‘You Heard It Here First’ talk: catwalk technologies

As part of my department’s internal seminar RDR-modelseries, I was invited, with Anne Adams, to give a talk about our forthcoming paper in ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (ToCHI). The paper is entitled ‘Of catwalk technologies and boundary creatures’ and examines the role of both researchers in working with communities ‘in the wild’, how they act as facilitators/providers of innovative, ‘hi tech’ solutions, which we have termed ‘catwalk technologies’, and how they juggle the expectations of different stakeholders in ‘in the wild’ research, including end users, funders and academic colleagues.

In the paper, we refer to a ‘researcher design roles’ model, where we look at both interaction practices and the design of innovative/bespoke/hi tech solutions vs scalable/sustainable solutions.

Slides from the talk can be found here and the pre-print of the paper is here (or view it on the ACM Digital Library.)


Royal visit to the OU

HRH The Duke of York, Prince Andrew visited the OU visit1-smyesterday, with his visit being hosted in the Jennie Lee Building where I work.

The Duke has been keen to find out more about the University’s innovative work after hearing Martin Bean (our Vice-Chancellor) interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme when FutureLearn was launched in December last year.

During the visit, the Duke took part in a round-table discussion with graduates and industry partners. He also viewed some interactive demonstrations of our innovative educational technologies, as well as speaking to OU colleagues and some of our current students.

Sadly I wasn’t one of the honoured few who got to meet our Royal visitor but he seemed to enjoy his time spent at the OU. He was especially engaged by discussions with OU staff at the OpenScience Laboratory stand and he took a particular interest in our Accessibility stand (he is patron of several organisations to support blind and deaf people, and is keen to see technology doing as much as it can to help out).

Reflecting on CHI2013

I attended the CHI2013 conference in Paris, France a geochi-group_photo_smcouple of weeks ago, where I had a paper accepted to the GeoHCI workshop, co-authored with my colleague Anne Adams. The workshop was fantastic – great people, great projects – although I did find the main conference a bit overwhelming (with around 3400 attendees, that’s maybe not surprising). It was an intense, colourful and engaging spectacle of a conference, with many diverse research areas and fantastic presentations. I did have a few concerns over the way statistics seemed to be somewhat used and abused by people who should have known better, but overall the papers were of a very high standard. Two of my favourite papers came from the alt.chi stream: ‘Devotional gardening tools’ (paper / video preview) and the incredibly entertaining “CHI and the Future Robot Enslavement of Humankind; A Retrospective” (paper / SlideShare).

Defining catwalk technology

‘Catwalk technology’ is a phrase coined by myself and my colleague Anne Adams in June 2012 and mentioned in this THES article today (and a journal article we currently have in press). The phrase is a fashion design metaphor that refers to technological innovations that represent the most high-tech state-of-the-art and are not easily scalable to mass production or mass usage. These technologies may require special expertise or additional equipment or infrastructure for them to function. They may (although not necessarily) involve high costs. However, a catwalk design, like art, often seeks to change our concepts of an object and also how we interact with it. Catwalk fashions actively seek both to innovate in the materials used and in how they are used by the models. They also seek to change, rather than maintain, practice. A full discussion of the catwalk technology metaphor and its relationship to ‘prêt-à-porter’ (ready-to-wear) technology can be found in our forthcoming TOCHI paper, co-authored with Gary Priestnall from University of Nottingham. Please let me know what you think – we hope we are providing a useful language to promote future discussions – but there are many more conversations to be had around this phrase, not least of all how it might tie in to our ethical responsibilities as researchers and what legacy we might leave behind when we finish our particular ‘research interventions’!

Situ8 demo at the BBC

BBC ManchesterEarlier this week I was invited to visit members of the BBC Knowledge and Learning team in Salford Quays, Manchester, to demonstrate my Situ8 app. I was part of a wider OU visit that included representation from the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi), Open Media Unit (OMU) and other colleagues, including our Head of Broadcasting Caroline Ogilvie. The visit was a great exchange of ideas and new innovations and we look forward to working with the BBC on these more in the future – watch this space!

Visitors from Singapore

Meeting with Singapore visitorsIET recently hosted a visit from members of the Ministry of Education (Educational Technology Division) in Singapore: Dr Victor Lim, Mdm Soon Hong Lim, Mr Jeffrey Looi and Mdm Jean Phua. They were keen to talk to the authors of the Innovating Pedagogy 2012 report, including myself and Rebecca Ferguson (shown in the photo to the right). They met with a number of academics within IET and discussed several topics, including assessment and learning analytics.