Robert-Jan den Haan is a postdoctoral researcher focusing on the design of serious games to support stakeholders in collaboratively exploring complexity in environmental management. He has a background in Industrial Design Engineering, specializing in human centred design and interaction design. During his doctoral research, he further specialized in these two design areas as well as in designing serious games, facilitating stakeholder participation, managing interdisciplinary work, data visualization and programming.
Robert-Jan’s research focuses on designing and using serious games to explore (environmental) complexity, foster stakeholder participation and stimulate social learning. This type of serious games aim to provide stakeholders with a safe experimentation environment to collaboratively try out management strategies in game scenarios. By playing such serious games, players learn about the environmental system, possible management interventions and trade-offs between interventions as well as about how other players view both the problem at hand and its solution.
In the design of serious games, Robert-Jan focuses on developing interaction methods to enable stakeholders to engage with computer models that may be perceived as black boxes. He focuses on enabling stakeholders to learn about how the models work and how they can be used in decision-making by providing such interaction methods. Therefore, the interaction methods should have a low threshold to use, be easy to use and invite active experimentation. Moreover, in the context of games, the interaction methods should support collaboration and thereby enable serious games to be an effective boundary objects.
In his doctoral research, Robert-Jan developed the Virtual River Game, a serious game where stakeholders can collaboratively test and evaluate management strategies in Dutch river management, as part of the RiverCare program (NWO Perspectief). During this research, he became convinced about the need to make hydrodynamic models (water flow) used in environmental decision-making more accessible and transparent. For the Virtual River Game, he therefore applied the concept of tangible interaction to link a physical game board with digital models. Players apply management interventions and interact with the models by changing game pieces on the board. Model output is subsequently projected on the game board, visualizing the effects on the locations where players made changes. He successfully defended his dissertation on the 23rd of October, 2020. He will continue this line of research, directly building on the Virtual River results, as a postdoc in the SaltiSolutions program (NWO Perspectief) on salt intrusion in deltas.