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).
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.
Last Tuesday, the Art and Dementia research launch took place at the Art Gallery of NSW. At this event, the results were presented of a study that evaluated the art access program for people living with dementia at the Art Gallery of NSW. The study was conducted by Materialising Memories member dr. Gail Kenning (together with Annemarie Zijlema as a research assistant), who observed and analysed four sessions at the Gallery, and besides that interviewed and surveyed the attendees, professional care staff and volunteers, family members, and the program facilitators of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The following video provides an impression of the access program:
Associate professor dr. Roger Dunston (also a member of Materialising Memories) presented the findings, as deputy for dr. Gail Kenning, who is currently overseas. The report can be downloaded here.
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
After a breakup, what happens to shared possessions is often a prickly issue. Even if one person clearly owns something or has access to it, such as copies of digital photos, those possessions still carry the legacy of the other now gone. What happens to those traces of a digital life spent together after people break up? Could the technology that supports the generation and collection of those photos, messages, and other media also support the process of two people going their separate ways? Those are in essence the questions in the thesis of Daniel Herron, who was recently interviewed by UTS Newsroom. The article, available online, focused on his position as a joint degree student supervised by Wendy Moncur in Dundee and Elise van den Hoven at UTS in Sydney.
Our project leader, Elise van den Hoven, started as a full Professor in the Faculty of Engineering and IT in January 2016. With her promotion comes a move to the School of Software within FEIT, where the work on Materialising Memories will continue. The new faculty formally announced the move last month via their newsletter in a bid to strengthen the growing number of people working on Human-Computer Interaction and interaction design. There are also plans to deepen the collaboration between FEIT and our current Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building (DAB).
The Visiting Fellows and postgraduate students will also make the move from DAB to FEIT early this year. Our current projects will remain as they are after the trek across campus. Once we have settled in we’ll give another update!