Phd-Projects

DecorAction

DecorAction is a PhD project where we explore interaction techniques with decorative objects that surrounds our environments, extending their capabilities, meanings and value further than aesthetics to propose functions that are beyond their traditional purpose. The project utilizes smart materials (malleable, shape-changing or colour-changing) that can be embedded within everyday decorative objects and interior elements (furniture, curtains, cushions, wall-art, etc) to add interactivity and playfulness to the interior space.

The aim is to explore this design space and investigate ways of how the interior design can interact by soft sensing and actuation i.e. appearance-change (shape-change, skin-change, texture, colour, pattern, light/shadows) to support the physiological and psychological well-being of people within the space, using the already existing interior decorative objects.

Metadating: Exploring the Romance of Personal Data

Metadating’ was a future-focused speed dating event where single participants were invited to ‘explore the romance of personal data’. Participants engaged in reflection and self-tracking prior to the workshop, and created ‘data profiles’  which they used to ‘date’ other participants. We used this fun and provocative context to investigate the potential social role of personal data as it is used to communicate and illustrate identity. The project highlighted the value of ambiguity, a human aesthetic, and opportunities for designing future data services which afford a range of human relationships with data in everyday life.

 

Data Collage

Understanding Smart Journal Practices

DayOne SK

Taking a diary has long been an envisaged use of a smartphone. However, there are an emerging class of smartphone apps such as DayOne, Momento and HeyDay which go further than a simple note-taking app, and combine data from camera rolls, social media and other personal data such as location, activity, calendar appointments, food intake, sleep or data from a wearable fitness tracker. As such, these Smart Journal apps are an interesting melange of the deliberately captured, personally crafted journal entry, and the passive capture of personal data. They are novel digital possessions, and a rich site to study how different media render the past in different ways and, more fundamentally, provide strong examples of the everyday things people desire to remember and look back on.

In this project we have undertaken interviews with traditional diary keepers and users of several smart journaling apps to understand their practices, motivations and the diversity of records actively and passively created, which are meaningful for people to preserve and look back upon.

 

 

Digital Public What?… An Interactive Design Documentary Prototype

Since the phrase ‘Digital Public Space’ was coined (Ageh, 2012), the notion of a ‘digital public space’ has been explored and problematized through a variety of research projects through the Creative Exchange (CX) Knowledge Exchange (KE) framework. While the original definition of the term continues to influence discourses across CX, its explicit link to BBC digital archives has been supplemented with a variety of insights from on-the-ground researchers. A series of mini-workshops, led by Bowers and Stewart, at the CX PhD symposium in Newcastle in July 2014 revealed diverse impressions of ‘digital public space’ across CX and the need for an improved working definition.

The question of how to synthesise insights from across CX is one of its central reflexive questions and, indeed, first-hand accounts of ‘digital public space’ from the variety of creative practitioners and academic researchers in CX have yet to be documented.
Video documentaries offer a rich platform for epistemological and semantic exploration within research by using narrative forms to structure complex multimedia data. In this paper, we present Digital Question Space, a video documentary inspired by Question Bridge (Johnson & Thomas, 2012) which used a chain of responses and questions to “facilitate a dialogue between a critical mass of black men from diverse and contending backgrounds”. Starting with a subjective definition of ‘digital public space’, we invited 18 Creative Exchange researchers (PhD students and senior academics) to respond to the previous definition and “improve upon it”, “expound upon (an aspect of) it”, or “ignore and redefine it”.

The result is a 15-minute documentary that presents a series of subjective facets of the ‘Digital Public Space’ through the voices of those who have been working in it and with it in the Creative Exchange Hub for the last 9-24 months.

We developed this idea into a prototype method for civic engagement that uses interactive video documentary to capture discourses within focused settings (eg workshops or focus groups) and translocate them to public spaces (via interactive vox-pops) and online spaces (via an interactive web- based tool). Our method aims to facilitate encounters and the exchange of perspectives between communities across these spaces. We describe how the method was developed through five stages, beginning with a workshop and culminating in a prototype design tool and offer preliminary insights into its potential benefits. We argue that a key strength of this method lies in its potential to support situated encounters and build connections between researchers, designers, institutions and members of the public, with potential benefits in the areas of user-centered research and design. Finally, we outline directions for future development, including a model for lightweight civic engagement that uses an “interactive design documentary” as a central component.

A full-text write up of this project was accepted as a work-in-progress at TVX2015, which can be found here:
http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2755518

Red Tales: A Participatory Interactive Documentary

Red Tales is a participatory interactive documentary about red squirrel conservation in the UK. It is composed entirely of user-generated content from diverse and geographically separated conservation communities across the UK. It features a variety of video, image, sound and text-based content, representing contributions from over 40 individuals. A unique, dynamically-generated introduction sequence (composed from the user-generated content) sets the scene for the documentary and introduces a suite of interactive navigational tools that help audiences explore and create their own interpretations of the content.

Rather than being a ‘standalone’ film, Red Tales integrates with existing ecologies, both online (via social media) and offline (via different co-located communities). Users can ‘curate’ and share collections of existing content, as well as add new content to the “living” documentary. Our aim was to reflect the heterogeneity of the content as well as the ‘unresolved’ nature of the topic. Thus, rather than presenting a linear narrative, audiences are invited to explore and contribute to the documentary through a technical framework and an interaction paradigm that builds equally upon current research in documentary/media studies and social computing, and pioneering interactive documentaries (e.g. Bear71 / 18 Days in Egypt).

Red Tales was produced through participatory workshops and developed in response to an ethnographic study of the red squirrel conservation community that revealed its inherent diversity, shared concerns and hundreds of individuals’ stories. The collaborative, multidisciplinary and participatory approach used in the development of the film demonstrates the potential of a new configuration for academic and third sector engagement, developed by the AHRC Creative Exchange Knowledge Exchange Hub. Furthermore, our ambitious, experimental filmmaking process yielded valuable insights into the practicalities of media production within the ‘digital economy’, particularly in relation to forging new experiences, supporting grassroots communities and production methods for co-creative, non-linear documentary narratives.

App Movement – Community Commissioning of Mobile Technologies

Start your app movement today.

App Movement is a platform that was developed at Open Lab which enables any individual, community or organisation to propose, design and automatically generate a multi-platform mobile application.

The platform raises research questions around the implications of community commissioning for mobile technologies as well as the use of technology to centralise, vocalise and design for issues within communities to support civic action.

App Movement is a platform that allows anyone with an app idea to start a campaign and gather support from the community. Much like crowdfunding platforms, such as Kick Starter, the campaign must hit a target number of supporters in order to confirm there is a real demand behind the idea. This target also ensures that the app will have a sufficient number of users who are ready to contribute content and promote the app. Once the app has reached it’s target it will enter the design phase whereby supporters can contribute towards the app name, colour scheme and rating options as well as vote on submissions made by other members. This democratic process allows every community member to have an equal say on the final design of the app. Once this phase is complete the idea moves to the final phase where the mobile app is automatically generated using the design features voted for by the community.

Watch the video to see how it works or click here to find out more.

Cinehack: Cape Town

Cinehack: Cape Town is a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project, which involved the production of music videos with musicians from the Cape Town Hip hop community. PAR involves working closely with communities to “address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers” (Reason and Bradbury, 2008). In this study, we worked with five musicians and groups of musicians, including a pilot study in Amsterdam with Mingus (a.k.a X24th). In Cape Town, we worked with ‘The Archetypes’ (a 3-MC crew from Guguletu), ‘BFK’ (an MC from Firgrove who works closely with producers J-Beatz and Evo), ‘Die Skerpste Lem’ (aka Lee-Urses Alexander, a respected MC from Paarl) and ‘The AA Meetings’ (a collective from Guguletu, led by Khobs Makuba, which also includes members of ‘The Archetypes’).

We designed the study around a cyclical ‘plan > produce > reflect > adapt’ process. Through each consecutive production, beginning with Mingus and finishing with The AA Meetings, we adapted the process, based on our previous experiences, to try to offer as much of the creative process to the artists as possible. The idea behind this was to sow the seed of a sustainable community of video production and learn what support might be valuable to the community and how best this might be delivered.

The Videos

1) Mingus – ‘Stay’ – We worked closely together with Mingus, collaboratively discussing locations, sequences, shots and compositions for a couple of weeks beforehand. Mingus provided us with a lot of materials which suggested a particular ‘style’ of video; city-based, urban, laid-back, dawn/dusk lighting… as well as some ideas for specific shots. We produced the video together over 3 days at locations chosen and organised by Mingus and edited it afterwards based on A structure designed by Mingus. The final video can be seen here:

 

 

2) The Archetypes – ‘Black or White’ – Archetypes were our first collaborators in Cape Town, so we tried to hit the ground running. On the first night in town, we met and discussed influences, but the ideas for the video were a combination of improvised locations and ad-hoc performances over the next few days. the main difference was that there were three different ideas to include. The concept of ‘a trip to the beach’ was conceived (though never committed to any form of document) by the group, but Guy and I took the lead on shot composition and direction. The editing was completed over two days in liaison with Sole & Lolo, but was mastered by Guy. The resulting video can be seen here;

 

 

3) BFK – ‘Anyway’ – On this shoot we left a lot of the creative decision-making to BFK, Evo and J-Beatz, everything from planning and locations to cinematography and editing. We took a step back and advised, and acted as technical operators of the cameras (predominantly the Canon EOS 5D mkii that we had also used to shoot both the previous videos), but the majority of the sequences, shots and locations were designed and shot by BFK, Evo and J-Beatz. Over the course of thee meetings in the week leading up to the shoot, we designed and built hardware (including a flexible dolly rig) while the guys sourced props and extras (including B-Boys) needed to realise their vision. The editing was compled by Evo, using a loaned laptop with Adobe Premiere CS6, with a minimal amount of help and guidance from us.

 

 

4) Die Skerpste Lem – ‘Steck Op Hede’ – This video was planned and designed by Lee and shot entirely on his iPhone, using a home-made steadicam designed in 3D software by Guy and printed on a commercial 3D printer. The shoot was completed in a single day and edited the following day, with Lee’s input, before being mastered and graded based on Lee’s specification. It was filmed in Lee’s home town of Paarl. Although this was the most technically lightweight shoot, we brought more of our own expertise into the process.

Sterk Op Hede

Thinking Through Making: a practical approach to research and knowledge creation.

Photo Ryan Collins

Photo Ryan Collins

In recent years, Tim Ingold has articulated and asserted the importance of making as a methodology in anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. His work adds to a growing discourse on how practice-based research operates and what this method offers to a number of fields. Ingold’s Thinking Through Making describes how learning takes place through a direct, responsive engagement with physical materials. For example, using wood as a material, a good craftsman requires a practical and physical responsiveness to create a well-crafted object. This analogy can be extended to apply to sound design and sonic art, and how sound is considered through its materiality and therefore a process of understanding its properties. This is evident in the work of Pierre Schaeffer who developed theories around Musique Concréte in the mid 19th Century.

Christopher Small’s earlier work Musicking argues that historically music has been defined by individual static works or composers, rather than experientially as an act of listening, making or performing. Small’s concept of musicking, like Ingold’s thinking through making, is an active, practice-based understanding of what music is and does.

Both Small and Ingold contribute to a growing interest in research that is based on fluid forms of understanding that are acquired and changed through processes of making, in reciprocal relation to materials, places and people, rather than static notions of knowledge more familiar to western academic thinking. This expansion of how research is carried out and conceived is changing the nature of study in a number of disciplines. One example of this is a growing interest in new models of PhD research, which are practice-based and carried out in collaboration with non-academic organisations and ‘outside’ practitioners.

In parallel, or possibly in conversation, with the increased interest in making within academic communities there has also been a wider rise in the popularity of making in domestic and non-academic contexts. Since the late 1990s this movement has gained momentum and followers, as can be seen in the huge increase in ‘Hackspaces’ and ‘Makerspaces’ internationally.

As an artist, my practice is situated within sound art and draws upon soundscape and electroacoustic composition, performance, making and DIY technology. My work aims to open up alternative listening experiences through constructing (or heightened awareness of) sonic environments and attempts to engage participants in experiencing new aural contexts. Through a critical yet practical orientation and building upon the work of Ingold and Small, my work will be a multi-faceted approach to researching within the field of making, sound art and knowledge production through creative practice.

The Development and Evaluation of a Peer Support System for Children and Young People with Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in the world today and numbers of affected individuals in the UK are predicted to rise, raising concerns not only for the health of the nation but also the capability of a healthcare system which is already at breaking point. Type 1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in an inability to produce insulin. It can develop at any age but is usually diagnosed before the age of 40, and it is the most common type of diabetes in children and young people. In order to prevent the occurrence of potentially serious related health complications, such as retinopathy, neuropathy, and stroke, rigorous and continual self-management must be followed from diagnosis through the completion of behaviours including blood glucose monitoring, insulin adjustment, and carbohydrate counting.
Adolescence is a developmental period which is marked with a number of transitions, including changes in the school and social environment, struggles for autonomy and self-reliance, and hormonal changes related to pubertal growth. Treatment adherence and glycaemic control is frequently reported as being poor within this cohort, which raises the question ‘how do we encourage children and young people to take an active role in the management of their disease?’
Various health care technologies have been developed in recent years with a diabetic user-group in mind, although few have been designed and tested exclusively for and with this cohort. According to Lave and Wenger’s (1991) communities of practice theory, an imperative element of learning is the process of social participation and the evolution of a sense of community and support amongst participating individuals. This intervention aims to instigate the development of such a community amongst adolescents and young people with type 1 diabetes using a mobile phone-based system. A participatory design approach will be adopted for the development of the system which will see users included as co-designers and consulted at each stage of the design process, so as to instil within them a sense of empowerment and to promote the development of an efficient and usable system.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Forays into Disability Discrimination Law and Ubiquitious Computing


What is the use of an assistive technology if the people who could benefit from it are not in practise able to access it? For many people with disabilities, this is a particularly concerning problem, because they are not necessarily able to demonstrate that they have a legal right to use a given assistive technology in a given context.

This issue is likely to be amplified in the context of Ubiquitous Computing, and the DIY systems that this effectively enables applications that may help a given group of disabled people to be developed in the space of a week or a weekend. Yet, in some instances it can take a matter of decades for a reasonable adjustment to be finally proved reasonable in a court of law.

This project is therefore aimed at helping to address this state of affairs, whilst also looking towards using activity recognition as a means towards identifying and evidencing both inaccessibility and the efficacy of a given ubiquitous assistive technology, with the natural aim of helping those with disabilities better assert their rights in law in relation to such technologies.