Category Archives: Conferences
I’ve just returned from the UX Cambridge conference, having had a wonderful time. I attended interesting, high-quality presentations and gave two myself that were very well received. I met fascinating people and had exciting, energizing conversations. All in all, a great experience.
My major presentation was a one-hour tutorial on designing for older adults. Titled “Older adults: Are we really designing for our future selves?“, the tutorial discussed the common slogan “designing for our future selves” and teased apart the two types of issues that people face as they age — challenges due to changes in our bodies, and challenges due to unfamiliarity with newer technology — and discussed the implications that those two types of challenges present for the design process. I used examples from my own experience of aging (I’m just shy of 64 now) to illustrate and personalize the issues. For example, I didn’t need reading glasses until ten years later than most people do, and I’m still using a low-power magnification; but I’m probably a little early with the challenge of dexterity and stability of my hands, as I have both mild osteoarthritis and essential tremor. The tutorial elicited a lot of great questions, and the exercises saw lively discussion among the participants. People said (and tweeted) a lot of nice things about it, and I had some great conversations afterwards. The slides are on the Sigma Slideshare.
The other presentation was one of the “lightning talks” that these conferences run at the end of the second day. At one of the talks the first day, I had asked a question and raised some objections based on the answer, so the organizers asked me to do a lightning talk. Rather than speak about that objection (which would have taken me longer to prepare), I spoke against the oft-stated idea that a product “should be usable with no training”. Here are the slides from my lightning talk. The Sigma team are planning a blog post about it, so stay tuned. This talk elicited some great questions as well.
This was my first foray into representing Sigma at professional events, and I’d say it went rather well.
It was also my first visit to Cambridge, and I think I’ll enjoy living there.
In my last post I wrote that I had submitted a thing to the Late-Breaking Work venue of the CHI 2016 conference. For some reason I neglected to add a post saying that my submission was accepted. Odd that I would forget something like that.
Anyhow, it was accepted. LBWs are presented as posters, and I’ve just finished preparing mine. You can find the “paper” on the “Papers” page of this blog and you can see a larger version of the poster (one where the text is actually legible) by clicking on the smaller version on this page. (I put “paper” in quotation marks because it’s not considered a paper in the CHI sense of a full research paper that gives quasi-maximum kudos and counts toward academic tenure.)
I’m on the schedule for the Wednesday and Thurssday, so if you’re at CHI I hope you’ll stop by and talk to me during the conference reception or one of the relevant coffee breaks. See you there!
I’ve just learned that Adam Babajee-Pycroft and I will be giving a workshop at the User-Centred Design UK 2015 conference (London, 24-25 October). Called “Guerrilla IA: Drafting an Information Structure When You Can’t Do a Card Sort”, the workshop builds on a talk I gave at World Information Archicture Day 2014, in Bristol. (Here’s my blog post about that talk.) While analyzing comments for a paper on YouTube meditation videos, I realized that the technique I was using (“inductive content analysis”) was building me an information architecture, and that it was a technique that could be useful to IA practice. So I presented this idea to a group of information architects (duh! :-) and Adam approached me afterwards to ask a few questions. He told me he was about to begin a project that would be a good candidate for trying it out, and I was excited to learn that my goal of bringing research into practice might bear fruit so quickly (if goals can be said to bear fruit). Well, the technique turned out to work very well on his project, and the two of us have teamed up to create a workshop/tutorial to introduce and teach people how to use it. We will be giving this workshop for the first time at UCD-UK, so come join us! And stay tuned for further developments. :-)
I may be jumping the gun slightly, posting this tonight when there’s one more day of NordiCHI to go, but my talk was first thing this morning and a lot has happened since then.
I got up at 4:45 to rehearse a couple of more times for a 9am talk. I made a few mistakes in the talk itself, but nothing earth shattering — and I finished on time. Only one person asked me a question during the session itself, and I was kind of disappointed in that (I figured it indicated relatively little interest), but during the rest of the day at least a dozen people came up to me to say how much they enjoyed it, and most of them asked questions or wanted to talk further. Some of the questions were about imaginary abstracts (which are peripheral to the focus of my research, but useful nonetheless) and some were about techno-spirituality (which is the focus of my research :-). Two people urged Mark* and me to participate in future conferences, one about design for quality of life (in 2015) and the other a science fiction track in a 2016 conference. I said I’d love to (of course :-) and would pass the word along to Mark. (Which I promptly did. And of course he was delighted to hear that. :-) I was also invited to give talks to two groups at Edinburgh University in the new year, and of course I said yes. :-)
Lots of interest, lots of interest. Conferences really do wonders for my mood. I skipped the second session this morning to read the papers that were going to be presented in the session I was chairing during the third session, and while I was sitting there I was approached by a guy with a video camera, who said he was asking people to express their reactions to NordiCHI in one word. Mine came to me right away — “energizing” — and he filmed me saying that. “Energizing!” I suspect they’re going to use the clips in the closing plenary event, which I think is pretty cool.
There’s so much going on in the European academic community. I would dearly love to find a way to remain part of it. Stay tuned.
P.S. I’ll put the slides on SlideShare before long. But before I can do that, we have to indicate the sources of the images we’ve used.
*For new readers of this blog, “Mark” is Mark Blythe, my primary PhD supervisor and coauthor of the three published papers to which I’ve contributed. I’m first author on two of them; Mark is first author on the one I presented this morning.
One challenge gives me more trouble than any other in my PhD work. (At least, one is in the forefront at the moment.) As I write for submission to a conference (and even more so to a journal, when I get to that point), I simply must keep in mind (and find an answer to, duh) one question:
“What research question does this paper answer?”
What I learn in my research may be interesting, intriguing, fascinating, new, mesmerizing, etc. etc. … and that’s all well and good. But as I express my thoughts about the paper we’re currently embroiled in writing, Mark (my PhD supervisor and coauthor) keeps asking me what research question my ideas will help the paper answer. I understand this to mean that unless the paper answers a research question, other researchers won’t be interested in reading it or hearing me present it at a conference. And I wouldn’t blame them.
I must keep reminding myself to think of my work in these terms.
“Onward and upward,” as a former boss of mine used to say.
That quote prompted me to google my ex-boss, only to discover that he died less than a month ago. Sad face.
In the next two months I will be presenting at two conferences at Northumbria University. One is the “PGR Conference”, for postgraduate researchers (i.e., research PhD students) to talk about our research. In that one, first- and second-year PhD students who want in get in.
The other one is kind of a big deal: It’s the Northumbria Research Conference, and it’s open to both academic staff (what we call “faculty” in the US) and research students. This one was competitive, and today I received word that my submission had been accepted. As you can imagine, I’m feeling pretty dadgum good about that. :-)
In both cases I will be presenting the paper I gave last September at the Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces conference (here’s a link to my blog post about that). The paper, called “Meditations on YouTube“, is an analysis of viewer comments on YouTube videos for meditation. I had hesitated to submit the same thing to both Northumbria conferences, but I was assured that there will be very few people attending both (probably only the PhD students who are presenting at the larger one), so I did.
I like being in a field that has so few people working in it and so little existing research. I’m not competing for attention with a lot of other people working in the same area, and it’s wide open for research contributions. This doesn’t make me a shoo-in, of course — my work still has to be of good quality — but I suspect it helps a bit.
Something that interests me a lot is what I and my colleagues in human-computer interaction (HCI) and user experience (UX) call research-practice interaction, hashtagged on Twitter as #uxrpi. We’ve held workshops and special interest group sessions at various conferences, to help foster communication and collaboration between research and practice. There’s a lot going on in research in our field, stuff that could be useful to practice but for whatever reason isn’t making it there. (At some point I’ll edit this post to add a link to some relevant material; stay tuned.)
This past weekend I gave a talk that put my money where my mouth was. Last summer I had analyzed viewer comments on YouTube meditation videos, for a paper that I presented at the Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces 2013 conference, here in Newcastle. I used a qualitative analysis method called Inductive Content Analysis*, and partway through the process I realized that what I was doing was a kind of information architecture and could be used in IA practice.
So I decided to convey it to practice. I went to Bristol this past weekend and gave a talk called “Guerrilla IA Techniques: Content Analysis When You Can’t Do a Card Sort“. I think it was reasonably well received.
And now I’m back home, using it in academia. More on that in a few.
*described in Elo & Kyngäs, The Qualitative Content Analysis Process
Last year I attended World Information Architecture Day 2013 Bristol, and I’m delighted to say that I’ll be speaking at this year’s version of that event. While working on my paper for DPPI 2013, I noticed that the content analysis technique I was using was moving me toward an information architecture of the content, and was analogous to an open card sort without participants. Unlike a card sort, however, this technique can be performed by a small number of people (even just one, in a pinch) and doesn’t require a score of participants or any recruiting and screening effort. It’s probably not as good as a full card sort for an IA project, but if you don’t have the resources to do a card sort, this method can give you a good start on an IA.
I’ll say more after my talk; wouldn’t want to spoil it or dissuade people from attending. But let’s just say that this is another (and very welcome) opportunity for me to transfer knowledge from academic research to practice.