Archives for the month of: September, 2012

First lab meeting after the long summer break, so we went for a brief catch up of what everyone has been doing. These are from some rather scribbled notes, but hopefully aren’t totally inaccurate!

  • Ellie – mostly stayed in the lab writing code, with a brief trip to Fun and Games which we’ve already heard about.
  • Judith – working on her home/life balance and keeping everything ticking over! Has come back with some new clarity about her research direction, which sounds very exciting.
  • Lesley – writing up the PREP project into a series of papers and an extremely large report!
  • Liz – nominally intermitting, which actually translated rather well into time to reflect on the research she’s done and do some reading that she felt she should have done earlier. She also attended the Social Policy Association conference (all rumours that she went for a spa in York were apparently completely unfounded).
  • Pejman has had his “busiest summer ever”. He’s run his final study for his PhD, analysed a lot of the data from it, written and submitted a CHI paper for 2013, attended CHI 2012 with a work in progress, and generally been working his socks off.
  • Jim – totally changed his research direction over the summer, from reflection to autism. He’s just come back from an event in Edinburgh that Judith was speaking at.
  • Gareth has been writing up and will be continuing with that. He and Pejman need the hand-me-down todo list next.
  • Eric – looking at older people and design, and as a result has been attending a lot of classes aimed at helping elderly people with technology. He recently attended the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design show at the RCA, and had brought back some great literature for us all to read.
  • Ben went to the ITS conference on Crete, which he said was great. We think he meant the conference as well as the location, although he did say he tacked a holiday on the end (who wouldn’t?). He’s been working on a grant application, which he’ll hopefully share with us at a later meeting.
  • Alison is apparently (the information was passed on by Ben, as Alison couldn’t be at the meeting) implementing her system in preparation for running studies later this year.
  • Edgar went to Mexico to run a study at his other university. He described it as “the complete Mexican experience”… He’s also looking to hit the gym, as six weeks with Mexican cuisine has apparently had a detrimental effect on his physique.
  • Katy has had an extremely eventful summer! She submitted her thesis (yay!), went on holiday (yay!), didn’t get a lecturer position (booooo), has been working with a couple of other departments in Sussex (yay!), got a 1 year lecturing position (yay!), and had her viva postponed at the eleventh hour due to a mix up with paperwork (booooooooo). I think she’s glad term has started, teaching will be a relief after all that!

In other news, it was decided that Friday lab meetings are not working for everyone, so we agreed to shift them to Tuesdays 11-12 instead. It will take a while for that to sink in, so email reminders will be going out regularly!

The reading group was discussed, and it was agreed that we needed to widen participation to other groups. Two suggested topics or foci were suggested: physicality in design, and what makes a good paper. Ben has kindly agreed to take on the task of broaching it with other groups, to see if anyone would be interested in joining us.

We started a list of things for upcoming lab meetings, which looks good so far.

Finally, Pejman and Ellie demonstrated to the rest of the lab to see if they could persuade us all to use it. It’s a project management tool, that would allow us to share the group tasks more centrally and keep track of our process. People made encouraging noises, but we shall (as ever) have to see how it works for the group as a whole moving forward.

Trello screenshot

So all in all a successful meeting. No meeting next Tuesday, so the next one will be on October 9th, 11-12, same place as always.


Term is underway, and the campus is buzzing again. It’s always a bit of a shock after the quiet of the summer!

We are having our first lab meeting of the Autumn tomorrow, at 11am in the Interact lab. It will be good to catch up with the lab members who have been out and about over the summer, from Pejman’s time in Canada, Edgar visit to Mexico, Ellie’s Toulouse trip and Judith and Jim up in Edinburgh. Hopefully we can persuade them to write some posts (Ellie’s looking smug having already done hers!) and the meeting posts will start again soon.

Fingers crossed for a productive term for us all!

Katy Howland1. Name 

Katy Howland

2. Role

Lecturer in Human Centred Technology (from September 2012)

3. Mac or PC?

It depends on the context! I use a desktop Windows machine for work and games, but have a Mac laptop for on the go and casual use.

4. What is your favourite book?

Very hard to single one out, as I go through different phases. In the last few years I’ve been reading a lot of Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, Wilkie Collins and most recently George R.R. Martin. For my all-time favourite I’d have to say Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

5. How did you get here?

After a Philosophy degree (which was fascinating, but left me with an urge to stop theorising and start doing) I enrolled on the Intelligent Systems MSc at Sussex. The Interactive Learning Environments course, taught by Judith Good, inspired me to undertake a dissertation project in the area of technology enhanced learning. From there I was hooked, and went on to start my doctoral research soon after.

6. What are you working on right now?

I recently submitted my PhD thesis, which examined how narrative-based computer-game creation can be used as an activity to improve writing skills for young people, and how additional representational support can increase the benefits of the activity. I am particularly interested in the skills involved in conveying meaning using text in conjunction with other representational modes. I have also been working on the TERENCE project, which explores the potential for story-based games to support poor comphrehenders, and prior to that the Flip project, which involved the design and evaluation of a visual programming language for young game designers.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?

I am inspired whenever I see people empowered through technology to engage creatively with the world around them. Current and past members of the HCT group have been a great source of inspiration too!

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

A design challenge which fascinates me is balancing how complexity is revealed and hidden by interfaces so that users are given as much power as possible, without being overwhelmed by intricacy.

9. What else do you like to do?

I love spending time with my family and friends, seeing live music at gigs and festivals and other mildly active pastimes such as walking and cycling.

10. What’s next for you?

I have just begun working on a scoping project in the area of digital literacy for the EPSRC Digital Economy Communities and Culture Network +. I am keen to explore and delineate the skills needed to take on active roles in 21st century society, and hope to further examine some of the questions arising out of my doctoral research about the ways in which these skills can be taught.

Fun and Games 2012 was an international conference held in Toulouse (France). The conference was attended by Ellie Martin, and this is her write-up.

The Fun and Games conference was a 2-day conference proceeded by 3 (concurrent) 1-day workshops. I sat in on the workshop run by Peta Wyeth and Daniel Johnson on conceptualising, operationalising and measuring the player experience in videogames on the first day. There was much discussion about what affects the player experience, why we wanted to know and how we could measure it. Much of the discussion centred around identifying the differences in a play experience over (for example) interacting with a productivity tool, and where the methods traditionally used in HCI were not quite sufficient to measure this subtly different experience.

The conference-proper started the following day, with full and short papers on a range of topics from novel input devices, new survey instruments etc. The posters were presented in the afternoon along with the demos (both Pejman and I had work-in-progress posters accepted, but sadly Pejman was unable to attend).

There was a lot of interest in the posters, and plenty of opportunities to discuss ideas with the other attendees over coffee throughout the 2 days. The student game competition provided some light relief with some fun physical games (including one that involved hugging – exploring social awkwardness – that was fun to watch but too socially awkward for this Brit!). The prize for the student games was won by Bubble Popper – a multi-player physical exertion game – although the audience vote went to the hugging game (or Musical Embrace, to give it its proper name).

The location for the 2014 conference was announced as Toronto at the end of the conference. I’m looking forward to it!

(I am planning to put more detailed posts on my blog – I will add links to these in the comments below for anyone who is interested.)