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Between October and December last year, Rens Brankaert visited UTS as a Key Technology Partner Visiting Fellow. In his work as an associate professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, Rens focuses on inclusive human-centred design, interaction design and multi-stakeholder innovation. During his visit to Sydney, the focus was on his work to improve the quality of life for those with dementia and the people in their vicinity. The aim is to design user-friendly products for people with dementia that help them live their daily lives and improve wellbeing and/or increase their autonomy.
In a recent interview with UTS’ Annabel Jeffrey and Alex McAlpin, both Rens and Gail Kenning (who invited Rens to UTS) acknowledge that a very people-centred design process in this area brings unique challenges. As Gail said: “A lot of the work we do is not just changing the system to improve quality of life, it’s figuring out how to engage the people in the design process itself. That ensures the systems we devise work for people in all respects.” Establishing a relationship is key to ensure a successful process, which Rens acknowledged in the interview: “It’s easy when someone’s able to communicate on the same level, but to have a balanced research relationship with someone with dementia, that’s challenging.”
Rens’ visit to UTS enabled him and Gail to continue their conversations and develop further research plans and build on earlier visits by Gail to Eindhoven University. The partnership between the universities helps both researchers to play a stronger role in the research on participatory design processes involving those affecting by dementia. While Rens has returned to Eindhoven since the interview was conducted, the research collaboration will continue. Both believe that the developing perspectives across Europe and Australia reinforce each other and stand to benefit an ever-broader group of people.
Just in time for the Dutch Design Week, we received the prints for our Materialising Memories magazine. The glossy magazine gives readers an introduction to the Materialising Memories vision and projects. It features contributions from nearly all team members, both those have completed and those who are still going.
We hope the magazine helps to introduce the project to new connections and serve as a way to bring together the range of projects we have taken on since its start over five years ago.
If you happen to be in Eindhoven this week, get in touch with Elise, Gail, or Doménique for a copy. We’ll have copies on hand during the DDW DRIVE festival outing on Wednesday the 24th. Those in Australia can look forward to a locally printed copy within the next week or two.
A few weeks ago, Elise and Doménique were interviewed by UTS International on their experiences with what UTS calls a collaborative doctoral degree. Here, we have always referred to the degree as a joint program between two universities, in this case, UTS and Eindhoven University of Technology. Because Doménique was the first candidate to complete the program, we were approached to reflect on our experiences as a supervisor and PhD student.
In the video, we mention some of the benefits and things to consider ahead of enrolling in the program. UTS International hopes the video inspires future students to look into the potential for them and their future (academic) careers. We are not the only ones, there are several more videos that feature experiences with other doctoral degree programs on UTS’ YouTube channel (but not yet in a dedicated playlist so you’ll have to browse a bit to find them).
Late next month, Materialising Memories will take part in the ClickNL DRIVE festival held during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Under the title ‘Design to Support Remembering,’ Elise, Gail, and Doménique will give the audience an overview of the MM project and illustrate why it is relevant today and in the near future.
The 1.5-hour session will outline that MM is a design-research programme that focuses on supporting people when they use their autobiographical memory in everyday life. Elise’s opening segment will explain what that means in practice, and will cover topics such as memory cuing and personal memory media. Gail follows that with an interactive session exploring a relationship between personal memories and mediated memories. Finally, Doménique will talk about the design and evaluation of Phototype, an interactive photo display that was placed in the homes of eleven paticipants last year. Phototype is an interactive demonstrator designed to support serendipitous reminiscing. His talk will also discuss how the findings relate to personal media capture and use in general.
For those keen to attend, the Design Research & Innovation Festival takes places on 24 and 25 October in the Latlab building in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Our session is scheduled in the Auditorium on the 24th at 15:00.
Starting three weeks ago, Geke Ludden, assistant professor in Interaction Design at the University of Technology Twente, spends her sabbatical with the Materialising Memories team. She will stay and collaborate for two months in Australia as part of her home university’s personal development initiative. This initiative enables academic staff to clear their educational schedule for awhile to take up research-related activities elsewhere. In Geke’s case, her choice was to move from Enschede to Sydney for several months to build relations and expand her research network. This meant that her family had to come along as well, with her children attending a local school. The UT Nieuws magazine has covered her motivations and the organisational matters in more detail in a recent online publication.
For those of you keen to learn more about Geke’s work, check out her website. She gave a well-attended talk at UTS three weeks ago at the Creativity and Cognition Studios on her work. Last week, she was an invited speaker at a Design @ Dusk special CHISIG event at the University of Sydney. When not presenting Geke works in the visitors’ office available to the Materialising Memories team. With the attendance of OzCHI’16 in December comes an end to her visit.
Recently, we had two workshop proposals accepted for NordiCHI2016 and OzCHI2016. In both cases, these workshops involve some of the MM team members along with other researchers. Submissions are now open and you are kindly invited to join us at either conference. Additional information for each workshop can be found at their respective websites, linked below.
Some of the MM team, along with collaborators from Drexel University and UC Irvine, recently had a workshop accepted at NordiCHI 2016. The aim of the workshop is to identify current opportunities for, as well as barriers to, design of social computing systems that support people during sensitive life events and transitions. Workshop participants will explore themes across life experiences and consider similarities and differences, and will be asked to draw on their own personal experiences and perspectives to respond to recent discourse on how to do research in sensitive contexts, building expertise within the research community.
The deadline for submitting to the workshop is 22nd August, 2016. For more information about the workshop and the submission, please visit our workshop website.
The second workshop involving MM members combines forces with researchers of the University of Auckland, NZ. This full day event aims to explore the relationship between HCI using tangible user interfaces (TUIs) and cognition. We see exciting opportunities for tangible interaction to address some of the cognitive challenges of concern to the HCI community, in areas such as education, healthcare, games, reminiscing and reflection, and community issues. Drawing together the Australasian community, with those from further afield, we hope to strengthen research and build a local community in this exciting and rapidly developing the field. Participation is invited from researchers working in tangible user interfaces or those interested in cognition and interaction.
This workshop has been accepted for OzCHI in Tasmania in December 2016. Submitting to the workshop can be done until 30 September 2016. For more information about the workshop and the submission, please visit our workshop website.
This Friday, the UTS Art Gallery hosts a panel discussion on Memory and Making, related to the ongoing exhibition of The Mnemonic Mirror. This exhibition highlights the changing role of memory and knowledge, the former once the result of applying oneself through considerable effort to learn and eventually know rather than memory as easily accessible through networked means. Among the panelists is Gail Kenning, artist, FASS Research Associate, and Materialising Memories member.
“This panel talk, featuring artists, curators and researchers, will contend with what the creation, erosion and recalibration of memory means for artistic practice today, and conversely, the usefulness of art practice as a rehabilitative methodology with positive implications for traumatic memory and amnesia.”
The panel discussion starts at 5 pm inside the Gallery space in UTS’ building 6, on level 4. Please find additional info via its Facebook event page.
Two assessments next week
On Tuesday, two others members of the MM team will do their yearly assessment. Laura Ramos (PhD, Stage 1) and Daniel Orth (MRes, Stage 1) will give a talk on their work so far. Laura will present at 2.30 pm, with Daniel to follow at 4pm. Both will do so in the FEIT building on Broadway, on level 5, room 102/104 (CB11.05.102/104).
31/05 @ 2.30 pm – Laura Ramos
Design to support memory in older persons with memory impairment
Memory is an intensely personal experience. We use technology every day to support it (e.g., post-it notes, lists, mobiles). However, the ability to remember and the ease with which we forget could change significantly with age. So, what happens when older persons forget? Can we design technology for that experience? That is the core purpose of this project: to design solutions to support older adults with memory and forgetting. This paper covers the theoretical foundations for this research project in HCI, interaction design and psychology, and outlines the research approach proposed for the project. It will rely on methods and practices familiar in interaction design (qualitative research and participatory design) to understand user needs and to develop and evaluate design solutions in partnership with users. Ethical research practices are fundamental to how the work will take place. The proposed project is taking place over five phases (Orientation, Exploration, Creation, Iteration and Synthesis). To date, there has been good progress, including a paper accepted and presented at the CHI2016 conference.
31/05 @ 4 pm – Daniel Orth
Building emotional relationships between users and hybrid objects
We each possess certain objects that are dear to us for a variety of reasons. They can be sentimental to us, bring us delight through their use or empower us. Throughout our lives, we use these cherished possessions to reaffirm who we are, who we were and who we wish to become. This research project explores the design of objects that develop emotional significance in the eyes of their owner. Using design-centric methodology, the research examines the link between an individual’s self-identity and their cherished possessions to better understand the role of these possessions and reasoning behind their significance. Objects partly or wholly comprised of digital components play an increasingly central role in our everyday lives; however their ability to form emotional bonds with users is inadequate when compared to physical objects. This research looks at the differences between the physical and digital medium of objects to explore the strengths of medium-specific properties in their contribution to the emotional significance of objects for users.
Recently, the new home for our Sydney members, the Faculty of Engineering and IT, sat down for an interview with the newly appointed Professor Elise van den Hoven. The following interview was done by Jen Waters of Origami Communications, with photographs by Images for Business. We received permission to publish a copy of the interview, first published internally within FEIT in late March.
Elise van den Hoven draws on a range of disciplines when working to improve people’s everyday lives through enhanced recollection of memories.
“My research sits between three fields: design, psychology and computer science,” she explains. “It is about people-centred design and human- computer interaction (HCI), and how we can use or appropriate technology to meet people’s needs, and make their lives better and easier.”
Elise leads the international research program Materialising Memories, which takes a design-led research approach to studying people’s everyday remembering activities and experiences. A key focus of the project is around voluntary and involuntary memory cues, how people are affected by them, and whether they can be purposely created; for example, looking at how people use media, such as photographs, in everyday remembering situations. The aim is to inform and create innovative, interactive media products that help people with both remembering and forgetting.
The impacts of her work are broad, from everyday remembering activities to helping people with conditions such as dementia. “Remembering has different types of functions; for instance, people use sharing memories to build amazing relationships, so there’s a social function. You can also use it to solve problems through recalling how you solved similar issues in the past, or to form opinions about things. People use it all day, every day – but we’re usually not aware of it.”
The project is partially funded by a five-year personal fellowship, awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to give talented researchers the opportunity to develop their own line of research and build a research group. Comparable to an ARC Fellowship, her grant is valued at around AU$1 million over five years, and receiving it was quite a coup.
“For researchers to get funding from a design background is rare, to say the least,” she explains. “I was the second person from a design faculty to get such a grant in the history of The Netherlands. As a personal fellowship, it gave me the confidence that I was doing something right.”
Elise’s initial tertiary studies were in biology, specialising in neuroethology – the science and neurology of behaviour. A designer at heart, she found her place at the nexus of science and creativity, undertaking a post-master in technological design, and then a doctorate, at the Eindhoven University of Technology. It was here that Materialising Memories was born.
She spent ten years as an Assistant Professor in Eindhoven’s Department of Industrial Design, during which time she was a visiting scientist in Atlanta’s GeorgiaTech, the University of Sheffield in England, and the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building (DAB) at UTS. When the opportunity arose for both Elise and her partner to relocate abroad, they moved to Sydney, and she took up a role as Associate Professor in UTS:DAB.
With human-computer interaction as the foundation of her work, FEIT seemed a natural fit for further developing her research and teaching in the field, and she commenced as a full professor in the School of Software on 1 January this year. Her work is interdisciplinary and collaborative, and Elise hopes to build partnerships with the many FEIT researchers working across HCI and interaction design. She is also keen to explore the potential of the UTS Data Arena in facilitating tangible interaction with her research.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities here. I’m always open to collaboration, and would welcome people to contact me if they’re interested in exploring collaborative opportunities, in particular in relation to the Materialising Memories research program.”
A few fast facts about Elise
Elise grew up in The Netherlands in a village called Best, about 10 kilometres from Eindhoven. With Eindhoven as her base, she has been lucky enough to live in a few different places through her research: the Caribbean, while researching her graduation project for her undergraduate biology degree, and sabbatical periods in the United States, England and Australia. She moved to Australia in 2012, settling in the Sydney suburb of Pyrmont.
Reading is a favourite pastime, along with meeting up with friends and getting out in nature. She loves hiking – long-distance walking in particular – and enjoys playing games, both board and computer. Elise has a fondness for travel, especially to islands; she has just returned from Sumatra.
Elise had a range of unusual jobs during high school. She fondly recalls her after-school job delivering mail for the local notary, and the challenge of racing on her bicycle and planning the best routes to deliver all the mail personally in the half-hour allotment. She also spent two weeks working in a meat factory in her village and says she saw some things she would prefer never to share. Consequently, she no longer eats meat.
Over the past week, most of us moved over to our new offices in the ‘cheese grater’ building of the Faculty of Engineering and IT. While staff and visiting fellows found a home among other staff offices on level 7, the postgraduate students moved to desks in the Interaction Design and Human Practice Lab on level 6 (room 406). There, we are obviously close to the IDHuP group whose lab we co-occupy now, as well as the Creativity and Cognition Studios, our nearest neighbours.
Of course, the contact information on this website is already up-to-date in case you’d like to call or drop in.
Materialising Memories group Faculty of Engineering and IT University of Technology Sydney
Building 11, Level 7, Room 217 81-115 Broadway (postal address: PO Box 123) Broadway NSW 2007 Australia