Thesis defense

My colleague, Thomas Lind, successfully defended his thesis today!

During the afternoon today I attended Thomas Lind‘s thesis defense. We have shared office ever since I started working at Uppsala University and this of course adds another dimension to my experience of the event. The main supervisor was Åsa Cajander and the co-supervisors were Marta Larusdottir and Bengt Sandblad. We all belong to the HTO (Health Technology & Organisation) research group. 

The opponent was Netta Iivari from University of Oulu and the grading committee consisted of Olle Bälter from KTH, José Abdelnour Nocera from University of West London and Tone Bratteteig from University of Oslo. The chair was our HCI professor Mats Lind

As always the opponent started out by presenting the thesis and putting it in context. Netta was very good at doing this and she really managed to add new dimensions to the work. After the presentation the discussion between Netta and Thomas took place. I must say that Thomas handled this situation very well – he was calm and collected and always took his time to think before he answered! The same goes for the interaction with the grading committee members. I will not go into any details about the specific topics covered, since I know another blog post about the defense will show up at our group blog quite soon. That post will surely include pictures from the defense itself. 

Before I close this post I just want to highlight the very special cake, shown in the image above. As I understand it this masterpiece was home made. The top of it is actually a cake version of Thomas’ thesis! 

communication · Pedagogical development · Social media in higher education

Time to start a new pedagogical project!

In earlier blog posts I have mentioned a pedagogical project I was involved in, related to the use of Twitter as a communication channel in higher education courses. I have been a little vague about it, since we are still waiting for an article to be published. Pernilla Josefsson, a Ph.D. student in Media Technology at KTH who lead the Twitter study, and I started to discuss the possibility of conducting a follow-up study based on Facebook more than a year ago but we could not find the time for a new study. 

Thanks to a pedagogical project course given at Uppsala University, which started September 1, we will now finally be able to start a one year pedagogical project on the use of Facebook as a communication medium in higher education! The idea behind the project course is to give teachers pedagogical course credits (= development time) to dig deep into a pedagogical development area of one’s own choice. Those who follow the course are expected to spend three weeks on the project during the period September 2017 – May 2018. 

When I came to the first meeting it turned out that I was the only course participant this year! I was also quite surprised by the fact that the course responsible, Amelie Hössjer, had research and teaching interests very similar to my own. During the first meeting we discussed the idea that Pernilla and I had prepared in advance as well as e.g. course goals. Questions discussed concerned what could be measured, benefits and risks of using teacher administrated Facebook groups as well as our role as researchers – should we be one of the teachers, or even the course leader, in the studied group or should we only act as passive observers? 

I have actually used Facebook groups (in which I have been the administrator) as a complement to other communication channels for several years in courses I have lead at KTH. I usually invite all involved teachers and all students directly after the first lecture. I have very positive experiences from using Facebook in this way, but I have never used the resulting communication in any research. 

The next steps are for Pernilla and me to discuss the input from the first course meeting and to choose a target course. I’m really looking forward to the new pedagogical project and to once again get the opportunity to collaborate with Pernilla! 

Academic writing · eHealth

A very productive week at Uppsala University!

This week has been very eventful and productive, which is one of the reasons why this is my first blog post for this week. 

First of all, I submitted, according to plan, two papers to the SweCog 2017 conference at Uppsala University. The title of the first one is “Using Eye-Tracking to Study the Effect of Haptic Feedback on Visual Focus during Collaborative Object Managing in a Multimodal Virtual Interface”. I wrote that together with my KTH colleague Emma Frid and it’s about a pilot study based on a collaborative version of the application described here. The other paper’s title is “Haptic communicative functions and their effects on communication in collaborative multimodal virtual environments”. I wrote this one in collaboration with my KTH colleague and former supervisor Eva-Lotta Sallnäs Pysander and it containes a short summary of our work on haptic communicative functions. If these are accepted I will present the first one and Eva-Lotta the second – I really hope we will get this opportunity to do something together at that conference! I will of course write more about this when I find out if the papers have been accepted or not. 

During this week I have also worked on a workshop proposal for Uppsala Health Summit, together with my colleagues Åsa Cajander and Christiane Grünloh. The focus of the workshop is the usage of data for diagnoses and treatment of cancer. We are not entirely sure the workshop will happen, but I think changes are good. It would definitely be a great experience to organize a workshop at Uppsala Health Summit! I will of course keep you updated on the development. 

And the writing activities did not end there – I’m very happy to conclude that a journal manuscript, based on a master’s thesis, is now very close to a submittable state! I spent several hours moving everything to a Latex template (some of those templates are hopeless!) and if nothing unexpected happens the manuscript can  most probably be submitted next Monday if everyone is ok with it! I will write a new post about it, and introduce all authors, after submission. 

I also went to some very fruitful meetings – one about the observation/interview/survey study at the Oncology department which I have been writing about before and two about a very interesting opportunity to follow the implementation process of a new feature in Journalen, the patient accessible electronic health record system in Sweden. I will be more specific later on when information has been made public. 

Aside from the research activities mentioned above I also started the planning process for my department’s introductory course on HCI, which I will be responsible for this autumn, together with my colleague Mohammad Obaid. I will write a separate post about our plans for the course later. 

So, a very productive work week indeed which ended at KTH, where Susanna Heyman defended her thesis in style! So I guess it’s safe to conclude that her week was quite productive as well :). The picture to this blog post was taken by me in Öregrund last Friday, on the way to our country side on Gräsö. 

eHealth · Summer school

EHealth summer school participants are staying in touch!

About a week has gone by since the ACM SIGCHI/EIT Health summer school in Dublin and Stockholm/Uppsala ended. The eHealth summer school really gave a great learning experience and an opportunity to meet many researchers from similar fields. I miss both the full days of varying activities and the other participants, of course. But as I wrote in my latest blog post about the last day of the summer school, some of the participating Ph.D. students started a new community, which includes all participants and organizers.

The main communication channel for the new eHealth community is Slack and I’m very happy to see that there is already a lot of communication going on there, involving several participants! There are e.g. several hints about important conferences in fields related to eHealth and mHealth, reactions to a published journal and pictures from the summer school. Several of the participants, and the organizers, are also active on Twitter and interact quite a lot with each other’s tweets. Taking part in this ongoing communication among the participants leads me to believe that we will stay in touch for a long time ahead.

As a matter of fact, one of the summer school participants from Italy, Leysan Nurgalieva, will come to Uppsala University and work in our HTO research group for a few months, beginning later this autumn! Christiane Grünloh (who stay in Uppsala this entire week), Åsa Cajander and I spent Monday afternoon with Leysan discussing our respective research interests and possible collaborations. I’m excited about this, but will not write more about it here, since I know that there will be another blog post about Leysan’s visit showing up on our HTO blog soon.

I ended my last blog post stating that it would probably not be the last blog post I would write related to the summer school participants, and it clearly wasn’t! Now I’m positive there will be many more.

eHealth · Summer school

EHealth summer school in Stockholm, day 5!

Sadly enough, this was the last day of the two very rewarding EIT Health/ACM SIGCHI eHealth summer school weeks in Dublin and Stockholm/Uppsala respectively. This day included project presentations (of course) as well as lectures on the importance of movement and on VR solutions for phobic treatment. You can follow these links to reach my posts about the other days in Stockholm and the one in Uppsala:

  1. Day 1 (Intro, action research,…)
  2. Day 2 (Patient accessible electronic health records,…)
  3. Day 3 (Game demoes and workshop,…)
  4. Day 4 (Soma design, sustainable development,…)

You can also find the post about the last day in Dublin (as well as links to posts about the other days in Dublin) here.

This day started off with yet another one of my former colleagues from KTH, Helena Tobiasson. She discussed the importance of movement especially in relation to work. The lecture started out with a very interesting exercise, in which pairs of participants should try to illustrate different movements we make during work or our study time. We were not allowed to talk. This exercise were enlightening in the sense that it became clear that we do very similar movements for many different tasks (quite a few involving working with the laptop on the knees or on a table in front of us). One of the core themes of the talk was that we should consider movement and (non-exercise) physical activity when designing for work, so we don’t end up e.g. sitting on a chair for several hours while working. This is a very good point and it’s related to one of the main focuses of the lecture and Helena’s research in general “movement is part of a sustainable society” (see picture above). Helena also showed some practical examples of e.g. walking meetings, which I really want to try myself. A few years ago I was one of the participants in one of her studies about activity in the office. I should e.g. use a training bike and walk on a treadmill while working on some tasks in parallel. Since then I have actually began working from a training bike every now and then when I work from my home!  🙂

The other lecture focused on VR solutions for phobic treatment. Johan Lundin, Joakim Blendulf and Hedda Nyman from Stockholm county council as well as my former KTH colleague (there have been a lot of those popping up during this week’s activities 🙂 ) Anders Lundström were the speakers. These were a part of a multi-disciplinary group which involved both psychologists, film makers and engineers. The speakers from Stockholm county council presented a pilot study in which they set out to investigate if VR can be as effective as standard cognitive behavioural therapi for treating agoraphobia. They prepared films (360 degrees) of several threatening situations involving large crowded places and let patients experience the scenes through VR glasses. A very interesting application of VR, which we also got the opportunity to test! I hope they will get promising results! The second part of the lecture, which was more of an exercise, was led by Anders Lundström. It was an ideation exercise where we should use PLEX cards to discuss gamification components in relation to our projects. 

The rest of the time this day was devoted to the projects which we started with yesterday. Today, we started off by finalizing the storyboard for our chosen solutions, whereafter we spent a few hours constructing paper prototypes. Towards the end of the prototyping session the ideas were evaluated by a person from another project group. The results from the evaluation should be used to make final adjustments. Our last project task was, of course to present our ideas with the help of our prototypes. All students had really done a great job with the projects and the presentations!

The organizers really did a great job as well with putting together interesting programs for lectures, project work and all sorts of activities in Dublin, Stockholm and Uppsala! After the presentations I was happy to find out that some of the students actually had initiated a new research community (on Slack) to which all participants were invited! There, we can share moments, information about interesting conferences and papers, etc. So, even though the summer school is officially over, I have a strong feeling this will not be the last blog post I write about activities involving summer school participants outside Uppsala University…

design · eHealth · Summer school

EHealth summer school in Stockholm, day 4!

This day of the eHealth summer school contained two lectures and several hours of project work – this was the most project focused day so far. Once again it was a very rewarding day. 

Kristina Höök, an interaction design professor from the department Media Technology and Interaction design where I worked earlier, started off the day by talking about soma design. In the picture above you can see her “Soma design manifesto” which will be discussed in her upcoming book on interaction design. Her talk was very inspiring and focused a lot on movement and how we can design with movement in mind. Several examples of design koncepts based on movement were brought up to discussion and fact is that I have tried some of them at KTH during an open house session a few years ago. One example was a design solution with a lamp which light intensity varied with your breathing – it really made it possible to experience breathing in a different way. Another example was a device you laid down, which generated heat based on pressure. The common theme of all examples was that the developed products give an awareness of the body and how it moves. The lecture also contained a practical exercise in which we should sit down relaxed and focus on the state of different body parts as well as the relation between them. This was a very interesting experience especially when it came to thinking about what mechanisms we use when we start and stop breathing. We can do this in soo many ways, but we hardly ever think about it. It became clear that we are different. Most of us are not really symmetrical, especially not if we experience some kind of pain, and we should design with this in mind. After this lecture I’m really curious about that book!  🙂

The other lecture was held by Elina Eriksson, who is also a former colleague, and from the same department as Kristina. Elina focused on ICT and sustainability and her talk was also very engaging. She started out with a very important and serious subject: what is the state of our planet and where are we going (my own interpretation, not a quote)? We definitely have a problem today – the emissions (especially carbon dioxide) are increasing which in turn causes all sorts of highly problematic chain reactions. We also have a problem with resources – e.g. just recently we passed the world overshoot day and it’s not even autumn yet! This is an important topic to really think hard about, but I will not delve deeper into it here. In the other part of her talk she focused more on sustainable development and gave several intereresting examples. It was especially pointed out that the whole life cycle is of importance – not just the usage of a product. We need to consider how and with which resources products are manufactured. The issues in the production or in waste handling might cost much more, in terms of effect on environment, than the actual usage. This is of course problematic when it comes to computers and phones which are often thrown out way before they actually stop functioning (sometimes due to incompatible new software). The lecture also contained group discussions about e.g. development goals which we were adressing and goals that were conflicting. Those who are interested in this topic (should be everyone!) may also be interested in this earlier blog post about a recent talk by Ulf Danielsson (professor from Uppsala University) about the fragile system we are all part of. 

The rest of the day was devoted to project work, which started today. I will just mention the main steps here. We started with defining clear goals, after which we formulated important questions to answer. We also discussed what is needed for success as well as pitfalls that could lead to failure. The next step was a mapping activity, where we defined all stakeholders, data gathering and other key steps in the design cycle.  The next main task was to choose a small part of the idea mapped out and generate several design ideas based on it (everyone in the project group produced 8 examples under time pressure). Each person than expanded on one of the ideas which was than shown to the entire group. The group than decided what parts from everyone’s solutions that should be a part of the final group design. The last project task today was that we started on a story board. 

The day ended with a nice dinner with the entire group of participants and organizers. 

eHealth · games · Summer school

EHealth summer school in Stockholm, day 3!

As I wrote in earlier blog posts we will spend four days in this week at KTH, Stockholm. We spend those days in the visualization studio. Most of the time we spend at KTH the room will be used to attend lectures and do group work, but this particular day was quite different. Today, we got to try out all sorts of demoes and equipment in the studio as well as 3D-modelling and game development! At the end there was also a short lecture, by interaction designer and professor Jonas Löwgren from Linköping University. He talked about research through design and that e.g. physical artefacts can add something which cannot really be mediated through text and still images. 

The first part of the day was devoted to the demoes, which we tried out after a short walkthrough by Björn Thuresson who is the manager of the studio. I will present some of the games briefly below, without going into technical details. 

In the image above you can see a VR racing car game which is unusual in the way that it requires collaboration. The entire track, as well as a moving indicator showing the car’s position, can be seen on the table top screen. While the program is running, the person sitting in the chair with VR glasses and a steering wheel drives the car while at least one other person gives directions and makes sure that the holes in the track are filled with the square puzzle pieces! 

In the image above you can see another collaborative game. In this game you are controlling a little penguin and the task is to walk around and collect objects in the virtual world. In the world there are lakes (which you can drown in), fields and mountains. The main problem is that most of the objects cannot be reached unless you collaborate with someone who works in the sand box! There is a direct mapping between the topography in the sandbox and the one in the virtual world. If an object is too high up the one controlling the sand box need to start working in order to build up a mountain under the object.  

My last example above shows my colleague from Uppsala University, Ida Löscher, trying to move around in a virtual world (seen on the big screen) collecting objects. The big problem here is that another person can place barriers (in the form of pillars) in the virtual world with the help of a mobile interface, where both the world and player moving around in the world are shown! Once again a multi-user interface, but this time it’s more like a competition. 

These are just a few examples of the many things we got to try out. I really liked the collaborative aspect of the games and I think many interesting research ideas can be born here. All of the games were the result of student projects and I know that some of them have been awarded prices. 

The next part was focused on 3D modelling. Robin Palmberg, a research engineer working in the studio,  introduced the concept whereafter he guided us through a tutorial where we tried out creating a small robot like character in Blender. At the end we could export the code for 3D-printing. The printed robots will be handed out on Friday! I actually understand Blender much better now. 

The last part of the day focused on game development in Unity! We were devided into five different groups in which we focused on different parts of a game. The different parts were:

  1. Physics
  2. Texture and light
  3. Sound
  4. Mechanics
  5. AI

Every group was guided by an expert KTH student! This was a very interesting experience and I really enjoyed seeing the end result which was a combination of the different groups’ work. It was a very hard game, where you should jump between different plarforms but the important thing is that the collaborative effort worked!