Science without Borders

In a previous post I mentioned the work on conversational modeling, which is part of the research I have been doing lately. In fact, it is one aspect of a three-year project with my excellent colleagues down in Brazil, who are interested in how design can contribute to better strategic planning. It pleases me no end that one of the consequences of the funding is that I am now designated a “Scientist without Borders.”

Under the terms of the project, I have committed to spend a couple of months each year in Porto Alegre, which is a city in the heart of the gaucho area of Brazil. For those of you unfamiliar with these cowboys of the south, they have been a political force for freedom and independence for centuries, and are also responsible for the invention of churrasco, which is essentially the practice of barbecuing various kinds of meat on swords. It is so popular in the province of Rio Grande do Sul that most houses have a barbecue built into the interior, much like houses in Canada would have a fireplace, only these are dedicated to deliciousness.



New Hardware for Content Analysis

For some years now, a team of about a dozen of us have been working on a project where we are thinking of conversation as an object rather than a linear sequence. Most recently, we’ve created some desktop kits for modeling conversations, and last fall, it occurred to one of my colleagues in Brazil (Guilherme Meyer) that we could use the same kit for doing content analysis, whether or not the content was based on conversations.

We are not the only researchers who are thinking about how it might be possible to leverage embodiment for analytical tasks. There are some good people in Germany (e.g. Simon Stusak), and an interesting TED talk that you may have already seen, here:

David Eaglemen on augmented senses

Since I had ponied up for extra legroom on the flight home, I was able to work on the paper we’re currently writing, which I hope to finish this summer.

PhD Defense in Edmonton

I was returning to the University of Alberta in order to serve on the examining committee for Milena Radzikowska, who successfully defended a dissertation entitled Looking for Betsy: a Critical Theory Approach to Visibility and Pluralism in Design. Her degree is interdisciplinary between Modern Languages and Cultural Studies and Humanities Computing, but she took a design approach, creating three designs that formed a conceptual space that she then interrogated from the perspectives of critical design, feminist HCI, and rich-prospect browsing theory. The designs had to do with an experimental interface to a decision support system for the oil industry.

I was very pleased at the high quality of the project, and the rest of her committee seemed to agree; their questions and the resulting discussion were excellent. The defense was on Monday afternoon; my related activities on Tuesday consisted of providing Milena with my proofreading and minor edits. I can’t wait for her to start her new professorship in Nebraska, since it will make our collaborative research projects somewhat easier to pursue.

Never at my desk

This year’s day of DH is following a pattern that has been in place for several years now, where I happen to be traveling. In this case, I left Chicago on Sunday, heading to Edmonton for some research meetings and a PhD defense, and am returning to Chicago on Tuesday–the Day of DH 2015.

I suppose it makes sense, in that the end of the term marks a kind of exodus that has been held off as much as possible in order not to interfere with classes. I had a great set of classes this year, since I was teaching the PhD seminar on design research, as well as another seminar for MDes students called English for Designers. It allows us to accept good students who could normally not be admitted because their English needs improvement. They spend the year reading some of the core design literature, doing exercises based on it, and discussing it with me.