Archives for the month of: August, 2012

1. Name

Eric Harris

2. Role

Visiting Research Fellow (Informatics) at the Human Centred Technology Lab

3. Mac or PC?

PC, all about the devil you know (or thought you knew!).

4. What is your favourite book?

“A Deepness in the Sky” by Vernor Vinge. The first place I heard of smart dust and animal pack minds.

5. How did you get here?

“Through the twists and turns of fickle Miss Fate”

I received my BSc in Maritime Technology at UWIST in 1985, after which I completed a MSc in Robotics at Coventry University. I joined Bwi Inex Vision systems in 1991, and left in 1996 as Technical & Operations Director for their European and African Operations. After a short time with a design company developing robotic “Hexipod” technology, I went on to be a Research Fellow on various EPSRC sponsored projects at the University of Sussex.

6. What are you working on right now?

I am keen to investigate the relationship between technology, especially new and emerging technologies, and the older community. It seems to me there is great opportunity to enrich the lives of older people with emerging technologies, that better supports their (our) needs and wants. I am working on creating some web space to engage the older community to play a more active role in the design and development of new and existing technologies, rather than being just passive consumers of technology.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?

Bumble bees, blue tack, wine gums, the BBC.

Shooting stars, racing cars, Andrew Mars.

Phidgets, widgets, smart_its and motes.

Serendipity, the preposterous and of course “The Interweb”.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

Focus and concentration

9. What else do you like to do?

Running, walking, gardening and most of all cooking with my wife, daughter and friends.

10. What’s next for you?

If only I knew!

1. Name

Judith Good

2. Role

Reader in Informatics, Director of the Interactive Systems Group, and the Human Centred Technology Lab

3. Mac or PC?

Mac, ever since my first encounter with an Apple IIe longer than I care to remember.

4. What is your favourite book?

It changes all the time, but Michael Ondaatje remains a favourite author.

5. How did you get here?

I arrived at Sussex in 2005, having started out at the University of Edinburgh, where I did my Master’s and Phd and worked as a research assistant, via a transatlantic detour to the University of New Mexico, where I was an assistant professor.

I originally got into the field of artificial intelligence and education as a result of hearing a lecturer describe some software which had been developed for students struggling with maths at university. The system developers had devised a hierarchical model of mathematical competence and embedded it into a intelligent tutoring system. The hypothesis was that the student’s current difficulties may have resulted from incorrectly learning simple concepts on which the current, more complex concepts depend. The system would diagnose the student’s current problems, trace back through its model to determine at what level concepts had not been learned or had been misunderstood, and then reteach those concepts to the student. This probably started my lifelong interest in learning and technology, especially in trying to design tools to help empower students who are struggling.

6. What are you working on right now?

Probably too much!

I’m working with Jim Jackson and Ellie Martin to develop a simulation game called African Farmer (formerly the Green Revolution online game). As its name suggests, students play the role of an African farmer with a small plot of land, and attempt to keep themselves and their families alive. The aim is to allow students to experience the complex decision making processes under which African farmers must operate first hand and, secondarily, to experience the effects of policy decisions at ground level.

I’m also a co-investigator on the ECHOEs project. In it, we developed a technology enhanced learning environment for typically developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs). In the environment, children can interact with a virtual character, and take part in activities which require such skills as joint attention, turn taking, etc. We are still analysing the results, but they are very promising, suggesting, among other things, that the behaviours that we observed when children used ECHOEs actually transfer to other situations, something which is often difficult for children on the autistic spectrum.

I recently finished the Flip project with Katy Howland and Keiron Nicholson, in which we designed a visual programming language to teach young people some basic computational skills in the context of 3D role-playing game creation. I’ve also been working on the Shyness project, in which we were studying how pervasive computing may lead to situations which trigger feelings of shyness in users, but also investigating how it can used in a positive way so that users can manage their presentation and use available feedback from such systems to mediate feelings of shyness.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?

Seeing the joy and confidence that arises when people learn new skills and abilities that they thought were not within their reach, or interact with the world in ways that were not previously possible. These moments often become self-perpetuating.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

Finding enough time to do everything that I want (and need) to do!

9. What else do you like to do?

For the moment, any spare time (and money) seems to go into restoring my overly large Victorian house.

10. What’s next for you?

I would like to focus my work on designing technology for children with Autism Spectrum Conditions, and particularly Asperger’s Syndrome. Many children face such enormous challenges (and resultant stress) just trying to navigate each day, with very little in the way of support. I think that technology could play a huge role in helping these children to feel empowered.

1. Name

Ben du Boulay

2. Role

Retired founder member of group

3. Mac or PC?

Mac

4. What is your favourite book?

It’s a book of a radio play – Under Milk Wood

5. How did you get here? 

I was a lecturer in Computer Science at Aberdeen prior to coming to Sussex.  Before that I had done my PhD at Edinburgh in the AI Department and had worked as a school teacher and in industry as a programmer/analyst.

6. What are you working on right now?

Developing a pedagogy around motivation and affect, and understanding the problems of learner programmers.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?

I’m eclectic, but I particularly like the work of Tanja Mitrovic and that of my friend Hugh Noble who continues to be creative and thoughtful about many issues, both academic and political, long after he retired.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

The lack of fine grained data.

9. What else do you like to do?

Walking on the Downs, landscape photography, playing badminton.

10. What’s next for you?

Gentle decline.

1. Name

Jim Jackson

2. Role

PhD candidate

3. Mac or PC?

A PC works best for me just now, but it’s not like a religious commitment.

4. What is your favourite book?

I don’t have one favourite – there are too many good books out there. Anna Karenina, Gilead, The Age of Innocence, Cultural Amnesia… if I answered the question next week I’d probably give you a different list. However I consistently find myself turning to Etty Hillesum’s Diary & Letters for inspiration.

5. How did you get here?

Serendipity. After working in the City and in technical engineering I came across the HCT group while studying Creative Writing & Personal Development at the university. I liked the people and hung around after I’d completed the MA.

6. What are you working on right now?

A couple of things. I’m working with my colleague Ellie on The Green Revolution Project, developing an educational game based around the lives of small-scale African Farmers. Just now I’m playing around with numbers for hazards, crop yields and nutrition, trying to avoid killing off everyone before they’ve had the chance to learn something. To date my PhD research work has been concerned with how reflection might be fostered in a multi-user gaming environment, though I’m thinking about moving into a new area of study.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?

Mainly from the people around me – my family, friends and work colleagues. I also find stepping outside the area in which I’m working gives me new ideas and perspectives.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

Staying focused on one area of research; not losing sight of the research questions while chasing down solutions to real-world problems.

9. What else do you like to do?

I enjoy reading, photography and exercise – mainly at the gym these days though I’d like to start running again. I also spend many hours each week neglecting my garden.

10. What’s next for you?

I’ve always had a keen interest in human development – what helps us change, the things that can cause us to get stuck – so work in this area would be a possibility. But given my track record, probably something unexpected.