Category Archives: Publications

My PhD thesis is now online!

I don’t have much to say with this post, except that I have received word that my thesis has been placed in the Northumbria Research Link. Here’s the link to it. I’d love to know what you think, and if you’re interested in collaborating on future research, please do get in touch.



This afternoon I met with my PhD supervisor to discuss the reviewers’ comments on our submission to the DPPI conference, and to my surprise and great relief he was very reassuring. The reviewers did not criticize the goals, the method, or the data analysis, he pointed out — which means that the study itself was not in question. Their concerns related to the way it was framed, the lack of a clear statement of goals and audience, the need to add a few more references to related work, and the weakness of the design implications. All of these are straightforward and can be corrected fairly easily, and Mark and I decided how we will do that. He also said that pretty much all of the reviews gave mid-range numbers and that some papers were conditionally accepted, so my mid-range number with unconditional acceptance is good.

We decided to take the design implications out of the paper  altogether. I will write them up separately as tips for creators of meditation videos on video sharing sites, and will post it right here in this very blog.

Whew. :-)

Corpus verba academica

I stayed up waaaaay too late last night, to meet the deadline for submitting a conference paper — a real research paper, in this case, rather than an “alt” paper like the previous one. And I’ve been thinking about language.

I’ve been forced to use the word “corpus”.

Now, I heartily dislike this word — it’s ugly-looking and ugly-sounding. It evokes images of corpulent corpses (which, sadly, I’m likely to be, eventually), and it’s stuffy and off-putting and heavy-sounding to non-academicians. (Or so I suspect, having been one myself for almost 40 years.)

Unfortunately, however, it’s the right word for this job. “This job” being, referring to a body of data and information that one has collected and on which one has conducted some analyses.

This word is unavoidable. “Corpus” is terminology.

For the last few years, I have been involved in efforts to bring research and practice closer together in my field of human-computer interaction. My colleagues and I call this “research-practice interaction“, or “RPI” (for what I hope are obvious reasons). One issue that emerged very early, when we started looking at what keeps research and practice apart, is that academic papers are usually written in a language that’s fairly inscrutable to practitioners, who generally aren’t steeped in that language. This produces a barrier to getting research results understood by practitioners and used in improving the design of actual products. One of RPI’s goals is to reduce unnecessary inscrutability and make academic writing easier to read. (“Unnecessary” being the operative word there.) We know we aren’t going to change academic culture as a whole (nor should we), but if we can get academics to begin to write some of their works in an accessible style — especially research findings that might have implications for practice — we will have reduced those barriers at least a little.

When I was preparing to start my PhD, I read two books about the process (specifically for the UK), suggested to me by my friend Maria Wolters, of Edinburgh University. Both books said that one objective of the PhD thesis (“dissertation” in the USA) is to show that the candidate can write in academic language. On reading this I rolled my eyes, but on thinking further I do see value in it. But methinks that one does not have to do it any more than necessary.

“Corpus” is necessary, I have decided. It is not just language, it is terminology. It has a specific meaning, understood for what it is by those who need to evaluate the work and build on it. The more practitioner-familiar “data base” is the closest thing I can think of in “plain language” (“plain” to technically oriented folks, that is :-), but it doesn’t mean quite the same thing; and in any case it conjures up images of data plus a data base management system.
So perhaps my RPI friends and I have another assignment: Build a dictionary of academic terminology for practitioners. Or perhaps there’s one out there already. A corpus verba academica, as it were.

Of academic papers and presentations

I’m headed off soon to Paris for the CHI2013 conference, the premier conference in human-computer interaction. I’ll be presenting in the alt.chi venue the paper that I wrote with my supervisor (Mark Blythe), called “Spirituality: There’s an app for that! (but not a lot of research)”. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the presentation slides. (Actually, I’m currently writing this blog post, but you know what I mean.) Then I have to finish writing the script and rehearse and tweak the talk, to make sure I stay within ten minutes. (Here’s the draft that we submitted. I’ll post the final paper after the conference ends and will post the presentation to SlideShare or Vimeo [or both].)

I should add that, although I’ve been around CHI since the beginning of time (I was at the 1982 conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, considered by many to be Where It All Began — and it was definitely where everything started for me), and although I’ve been on the program numerous times (mostly for SIG sessions, although I was on a panel in 2011), this will be my first academic presentation there (or in any venue, really). I’m especially excited to be realizing a long-held dream.

Mark and I met this week to discuss next steps, and we mapped out papers for both DPPI 2013 and CHI 2014. I won’t say what they are until they’ve been accepted or rejected, but let me just say that I am excited about both of them. The DPPI paper is due on 1 June and I have data to collect before I can start writing it, so as soon as I get back from CHI next week I will have to spend pretty much all of my waking hours on that for the following four weeks. (The CHI paper is not due until 18 September, so I have some time on that. Part of the CHI paper will go into my PhD thesis as well, so this work will serve both purposes.)

Milestones Part 5: First academic paper accepted!

My first paper as an academic has been accepted!

A month ago I submitted to “alt.chi” — a venue of the CHI conference for contributions that are somewhat on the edge — a paper that I had written with my supervisor on the state of HCI research into techno-spirituality and some of the gaps that remain. Notifications of acceptance were supposed to come on Monday (two days ago), but they had a lot of submissions this year and it wasn’t until this morning that the email arrived in my inbox.

“Dear Elizabeth Buie,” it said. “Thank you for submitting to alt.chi 2013. We are sorry to tell you that we are not able to include your paper Spirituality: There’s an App for That! (But Not a Lot of Research). We were able to accept 25% of the submissions we received, which required making difficult choices and rejecting some submissions that were well-liked by their reviewers and/or our jury.”

What a disappointment! So I read the jurors’ comments appended to the email and wrote what I hoped was a thoughtful reply to them. My supervisor and I discussed the possible reasons and identified another conference to which we would submit a revised version of the paper.

Late this afternoon I received another email from the chairs. “Dear Elizabeth,” it read, “We deeply apologize. You paper should have been accepted but was not due to glitches in our reviewing-system and our unfortunate space constraints. … [co-chair’s name] and I have amended this error and invite you to present your paper Spirituality: There’s an App for That! (But Not a Lot of Research) at alt.chi 2013.”

Whew! And Yay!!

We have four days to incorporate reviewer and juror comments and submit the final camera-ready version. That’s going to be a big challenge, given that tomorrow I will be at a workshop all day and will be staying in Edinburgh for a couple of days afterward, to take advantage of being there anyhow and enjoy the city. But maybe I can spend some time with my laptop in a cafe. After all, Edinburgh is only 90 minutes from Newcastle by train, which costs only a little over $30 round trip. Nothing says I can’t go again sometime.

So it looks as though I’m going to go to Paris in the the spring.

Many people would be envious. Don’t get me wrong — I’m very excited about presenting at CHI. (I’ve led special interest groups and workshops, and I’ve been on a panel, but I’ve never before presented research there.) But I confess that Paris doesn’t appeal to me very much. Possibly it’s because I don’t speak French and don’t like being dependent. But it can’t be just that — I don’t speak Croatian, but that didn’t stop me from going to Croatia for ten days, almost two years ago. If it were somewhere in Italy I’d be over the moon, I can tell you.

My supervisor and I are still planning to prepare a submission for that other conference. We will have to look at their policy on self-plagiariam to ensure that what we submit is adequately different from our alt.chi paper, but we have already identified some things we can do to add on to what we’ve got in this one. And some things we can remove.

And now I have to call it a night; it’s almost 11:30 pm and I’ve got a train at 6:25 am tomorrow.