I am an academic again!

After a little more than two years at Iteam, I am now back in academia! This week I’m starting my position as a senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg. I will be affiliated with the division of human-computer interaction at the department of applied IT. The division is just starting as I join, so I will be working together with Alexandra Weilenmann to establish it.

I am currently interested in understanding how mobile technology (and IT in general) is affecting our well-being (both positive and negative), and will continue looking in that direction. I’m also very keen on collaborating on this with other researchers, across disciplines so please reach out if you find this topic interesting.

I am excited about being back as an academic, both to do research and to teach and inspire students.

Posted in Research

The Delay Experiment

One of my summer interns, Ivaylo Lafchiev, is working on an interesting project over the summer, looking at the effect delays might have on mobile phone use. He has developed an Android app that introduces a delay when the phone is unlocked. The effect is that the user will have to wait for a short while (seconds) before the phone becomes available to them. The idea is to vary the duration of the delay to see if we can notice any effects on the overall usage of the device (for instance is the amount of time spent on the phone altered).

The app is now ready to be used in an experiment. The app is available on the app store, and the hope is that the app will attract a few users who will keep it installed for at least a few weeks. This is extremely risky. Why would anyone keep an app that makes it harder to use the phone? The hope here is that people do want to become more conscious about their phone use, and therefore are willing to participate in this experiment. The question however then is in what way the data will be biased by participants already wanting to change their phone use? We are trying to mitigate this bias (and investigating it) by first setting the delay to a short time, and after some time, we’ll change the duration of the delay remotely to see if we can stop a difference in phone behaviour. By comparing the use before and after the delay change, and by changing the delay differently for different users, we hope to gather evidence as to whether this will have an effect or not.

I’ve made two personal observations from having the app installed myself. First, each time I unlock the phone, it serves as a reminder that I’m now about to use my phone. This might seem like a weird thing as the fact that I’m using the phone should be a reminder itself. However, I tend to use the phone when ever I have nothing else todo: waiting for the subway or waiting in line at Starbucks for instance. With the delay, I’m reminded, and then given a short time to contemplate whether I actually want to use the phone or if I should just take a few seconds to do nothing. The longer the duration, the more annoying the app is, but it also makes me more aware of my phone use. When the duration is long enough (more than 3 seconds or so) I start to think before using my phone, even before I take it out of the pocket. All of a sudden I’m reminded that I will have to wait a few seconds before the phone becomes available, and I choose often not to subject myself to it because the thing I was supposed to do with the phone was pointless anyway.

I’m looking forward to see what happens with this experiment. Is anyone going to download the app and install it? Is anyone going to keep it installed for long enough for us to collect data on their behaviour? Only time will tell. But until then, I will be more conscious and mindful of my phone use – until Ivaylo makes the duration so long that I will uninstall the app and go back to mindlessly fill every void of my life with mobile phone use.

You can find more information about the project, and download the app, here.

Posted in Research

Teaching Excellence Award

Teaching Excellence Award

Last week I was awarded a Teaching Excellence Award from the college. The award was given for my teaching activities within the school , including: the development of a set of tutorials given to students and staff across levels, supervising undergraduate and postgraduate students, and contributions to undergraduate courses.

Posted in Research

Informing Future Design workshop at MobileHCI

I’m co-organizing an upcoming workshop for MobileHCI this year. It is on the topic of “Informing Future Design via Large-Scale Research Methods and Big Data”. It is loosely based on previous workshops I have co-organized on Research in the Large. This year it goes beyond evaluation and instrumentation of app stores (which in my view have been a big theme for the previous workshops) and looks at how we can find new ways of incorporating large deployments as means to inform design. This means not only to iteratively improve existing systems and design ideas, but to use it in the ideation process of new ideas.

The deadline for the workshop submission is on May 10th and MobileHCI will be in Munich on August 27-30th. Check workshop web site for more info.

Posted in Research

Defended Mobility is the Message

On Monday I finally defended my PhD thesis – Mobility is the Message: Experiments with Mobile Media Sharing. The opponent was David Ayman Shamma from Yahoo! Research. He did an amazing job presenting his interpretation of my work, and we engaged in a lively discussion about the thesis. It was followed by questions from the committee, and the audience.

Now I’ve just got back to Glasgow, where I am visiting Matthew Chalmer’s group doing work in the Populations project at the University of Glasgow. I’ve been here since february and it’s been a super exciting environment so far with great energy! I’m determined that great stuff will come out of what we are doing right now. But more on that another time…

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Representation and Communication at the University of Gothenburg

Today I’m giving a Pecha Kucha style presentation of our CSCW paper ‘Representation and Communication: Challenges in interpreting large social media datasets’ (Rost, M., Barkhuus, L., Cramer, H. and Brown, B.), at the University of Gothenburg during an event about social media research.

The purpose of Pecha Kucha is to make the presentations more focused and to the point. The format is to show 20 slides, each slide for 20 seconds. It restricts you from going on and on. It will be the first time I will do a Pecha Kucha presentation and am looking forward to it. I hope it will be as fun for the audience as I will have while giving it!

Find the abstract of the paper below.

Online services provide a range of opportunities for
understanding human behaviour through the large aggregate
data sets that their operation collects. Yet the data sets they
collect do not unproblematically model or mirror the world
events. In this paper we use data from Foursquare, a
popular location check-in service, to argue for the
importance of analysing social media as a communicative
rather than representational system. Drawing on logs of all
Foursquare check-ins over eight weeks we highlight four
features of Foursquare’s use: the relationship between
attendance and check-ins, event check-ins, commercial
incentives to check-in, and lastly humorous check-ins
These points show how large data analysis is affected by
the end user uses to which social networks are put.
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PhD defence

On March 11, I will defend my PhD thesis ‘Mobility is the Message: Experiments with Mobile Media Sharing’! The official announcement is here, and you can already find the thesis here.

The thesis is comprised of 6 papers and 100 pages of new material that brings the 6 papers together. Find the abstract for the thesis below.

This thesis explores new mobile media sharing applications by building, deploying, and studying their use. While we share media in many different ways both on the web and on mobile phones, there are few ways of sharing media with people physically near us. Studied were three designed and built systems: Push!Music,Columbus, and Portrait Catalog, as well as a fourth commercially available system – Foursquare. This thesis offers four contributions: First, it explores the design space of co-present media sharing of four test systems. Second, through user studies of these systems it reports on how these come to be used. Third, it explores new ways of conducting trials as the technical mobile landscape has changed. Last, we look at how the technical solutions demonstrate different lines of thinking from how similar solutions might look today.

Through a Human-Computer Interaction methodology of design, build, and study, we look at systems through the eyes of embodied interaction and examine how the systems come to be in use. Using Goffman’s understanding of social order, we see how these mobile media sharing systems allow people to actively present themselves through these media. In turn, using McLuhan’s way of understanding media, we reflect on how these new systems enable a new type of medium distinct from the web centric media, and how this relates directly to mobility.

While media sharing is something that takes place everywhere in western society, it is still tied to the way media is shared through computers. Although often mobile, they do not consider the mobile settings. The systems in this thesis treat mobility as an opportunity for design. It is still left to see how this mobile media sharing will come to present itself in people’s everyday life, and when it does, how we will come to understand it and how it will transform society as a medium distinct from those before. This thesis gives a glimpse of what this future may look like.

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CHI 2013 Workshop list

I could not find a list of all workshops for CHI 2013 so I figured I might just as well make a list of the workshops as I find out about them. Email me about missing workshops.

The official list is out and can be found here.


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Ubicomp 2011

Just returned from UbiComp in Beijing. I co-organized the workshop Research in the large together with Henriette Cramer, Frank Bentley, and David Ayman Shamma.

The workshop was a followup on the workshop with the same title from last year. The workshop spurred some really interesting discussions, and most strikingly to me was how this year we were talking more about difficulties and problems, from previous year. Could be that you do not remember negative stuff as well as positive but, that was my impression. Also interesting was that a large part of the discussion was that in order to understand studies conducted in the large, you must combine them with studies in the small – i.e. small scale qualitative studies to investigate and triangulate with your findings in the large. This discussion was largely, if at all, left out last year.

Beijing also seemed to have become much richer than when I was there in 2008. It was cleaner, people more well dressed, and it was impossible to get a cab on a friday night as everyone was taking them. It is definitely an up and coming economy as they say, and I’m looking forward to see what they do with their new found wealth and increasing living standards. I also hope that it quickly reaches the country side as well.

Now it is back to thesis cranking.

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