so needed to sleep it off) I was hit with a burst of inspiration. I am about to have a self-imposed Kick Off meeting with my lead supervisor, David, in March, and so I was writing out a meeting agenda (as you do at 2am with a nose full of Vix Vapourub) where I noted that I wanted to discuss the first set of tasks for the first 6 months of my PhD.

I also want to”work backwards”, so with the thesis in mind at the end, of the PhD, I want to develop a plan and structure upfront of the key milestones I want to reach every year and every 6 months to get to that thesis at the end.

So I started to note some of my ideas for the first set of the to-do’s in my first few months from my official PhD start date which is on April 1st. According to my Research Design, the first phase of my PhD is a series of several industry expert interviews. So at 2am I started writing a list of such experts in various industries I think would be useful to interview, and my ‘several’ interviews have now become several dozen interviews. I even started going through people I follow and who follow me on Twitter -and that opened up a whole world of inspiration. (I actually took screenshots of about 30 people’s Twitter profile and added them to a Word doc called “People I’d Like To Interview”). I am lucky enough to know many people already who I know would be happy to be interviewed and those people can definitely be classed as gurus in their areas of work or disciplines.

For those I don’t know (yet), I knew the best thing to do was to obviously ask them for an interview but I also thought it would probably be a wise idea to do a shout-out on social media to let people know I am looking for industry expert interviews. Then I thought ‘ok, so people will see my tweets that I need interviews, but I know they will want to go somewhere online to find out more’, so this is why I created the Shout Outs page on this website tonight. This explains why I need the interviews in more detail as well as the value the interviews will have to the interviewee and the list of industries and disciplines in which I would like these industry experts to be involved with.

This also lead me to think about how many smaller tasks are actually involved with the larger task of getting the industry expert interviews, like doing a technical test first to ensure web cams work and that recording equipment actually works – then this got me thinking about consent forms and ensuring that the interviewees completely understand where their interviews will be used and how. There’s also scheduling a time, and these people I’d like to interview are going to be busy people, so scheduling in itself must be easy and painless for both me and the interviewee. So then I wrote another list of all the mini-tasks of things I have to do before even ASKING for industry expert interviews!

While I was writing out a seperate list of industry experts I’d like to speak to, I realised that for this phase of the PhD, I  basically just want to speak to experts who know about, and how to create, engagement and emotion through SCREENS.  Online surveys, after all,  are viewed and accessed via a screen on a mobile, tablet, phablet of laptop – these are all screens – and the mode in which engagement and emotion is delivered and created can be through a plethora of elements. In my list of industry experts I would like to speak to, I have noted 16 different types of areas that can deliver and create engagement an emotion. On the list is a varied spectrum of disciplines and areas of academia and commercial work, from speaking to linguists and semioticians, to game designers, audio composers and designers, and neurotechnologists.

But even though I’ve saved this Shout Outs page right now as a finished page, I already know I must edit the page again to add more onto the already 16 strong list of industry experts needed, as I know I must also speak to people who understand how quantitative and qualitative data is effected by engagement and emotionally driven responses, but at this time of 23:57 on  a Sunday, I don’t even know what that job title would even be called, so I can’t list that one right now!

On the original list I’d written of people i would like to speak to, I’d written that I’d also love to speak to people from eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and ask these people what they think it is about their sites that make them so engaging and cause people to have an emotional connection to their sites – for instance, what would be the one thing that would really change the user experience from Facebook if you took it away for a week? Would it be the simple ability to ‘like’ things and display/feel relatedness, or the ability to have control and autonomy by unfollowing people whose updates you don’t want to see anymore?

My interviews are so wide-ranging but in this spectrum of disciplines I’m sure I will draw patterns, and therefore categories, when speaking to the industry experts because they will help me to understand how they think, or know, engagement and emotion is created where a screen is the hardware and software separating the designer and the user.

I am very much looking forward to showing David my list of already-too-many people I want to interview when I see him on the 31st March. You might even be one of the people on my list! If you are and you get an email from me with an invitation for an interview, please say yes! But please be patient because transcribing over 30 industry expert interviews may take just a little time!

Pssst! A bit of news: I’ve already interviewed two industry experts in different areas of the digital games arena and am excited to announce who those people are very soon!