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.