I have been making progress over the past month with the plans for our new online study. I have been slow to move forward for various reasons including a minor setback due to a repetitive strain type injury (frustrating to say the least), as well as a number of events and meetings that I have been involved in planning and running, or to which I have contributed. In this (longer than usual) blog post, I update you on some of the more interesting events, and where I have got to with planning the online study.
I don't want to bore you with the details of the meetings I had to discuss my repetitive strain injury, but I am keen to share three events that I have enjoyed being a part of throughout May.
Running an Online Event to Explore the Effects of the Lockdown on Fellow Students
The continued effects of the lockdown on other students in the Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE) has been a topic of discussion for CDE staff and students over the last few weeks, and I have been voicing student opinions as part of my student representative role. The CDE staff have been great at setting up social events for us to get together, but, knowing that we have all been affected in different ways, I wanted to explore how COVID-19 has influenced our research projects and what the differences are. So, I organised an online workshop for us to discuss our experiences together as a group.
The event itself went well, with us successfully navigating ad hoc breakout rooms I created in Microsoft Teams whilst using a single shared Google Doc for groups to record their responses.For those who are interested, you can find the template Google Doc event document I put together by clicking here. Feel free to use this as a template for your own event or adapt it to suit your needs!
I think all of the attendees enjoyed the session and found it useful to discuss similarities and differences between our situations. We had all experienced motivation deficits and most of us had difficulty with continuing research projects involving face-to-face studies, but different people had different solutions to this. Some suggested changing methods entirely, whereas others suggested moving studies online. The group discussions were useful for sharing these new ideas, and gave us the opportunity to learn from each other.
Helping to Plan a Series of CHI-Related Seminars
Last year I was lucky enough to attend the CHI conference in Glasgow. Sadly, this year's CHI in Hawaii was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference really is a major event in the human-computer interaction calendar, and some students and academics in the Department of Computer Science had papers accepted and had planned to attend. The other HCI Seminar co-chairs and I planned a series of seminars in order to help fill the gap of the conference not going ahead.
We invited a number of internal and external speakers linked to research at the University of Bath to present the work from their accepted papers over a period of four weeks. We saw a diverse range of research, ranging from how virtual reality exer-gaming is affected by how your in-game avatar looks to how people interpret symbols when reading with their tongue. The full programme with links to papers is available here.
I would encourage other doctoral students to set up and attend seminars in your own departments, as it is a great way to learn about research outside the scope of your own project. Not only that, since we have all needed to get used to doing things online, we were able to host speakers from other universities in England, as well as speakers currently based in the United States and New Zealand, without the associated travel costs. One attendee suggested that, in future, this will allow us to further widen the scope of speakers who can be invited and therefore also the range of topics that can be explored during the seminars.
Attending Tech4Good South West's First Online Event: Digital Innovation and Cultural Heritage
Tech4Good South West is a community of people in Bath, Bristol, and the surrounding areas who are interested in using technology to positively impact society. I have been to a number of their events in the past and was glad to learn that the organisers decided to move their event about digital innovation and cultural heritage online.
What appealed to me most about their line up this time was a presentation on the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in cultural heritage, a research area that incidentally helped me get a place on the EngD programme when I mentioned it in my interview as being a potential research project. The use of AR and VR in cultural heritage remains an interest of mine, even if not the area of research I ended up pursuing.
The other speakers discussed trends in using digital technology within the cultural heritage sector, how to engage end users to create successful exhibitions and improve the experience for a younger museum-going audience, and a project from a palaeontologist game developer who is creating a virtual natural history museum.
The event was really well organised, with opportunities for networking and discussing the presentations in breakout rooms, as well as for sharing offers of or requests for help, something that is a key part of the community. A video recording of the event was made (of the speaker presentations only), and you can watch the four speakers on YouTube.
Online Study Update
In amongst all of the above (and more), I have been continuing in the new direction of my research project. Most recently, I finished organising the output from the ideation session that I ran with my Designability colleagues last month. Here is an updated version of the plan I shared in an earlier blog post, showing the steps I have completed (in green) or that are in progress (in orange).
The study design is also starting to take shape with the help of my supervisory team. Broadly, we have decided to run a two-stage study. The first part will be an online study to gain a lot of data about user perceptions of the AR prompts we develop. In the second part, we will take a more focused approach and conduct online interviews with people with and without dementia to ascertain any differences in the general perceptions learned about in the first part. The details still need to be confirmed, but we are a lot further along than we were this time last month.
I have also tentatively started the AR Development of the shortlisted ideas because I could not help myself!
All-in-all, I think steady progress is still being made on all fronts, which is better than grinding to a halt. Thank you for reading, and get in touch if you have any questions!