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Thoughts on NordiCHI 2014

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.

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My DPPI 2013 Conference Experience

The 2013 edition of the Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces conference (silly name, eh?) took place in Newcastle this past week. (Well, Gateshead, actually, but that’s just across the river from Newcastle and I had only a little over a mile to walk.) It was a very intense time for me: I participated in the Doctoral Colloquium on Tuesday, presented a paper on Wednesday, and chaired a session on Thursday. (I’ll post a link to the paper itself after it’s posted to the ACM Digital Library.)

The DC took the full day on Tuesday. Each of the five PhD students presented his or her project and got questions and feedback from the four organizers and the other students. I received some interesting questions and useful suggestions that can only make my project better. And the group found no major issues with my project. (Not that I was really expecting any — I’ve got a great supervision team — but it’s always a relief when things are well received.) We ended up with presentations and Q&A from the organizers, so I asked how my age would affect my employment opportunities after I finish. She said well, the retirement age is being increased all over Europe and she thought that my many years of professional experience would be a big plus for me.

My presentation went fairly well, although I thought it could have been better. The main problem for me was lack of sleep: I had received some major comments/feedback from within the university on Monday, and I had stayed up late making the changes and also sat in the back of the room for the morning sessions, completing them. So I didn’t have time to rehearse the new version and I felt that I stumbled here and there. But I was very happy with my slide deck (which you can see on SlideShare), and several people said they thought my talk was very interesting and they look forward to my future work. One guy even said he uses YouTube videos in his own meditation! I also got some interest from people in various UK universities for having me come and give a seminar to their classes. One thing I really like about the UK is that there are so many universities in such a small area.

The weather was glorious (everybody now thinks Newcastle is always sunny, haha), the company was congenial, the networking and discussions were terrific, the wifi was functioning, and the food was tolerable.

Slides of my CHI 2013 alt.chi talk

I’ve just uploaded to SlideShare the slides of yesterday’s alt.chi talk. Hope you enjoy them.

I was planning to do a video later, but maybe I’ll just add sound to the SlideShare one. Stay tuned. That won’t happen until June, though, because I’ve got data to collect and a paper to write.

My first CHI as an academic

I’m sitting in the hotel lobby, waiting for the airport shuttle, on my way home from CHI 2013. I’ve been attending the CHI conference since the beginning (although I’ve missed roughly a third of them, overall) and have been heavily involved since 2008. But this was my first one as an academic.

First let me say that I think my presentation went very well. The timing was good, the room was overflowing and there was a good energy there, and people stayed to ask me additional questions after the session ended. Plus, I got a couple of ideas for possible application areas after I finish my PhD.

One of the profs at my university (not one of my supervisors) asked me today if it was very different for me this year, after having attended as a practitioner for so long. I initially said no, but I’m rethinking that.

My conversations with the many people I know from past conferences were full of talk about the big change in my life and how things were going. A lot of people didn’t know that I had “jumped ship and jumped the Pond”, as I put it, so for them I was full of news. And it was lovely to be contributing to the body of HCI knowledge that this conference is about.

But people didn’t really treat me differently, I felt — or if they did, they were even more positive toward me than they had been before. That’s why I initially said no, it wasn’t different.

But it was different.

It was even better.

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.)

Video for alt.chi paper, CHI 2013

Authors of accepted CHI presentations were required to prepare 30-second videos this year, to entice people to come to their talks. It took some thinking, and the vision of what we should do was basically my supervisor’s, but eventually I built it, wrote and recorded the voiceover, got permission to use the music, and integrated two soundtracks with the video to produce something nice. I should have used a larger size so it would look better on the video monitors, but the conference provide any guidance on video size (only file size).

Anyhow, here it is:

Spirituality: There’s an App for That! (But Not a Lot of Research) from Elizabeth Buie on Vimeo.

(The music behind the voiceover is from Robert Parsons’s mid-16th-Century “Retribue Servo Tuo”, sung by Collegium Cantorum of Greater Washington DC, including Yours Truly.)