Mar 192017

My accepted paper for the Research Through Design (RTD 2017) conference in Edinburgh this year.

The motivations for collecting and the idiosyncrasies of physical and digital collections have been long studied. However, how they are presented in the digital space is an unresolved challenge. To help better understand this problem from a design perspective, we built Thinga.Me. Thinga.Me is a system which allows users to capture photographs of physical objects and then cut them out, place them into digital collections, and share them. By segmenting the object from the background the interface creates the illusion of a physical item, giving a sense of carrying your stuff with you in your pocket. Following two years of development, iteration and feedback, we discuss uses of the app and the implications it can have for changing the way we reflect on physical things in our lives. In particular, we focus on how digital collection are presented and displayed in a realistic way as a way of providing more meaning and helping shape users’ identities. Demonstrating the importance of visual design choices, our results lead to considerations on how to most appropriately display physical objects in the virtual world, whilst avoiding the uncanniness some might experience when interacting with skeuomorphic collections.

PAPER LINK: Presenting Physical Things Digitally: New Collecting Practices

Or read the paper (without figures) below:

Continue reading »

Mar 132017

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are slowly populating our homes. In this age of sharing economy and increased mobility, however, the home environment is no longer a fixed location always shared by the same people. To better understand the issues and challenges around agency and IoT use in the home, we take a pragmatic and situated approach. In this paper, we draw on our own experiences as users and identify the tensions between ownership and usage, and the economic implications there might be when sharing IoT systems with trusted people vs. strangers. We suggest the distinction between owners and users should be more carefully considered in the design and research of future devices.

PAPER LINK: Degrees of Agency in Owners & Users of Home IoT devices

Aug 132015

Another paper from Ubicomp 2015 in Osaka, Japan later this year.

Abstract: “Time perception is the result of the physical progression of events and the way we experience them. For centuries the way we experience time has heavily relied on visual and auditory senses; little has been done with the experience of time and haptics. As technology is increasingly embedded in our everyday life, and wearables are becoming increasingly popular, we explore the concept of ‘feeling’ time. In this paper we present initial work into users’ interactions with, and appropriation of, a simple wearable device that vibrates every five minutes. We discuss how lightweight interactions with such a device can increase our awareness of time in a peripheral way through the sense of touch, by presenting initial findings from two in-the-wild autoethnographies.”

PAPER LINK: “Give me five minutes!” Feeling Time Slip By

Aug 042015

The paper I will be presenting at Ubicomp 2015 in Osaka, Japan later this year.

Abstract: “Activity trackers are increasingly popular, but they have high levels of abandonment and little evidence exists to suggest why this is. This paper explores barriers to engagement with activity trackers. We extend previous research by not only characterising the barriers users experienced, such as tracking accuracy and device aesthetics, but also by reporting the workarounds they created. We discuss implications for the design of activity tracking systems by reflecting on these workarounds, the potential for activity tracker design to help overcome existing barriers, and how customisation could play a role.”

PAPER LINK: Activity Tracking: Barriers, Workarounds and Customisation

May 072015

Last autumn, 2014, I spent 3-months in Georgia Tech running an academic interview study with users of activity trackers (more details in a future publication!). To run this study I needed participants. I’ve used snowball sampling (recruiting friends, and friends of friends, usually with shared tweets, Facebook posts and printed flyers) to good effect in previous studies, but knowing only a handful of people in Atlanta meant this wasn’t working too well. In my need for participants I decided try something I’d been thinking about for a while – paid advertisements on Facebook and Twitter. I actually ended up recruiting quite a few people and a few colleagues have since asked me about this, so I thought it might be useful to write a blog post.

In Atlanta I recruited about 10 participants through paid-adverts at a cost of approximately £30, making each participant cost about £3. Considering the amount of time saved this seems pretty good value, and in addition to those I directly recruited with the adverts I also broadened my “snowballs” and reached many of their peers. Not everybody who signed up ended up being available to interview, but I’d say I ended up recruiting a further 10 people as a result of the initial adverts. Since my campaign last year, a few colleagues have attempted to recruit participants (generally with more specific requirements: being a user of the app “Lift” for example) with similar adverts, but most have had less luck with their recruitment. I was recruiting current or previous users of activity trackers, while my colleagues having an easily targetable group obviously makes this method much more successful. The majority of participants I recruited using this method in Atlanta were aged over 45 (perhaps suggesting that younger generations are “blind” to Facebook adverts?), but I did also recruit some younger participants too.

My requirements for this study were fairly specific, but included a large number of people: English speaking; aged 18+; located in Atlanta; and previous, or current, users of an activity tracker. These requirements suited the targeted advertising options pretty well – meaning that I could be fairly sure that the people who were seeing my adverts were eligible to take part in the study and go “YES, that’s me!”. If you have an advert that is less well directed, you are likely to have fewer conversions, ie people seeing the advert who click through and sign up.

Recruiting participants with social media adverts

Since returned from Atlanta I’ve been recruiting participants in London for a replication of the study, so I once again turned to Facebook advertising. In my experience, the Facebook adverts were more successful (and better value) than the Twitter adverts, so I’ve decided to save some money and just concentrate on Facebook. See the remainder of this post for a little write-up on my experiences…

Continue reading »

Mar 222015

As a PhD student doing qualitative research I spend an awful lot of my life transcribing. Details of my transcription strategy are probably best suited to another blog post, but the general gist is this: I record interviews with an Olympus LS3 or Skype recordings with Audacity (using this guide), and then transcribe my recordings with the Mac software “F4”, before coding in the lovely new Mac version of Atlas.ti. For the past 3 years I’ve then been using a cheap USB footswitch for playing and pausing recordings with F4, which saves an awful lot of time compared to other methods I tried.

Olympus RS26 Transcription Footswitch

I’ve recently found myself wanting a more comfortable footswitch (the one I linked to is great, but after a while I get a rather achy foot because it has quite a lot of “throw” and the pivot isn’t in the most comfortable place either) with a bit more functionality (at least two switches, so I can skip forwards through the less exciting parts of the interview).

Olympus RS26 Transcription Footswitch Olympus RS26 Transcription Footswitch

I recently bought a few attiny85 based digisparks from eBay (for another project) and thought they offered a perfect opportunity to update an old analog transcription pedal (the model I got was an Olympus RS26 which sells very cheaply on eBay) to make them compatible with modern-day non-propriety transcription software. It’s worked perfectly, so I thought I’d share a post so you can also get upcyling and have a lovely USB transcription foot pedal for less than £15. Continue reading »

Jan 262015

For the last few years I’ve attempted (and failed) to complete the photo-a-day challenge. I usually get to the end of January and then find that life gets in the way. This year I’ve decided to be a bit more realistic and take on a different photo challenge: taking a themed photo every week. I’ve got a list of themes (no idea of the original source) and will be sticking to these but interpreting them in my own way – trying to be as creative as possibe.

Here’s my first four photos. Click through to Flickr to see each image larger and read a description.

1/52 "A photo of yourself"

2/52 "Time"

3/52 "Upside Down"

4/52 "Symmetry"

See you for another update next month, or follow me on Flickr

Jan 032015

Seeing as it’s been a year since I posted an update on here, I figured it was about time I put something… So here’s a selection of 20 of my favourite photographs I’ve taken in the past 12 months.

Frank Turner Photographing the Animal Action Sports Tour Docklands Water Alkaline Trio Kew Gardens Pagonda and Plane
Kew Gardens Wild flowers growing over steps Georgian Terrance Hotel rooftop Seattle, WA Seattle, WA
Atlanta Streets Alive Atlanta Pride 2014 Downtown Atlanta feelin' stormy Jellyfish Doggles Dog
Atlanta Sunset Portrait Autumnal Atlanta Suspended. Merry Christmas 2014

Hopefully I’ll remember to keep posting updates on here this year!

Dec 312013

For those of you who’ve not heard of the Rapha Festive 500, it’s an online challenge to ride 500km (about 310 miles) over 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The miles must be tracked using GPS (either standalone such as the Garmin 800 I use, or using the Strava smartphone app) and uploaded to the Strava website in order to qualify and static rides are not allowed (so no spinning on the rollers after Christmas dinner!).

I’ve signed up for the challenge the last two years, but never really made much of an effort.  I decided that this year was to be different.

Those of you who know me know that I’m not exactly the fittest of people, so riding 500km over 8 days would be quite a challenge!  Indeed, between January and December this year I only clocked up a total of 420 miles, so the 310ish miles needed to complete the Festive 500 over 8 days would be almost doubling my miles for the year so far… My legs were scared.

On with the story!

Day One, Christmas Eve: 61.6 miles

My plan for the first day was to get as many miles in as possible. I had originally planned to ride home from London (approximately 100 miles) to get the week off to a good start, however there were some pretty awful storms due to hit on the 23rd so I decided it would be safer to do some road miles at home and not have to be concerned with riding home for Christmas.

As it turned out this was a good plan, there was some awful flooding as a result of the storms and a number of people were stuck getting home for Christmas – if I’d tried to ride home I’d have almost certainly ended up being one of them.

Of course the storms also effected the local area. A few miles out I encountered the first evidence of this, with rainwater rushing out of a drain.

Rapha Festive 500 Day One
The drains can’t cope!

A few miles later and quite a lot of bottom-bracket deep water (sorry bike!) I came across the first flood I couldn’t pass. This ford was the scene of an unfortunate accident earlier this year, when a driver drowned after following his sat nav and becoming trapped in his car after it became submerged. Sensibly I decided to turn back and try another route.

Rapha Festive 500 Day One

In the end I decided to steer clear of the local roads I’d usually ride and instead do some off-road loops of the common. Whilst this steered me clear of the traffic and the worst of the flooding it also turned out to be REALLY hard work on the CX bike, after 50 miles I was physically exhausted. I thought the worst of the flooding would have dried out by then so I tried to take the scenic route home, but I was met by more floods.

Rapha Festive 500 Day One Rapha Festive 500 Day One Rapha Festive 500 Day One
Stormy scenes around Hampshire

I finished the day with just over 60 miles finished, soaking wet, hurting and with completely numb hands and feet. I also managed to tear my (beautiful) Rapha hardshell jacket & get six thorns in my front tyre after a little altercation with a tractor and a bush. Not a great start to the week 🙁

Day Three, Boxing Day: 50.3 miles

I didn’t get any miles in on Christmas day, I’d intended to do a few but festivities got in the way!

As I was still hurting from Christmas eve I decided to spend boxing day doing easy miles on some local roads, riding a nice 3.5 mile loop I’d previously not discovered. The roads were still drenched but the weather was nowhere near as bad as my previous ride, I could just about feel my hands when I got home.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Three
The setting sun

Day Five, 28th December: 60.0 miles

I headed to London on day four but didn’t get any miles in, so decided to get up early to get some bigger miles in on day five. I headed up to regents park before sunrise and was treated to some lovely views over London as the sun rose.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Five Rapha Festive 500 Day Five
Rapha Festive 500 Day Five Festive 500 Day Five
Good morning Regents Park!

I loved listening to the noises of the animals in regents park as the sun rose, they seemed to be rather excited about the day ahead. I was slightly less so, as the miles from the last few days were beginning to take their toll and my knees and hips especially were starting to hurt! Still, it was nice being back on the road bike and the miles were certainly coming easier than on the CX bike.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Five Rapha Festive 500 Day Five
Rapha Festive 500 Day Five
Pretty scenes around Regents Park

Festive 500 Day Five
Sunrise over Euston & Bloomsbury

Festive 500 Day Five
The office is ideally situated for a 30 mile “comfort break”

Day Six, 29th December: 80.8 miles

It was another early start today, after setting my alarm for 5:10 and getting rolling at around 6:15 again (I decided breakfast would be a good idea today). I decided that I needed to get on the miles a little harder if I had any hope of finishing the 500km so I decided I needed to do another 60 miles today. As the miles progressed I decided to raise the bar and eventually managed 80!

Festive 500 Day Six Festive 500 Day Six
Nina and Scott hanging out, and a frosty Regents Park

When I arrived at the park it was damp and rather cold, but as the morning set in it got colder, the moisture on the ground froze and the puddles turned to ice, making the tarmac especially treacherous.

Rapha Festive 500 Day Six
The park actually got icier as I stayed out

Unfortunately a couple of hours after I took this photo (and nearly fell as I put a foot down to stop for a gel) an elderly lady took a fall. A few other cyclists kindly stopped by (they were there before me I’ll hasten to add) and covered her in their jackets until the ambulance arrived. After the ambulance arrived a cyclist fell in the same spot (he got up and continued riding) then on the same lap I passed another group looking after a lady who had fallen on the ice. I took it very steady for the next couple of hours until the weather warmed up, which was probably why I managed to do more miles than usual. As you can see, I still wasn’t doing great afterwards anyway (still, this was the furthers I’ve ever ridden in a day so can’t complain really).

Rapha Festive 500 Day Six

Day Seven, 30th December: 14.4 miles and 46.0 miles

Day seven was back to Hampshire and a late start after an incredibly painful night’s sleep… By now the miles were really starting to take their toll on my body, my knees and hips were absolutely killing me (I really must look at my cleat positioning), my shoulders and neck were complaining at the thought of getting back onto drop bars and I could barely get out of bed or walk down the stairs. Still, 60 miles to go, so back on it!

Festive 500 Day Seven
A patch or two of fog

I managed a few miles before darkness fell, so went back home to wait for my lights to charge before heading out to attempt to complete the challenge with one last night ride for 2014… Three and a half hours later (with a handy KOM and a few PR’s!) and I was done!

Finished: 313 miles/ 504 kilometers!


504km and over 23 hours of riding later and I’m done! My body feels like it’ll never be the same again. My hips and knees are killing me, I can barely walk and I’ve lost all feeling in my neck/ shoulders, but it somehow all seems worth it. My Rapha hardshell took a battering too, but hopefully the Rapha warranty will sort that out ready for the endeavors of 2014.

Festive 500 Day Seven

I’ve put a couple of screenshots of my final activity below or you can look on my Strava profile for more.

Rapha Festive 500 Complete! Rapha Festive 500 Complete! Rapha Festive 500 Complete!
Quite the challenge for an unfit one such as myself!

Thanks for reading and have a good 2014!