I have a new job!

Good news. I’m thrilled to be joining the HCI group at the Institute for Visualisation and Information Systems, Univeristy of Stuttgart as a postdoc starting June 1!

Engineering Visions Intensive Programme

I was recently very glad to have been invited as a teacher to a great summer school in Switzerland. I got three days to work with some amazing students, meet other teachers and test myself. I also got to enjoy a lovely weekend in the Alps. Here are some details.

I taught two and a half days in a programme focused on “engineering visions”. The idea was simple – student from different countries are divided into groups and given a rather general theme to think about. They then develop their general vision. When they finally meet in Switzerland, they have two weeks to refine the vision and deliver a report, a presentation and a poster. Sounds easy and sounds like my design competence could come in handy, especially when a user perspective on the vision is required. Well, it wasn’t that easy.

Firstly, it turned out that all the students were at Bachelor’s level and taking an engineering degree. This is all fine, but given that I usually teach in Master’s programme, it got me thinking. I had to immediately forget all kinds of advanced science-based evidencing I thought of and concentrate making the visions concise and attractive to those attending the final presentations. The second issue was that I entered the programme when in its very middle, on a Friday afternoon. The students were quite sleepy to put it lightly.

Seeing the class was hardly responding to me talking, I decided to forget the pre-planned schedule for the rest of the day and start getting to know the people and the projects. I begun with some warm-up exercises and tried to get them talk. Slowly, but steadily, people started expressing their views and concerns and I decided to split the class into subgroups dependent on needs.

And the needs were quite varied. There were product-oriented groups that were eager to prototype, but I also saw daydreamers immersed in science-fuelled visions of an ideal future. So how do you convince dreamers that their visions need to be communicated to a wider audience to be valuable? Well, I had them tell stories of a better world. And it worked.

After all, despite the initial dissatisfaction with “that design thinking thing”, all groups managed to build a meaningful prototype and tell a convincing story about their vision. Highlights include a cardboard car dashboard with changing landscapes behind the windshield, a humanoid robot with scary voice and Dolan’s face and the biggest concept map matrix I’ve ever seen.

I certainly did not teach these guys design or problem-finding, but it seems that some classical design tools can be useful in many weird ways. I think that, at least, they will consider considering the user perspective in their many exciting engineering endeavours.

Here’s some photos of the amazing people I met in Buchs and some of their creations.
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Revamping the tabletop course

It was confirmed that I will be the official and only teaching assistant in the tabletop computing course. This will give me a great opportunity to revamp the practical part of the course and create new and, hopefully, exciting project proposals. I am working hard and looking to an eventful spring. Stay tuned.

Big data sources for CIU 280 Tutorial

There are the (big) data sources for the CIU280 tutorial on Tue, 11/11/14.

Generally, these are nice data sources.

Remember to download two sets – the one, for which you’re designing and the one you will be using.

FRY – http://yourfry.com/
MAR – http://bioinfo.uib.es/~joemiro/marvel.html
FIS – http://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/guide-eating-ontario-sport-fish-advisory-database

NordiCHI YAY!

I am soon going to spend a, hopefully, wonderful week in Helsinki. With two full papers accepted and the Doctoral Consortium, NordiCHI is loking great for me.

But this is not a bragging post. This is about the unqiue Nordic HCI community. I am extermyl lucky to be part of what we can now call an interlectual tradition that is rich and unique. We believe NordiCHI should not just be a smaller version of CHI and we are sticking to the plan. Both our papers are a bit unorthodox and I’m happy I’ll be able to present them to the diverese NordiCHI community.

This gives more hope that there is still room for HCI that investigates the space between Ps and Ns, social science and design. And that is great feeling.

Do check out our papers here and here.

Destine: The important task

This post is intended mainly for the roughly 40 students who will attend Destine starting on July 6th in Łódź. However, I think this is quite reusable, so let’s have this as a public thing and some content for my personal website.

Dear Destine attendees,

This is your most important task to be performed at home. This work will directly impact your project and this is what you bring to Poland for you teammates. Listen carefully.

We want you to dive into the problem domain in your local settings and attempt to understand the human side of your projects. To achieve that, we ask you to perform two out of three activities: observe, interview and look for inspiration.

Observe

Observing how people perform different activities will enable you to get a better understanding of how and why things happen in the real world. Start by watching this video. Then, it’s time for action. Think of a location in your neighbourhood that’s relevant for your project. If your topic is food, go to a restaurant. If you Destine adventure is about medicine, visit a GP’s office. Pick a maximum of three people to observe and try to understand the details of their activities. Remember to take field notes. This document will help you structure your observations into a format that can be shared with your friends on Trello.

Interview

Interviews are a great way to understand your users and obtain knowledge that can impact your project. Interviewing is a complex art and there are many ways to conduct interviews. Begin by reading section 3 of this document. This will provide you with an overview of what interviewing can offer. Now it’s time to plan an interview. This of an interviewee that can provide you with things you don’t know. This could be a bank clerk. This could be your mum. Section 7.4 of that book will help you plan and document your interview. Analyse your interview and write interview notes. Share these with your friends on Trello.

Look for inspiration

This task may seem easy, but it’s crucial. Look for what other people have done to understand your problem domain and what solution have already been implemented. Scientific databases such as Google Scholar or the ACM DL may be useful. Investigate if researchers tried to tackle your problem and what approaches were used. However, local and global media can be equally useful. Prepare a set of notes with at least three references for your friends to review.

We encourage you to discuss your results on Trello. However, we’re make sure you’ll spend plenty of time doing that on site. Go! Explore! Inspire!