From the mouth of a child – fostering innovation through family involvement in research and development

By Rebekah Rousi

“This university is by far the best university in Finland”, stated my daughter (then 10 years old) the first time we visited Fabriikki (University of Vaasa) at the beginning of my Tenure Track period. This statement was made in response to the numerous retro arcade games lining the walls of the hallways. This insight was generated as the result of introducing my two great loves to one another – my family and my work. As a knowledge worker you could say that the two are inseparable. I’m mentally at work 24/7 even without turning the computer on. Research, writing, networking and social media are interwoven into my personal life. My situation is not by far unique. It’s an everyday reality for millions of highly educated and employed parents. Trying to separate the two areas of life for the sake of improving the quality of one or both seems futile. To be honest, I don’t even want to separate the two.

My children often come to work with me, or hang around my home office. This may be cognitively demanding, but it provides some of the greatest moments of work-family life. You see, there are many benefits to integrating family into work life. Firstly, children – being the leaders and developers of the future – are a rich resource of ideas and honest (raw) critique. There are no obstacles preventing them from saying what they think. At least often, there is not too much concern for whether or not they will indeed hurt our feelings. And despite sometimes hurting our ego, this highly valuable information directs research and development in worthwhile directions that may indeed rest outside the box.

Secondly, work (and even knowledge work) is an amazing site for hands-on learning. Learning about the phenomena in question, potential future career directions, and of course, pedagogical learning for tertiary educators. Because, hey, if you can keep a ‘tweenager’ engaged and on-topic, then you can keep anyone.

Thirdly, my daughter was right. Only a genius university would understand that it pays to develop a competitive edge that is simple, seemingly mad (collecting and maintaining hundreds of logistically challenging games), yet close to the heart of people across generations. Thanks to her, I was eager to get involved in the organization of this year’s Vaasa Games Days. I also see that with careful strategy these games can transform what was once the domain of digital recreation into full blown cross-sectional research, development, and learning that is driven by childlike dreaming.

About the author:

Rebekah Rousi is an Associate Professor of Communication and Digital Economy at the University of Vaasa, Finland. Rousi is a human-centered specialist who focuses on examining the relationship between human experience and technology design. Rousi obtained her PhD in Cognitive Science at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, on the topic of user experience from a cognitive semiotic perspective. Rousi has worked in a number of projects focusing on a range of topics from embodied and multisensory user experience to digital literacy in the context of mental health. Rousi is currently Principal Investigator of an Academy of Finland project titled, “The emotional experience of privacy and ethics in everyday pervasive systems (BUGGED)” and leads the VME Interaction Design Environment for development and research of future human-technology interaction. Rousi’s research interests include embodied experience in human-robot interaction, human-AI interaction, posthumanism, trust, and ethics in data-driven systems.