Tag Archives: english

Beyond the Desktop: Designing an “ideal” wearable.

“Beyond the Desktop” is one of the courses I’m taking this semester. The course ” investigates design alternatives to traditional graphical user interfaces.” (from the course description at TISS).

The first assignment consists of (1) researching five existing wearables, and assessing them on a four-dimensional scale referring to a definition of “ideal” wearables and (2) designing your own wearable, including tagline/slogan, a catchy name, some sketches and even a paper prototype, which in the end should be assessed on the scale, too.

So I created the tHUD – the Tutoring Heads-Up Display. You can find information on how it came to be, and some pictures here (Content Note: sales lingo for Black Mirror worthy tech). It is of course not a serious prototype or idea. Rather, I wanted to move the focus on how intrusive some courses are regarding their online (exam) modes.

A digital Design Journal

In the last years, every group had to keep a Design Journal for the Design Thinking course(s). In it, the group would document meetings by jotting down notes, making sketches, or collecting whatever physical things they came across over the course of their work. With the restrictions due to Corona (this is probably the most used phrase anywhere right now) this had to be adapted, of course. I’m very pleased to say that our digital Design Journal – apart from the sketches everyone makes in their own ways, be it journals or pads or just loose pages -, is kept in an encrypted storage hosted by Chaos Computer Club Wien (C3W). The cryptpad software itself is developed by the open-source CryptPad project. Information on CryptPad can be found on their website (link), and the instance hosted by C3W is available at pads.c3w.at. The software supports different formats, from plain text (“code”) pads through presentations and rich text pads all the way to kanban boards and whiteboards. And the drive really is a drive where you can use folders and subfolders! Pads can be set up to be password protected, it is possible to share links for one time use, and the share links can be set up to allow editing (or viewing only).

In the case of the digital Design Journal, this is what our setup looks like as of December 13, 10.25 o’clock:

A screenshot of a pads.c3w.at cryptdrive, showing several folders for university lectures, and the files and subfolders located in the Design Thinking folder.

We’re trying to keep the whole thing manageable by using subfolders, and we’re half successful at sticking to naming schemes. Using CryptPads on mobile devives (smartphones, tablets) is still in the works, but I’d argue it keeps us from working “on the go” too much. Quick notes and ideas can be shared with the group via Telegram, or by putting them into on our own note-taking setups (apps or paper – which reminds me that I wanted to ask the others what they use for such things).

Change of Plans

One ouf our tasks for Design Thinking was to design and implement two so-called “provocative requisites”. The idea is to put up an artifact somewhere in public space, where it will provoke interaction, or discussion, by passers-by. One initial idea, as we want to create a game to (re)discover Seestadt, was to distribute small, 3d-printed puzzleboxes (also known as cryptex). However, they would have required a substantial degree of manual interaction, and with the pandemic going on, we figured such a physical interaction would deter people from actually interacting with the object.

Instead, I figured that an object that was unexpected in public space, paired with a QR-Code, might still do the trick. Cue Seelina, our 3d-printed octopus:

A grey, 3d-printed octopus sitting atop a thermos cup on a red seat.

I already had Seelina at home, which is basically why I got the idea – and which meant that we would save some time compared to having to 3d-print an object of her size. And indeed, when we tested her in the wild on a sunny Sunday noon, people did interact with her quite a bit. Unfortunately, as that was supposed to be only the test-run, I did not take pictures or videos of the people interacting with her – and on our second visit to Seestadt, when I planned on documenting the whole thing, and we had a corresponding website set up, only one person interacted with her. The main difference was that on the first day, it was pretty warm and sunny, compared to the second run, where it was cold and extremely windy – a couple of times, Seelina was literally blown off her spots.

A real pity, but that’s how research goes, I guess.

 

Organising my term

Some people say I am an incredibly well-organised person. That’s mostly the case because if I don’t write down all kinds of things, I’ll straight-up forget them. So, lists are an import thing in my life.

Having all my deadlines for the semester written down also helps me to better spread work over the weeks and months. Of course, the  Plan does tend to change, so here are the original, and the latest version of my semester plan:

A hand-written list of deadlines for 2 courses, the dates are color coded in pink and green. Same list as before. Some items have been checked, some have been moved, comments have been added.

The courses I am taking this semester are Human Robot Interaction (HRI), and Design Thinking (DeTh). For each course, there is roughly one deadline every week, but as the assignments are not always the same (as opposed to, e.g. in a maths course where you have to complete one exercise sheet per week), it is dearly necessary I write down what the deadlines are, exactly. Doing it in this kinda fancy way makes it better still, because the list is nice to look at – even with all the additions I made due to changes in deadlines or to keep an overview over where I put notes corresponding to deadlines.

[DE/EN] Nov 2019 : Workshop @ Universität Wien

(zur deutschen Version springen)

In July 2019, I was contact by a member of the department for Gender Equality and Diversity at University of Vienna. They were planning a half-day workshop on the topic of digital discrimination for their team – and wanted me to hold that workshop. They had asked a colleague/friend of mine for recommendations, and said c/f recommended me!

I soon sent out some suggestions on how to structure the time available, as well as some ideas about the contents. I also met up with the person in charge of the workshop on their end, and we discussed some more things (as e.g. the location, equipment available, etc.) and got to know each other a bit.

A couple of days before the workshop, I created some posters for the various session elements I had planned, as well as a schedule for the day. In the end, the carefully laid-out structure of the workshop did not hold up, but only because everyone was very interested, asking a lot of questions, and absorbed in discussions.

Even if the schedule for the day did not quite work out, we covered all the topics we had wanted to: digitalisation and the workplace; digitalisation and discrimination; and how the combination could be important to the participants’ work.

I had a lot of fun, and learned a lot while preparing and holding the workshop – not least, that my poster sketching skills are not as bad as I feared them to be. Judge for yourself, I added photos of the posters at the end of this post 🙂

If you would like me to hold a workshop about this, or another of my topics, for you and your organisation, let me know.


– Deutsche Version –

Im Juli 2019 hat sich eine Mitarbeiterin der Abteilung für Gleichstellung und Diversität der Uni Wien bei mir gemeldet. Die Abteilung plante gerade einen Halbtages-Workshop zum Thema Digitale Diskriminierung für ihr Team – und sie wollten dass ich den Workshop abhalte. Sie hatten eine Kollegin/Freundin von mir nach Empfehlungen gefragt – und besagte Kollegin/Freundin hat ihnen mich empfohlen!

Auf die Anfrage hin habe ich ihnen bald einige Vorschlge geschickt, wie der Halbtag aufgebaut sein könnte, und ein paar inhaltliche Ideen. Die Verantwortliche und ich haben uns auch einmal persönlich getroffen, und ein paar Dinge besprochen (z.B. den Raum, vorhandene Ausstattung, etc.) und uns ein bisschen kennen gelernt.

Ein paar Tage vor dem Workshop habe ich Flipchart-Poster für die verschiedenen Teile der Fortbildung gemalt, u.a. einen recht hübschen Tagesplan. Schlussendlich hat der Zeitplan nicht gehalten – das lag aber nur daran, dass alle so interessiert waren, immer wieder Fragen gestellt, und lebhaft diskutiert haben.

Und auch wenn wir vom Zeitplan ordentlich abgewichen sind, haben wir es doch geschafft, alle geplanten Inhalte abzudecken: Digitalisierung und Arbeitswelt; Digitalisierung und Diskriminierung; und wie die Kombination die Arbeit der Abteilung betrifft.

Den Workshop vorzubereiten und abzuhalten hat mir viel Spaß gemacht, und ich habe viel gelernt – nicht zuletzt, dass meine Flipchart-Zeichen-Fähigkeiten weit nicht so schlecht sind, wie gedacht. Beurteilt das aber am besten selbst, am Ende des Posts gibt es Fotos von ein paar der Poster 🙂

Falls du für dich/deine Organisation einen ähnlichen Workshop organisierst, und eine Vortragende zu genau diesem oder einem ähnlichen Thema suchst, kontaktiere mich doch!

 

The still-empty glossary poster was filled in the course of the workshop.
I had a detailed schedule, with cute icons and all, and we covered everything I had planned, but not quite in that order or with those break times.
Robots, computers, and confused people – the perfect imagery to start this workshop, don’t you think?

I did an arts!

picture of the notes takenFor a course on Critical and Speculative Design, our first assignment was to create an a/b manifesto, following the work of Dunne and Raby.

The teachers told us to chose an area we are familiar with, passionate about, have expertise or a strong interest in.

All of these apply to University, so I decided to make the status quo my “a”, and an accessible, open University my “b” column. The content came together during a jitsi-meet with a friend who is a PhD-candidate at the HCI institute. You can see the notes in the picture – here goes the better-readable version:

 

ab
total objectivitysituatedness
“alt-ehrwürdig”accessibility
goal-orientedexplorative
built upon the work of othered peopleacknowledging the work of othered people
centralizedopen source
all sunshine since 1365/1815reflective, self-critical
constructivistdeconstructivist
autonomy (leading to [internal] conflictsolidarity
industrysociety
localde-centralized
right or wrongcontext dependent
errors mean failingerrors mean learning
neutralpolitical
westernglobal
absolutesrelative
classistopen for all
bureaucracy / red tapeaction
enlightenmentCritical Theory
abstractconcrete
cis-malegender inclusive

The fascinating thing about this is that the layout of the manifesto creates a dichotomy, although some of the terms and concepts are not mutually exclusive towards each other. Some could as well be two points along a path (A and B).

Also, this was a great experience regarding syntax and semantics: some of the terms I put with each other may seem as weird choices, no matter if they are seen as exclusive, or as points along a path. For example, the reason why “centralized” is opposed with “open source”, and “de-centralized” with “local”, is that I understand them here not in their primary, or most obvious meaning, but in one more nuanced, maybe harder to grasp.

Workshop Paper: Implementing Diversity in HCI education

This entry has been published on May 23, 2019. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am May 23, 2019 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

This is the paper I submitted to a workshop at C&T conference 2019. As I will be attending the whole conference as a student volunteer, this will be the first CS conference I attend. Pretty exciting!

This is the PDF, for which I used the ACM SIG CHI extended abstracts format. I titled this paper “Implementing Diversity in HCI Education: Things I’ve Seen”. As you will see, “Implementing Diversity in HCI Education: I have Questions.” would be a very fitting title, too.

Introduction

Our professors and the dean(s) at the faculty of informatics like to say that the main difference between a University of Applied Science (FH) and a “real” University is that at FHs people learn the “Know-How”, and we at TU Wien learn the “Know Why”. In my experience, the little “why” we are taught usually refers to the more technical aspects, but rarely to the social context and impact of technologies1.

I draw from my own experience as a student in the Medical Informatics bachelor’s program at TU Wien. As I began my studies, I did not value the promotion of women as much (which is the prime concern of many diversity issues), but with my work as a student representative, this changed radically. Additionally, I spent some semesters working as a teaching assistant (TA) in an introductory course on society and informatics. Thus, I can see and discuss diversity from my own experience in HCI education, and include various students’ points of view, including those who do not understand why diversity is even a part of their courses and who sometimes openly oppose attempts of promoting diversity aspects in STEM fields2.

Course Contents

As stated above, the promotion of diversity should be part of the essentials in HCI. It is, after all, one of the main issues in HCI to make technological artifacts more usable for “everyone”. However, diversity is not at all covered with some by-lines about how “all women” and “all men” use computers differently.

In the following, I discuss some ways of implementing diversity in topics and contents, exercises, and literature of HCI courses. Reflecting on the course itself together with your students is an important point as well.

Topics and Concepts

Thinking about what topics and concepts you cover in your class is a great place to start. This probably will be a point of implementation where you receive little backlash from your students.

For example, in a class on the history of HCI: Talk about how the field developed from looking at how work places should be designed to accommodate, to looking at how smartphone apps exclude users. Who are we thinking about when we are talking about users? What are the (social) norms we learn growing up in “western” societies?3

Exercises

For an exercise on designing artifacts, explicitly ask your students to interview people who are not like them. Do not ask them to work with their mother(s), or grandparents – this shortcut shows sexist and ageist stereotypes. Rather, ask the students to find people who do not work in IT/design.

Some students will learn that it is hard to find people who are “different”, especially in a setting so homogeneous as TU4. This might spark some dissent, as finding a person to interview might be more difficult than the task itself, and they might not understand why they should do it this way. Thus, do not forget to explain why you ask them to do this!

Data Sets, Literature, …

Ask yourself: Whose voices are heard in the course? Who wrote the articles, books, reports that students get to read? Who can be seen in videos, heard on recordings? Who is in the pictures used to illustrate contents? Do we only use “real academic” literature, or do we talk about other sources, too? Do we just read, and repeat, or is there discussion, an attempt at connecting the dots over diverse fields? How much scrutiny do we apply to different sources?5

Reflection

Ask students, discuss with them: How have the exercises been completed? How did the course staff expect them to be handled? Which biases could be present in our work? How could an exercise be revised in order to talk about a different topic? How could exercises be improved upon?

Course Organization

Apart from the “What” of a class, attempting to implement diversity also has an impact on the “How” and “Where”.

Teaching Concepts

Does your course consist of classroom lectures, discussions, group exercises? Can any of these be accessed remotely, or do people have to attend each and every session?6

Group exercises and discussions can grant your students insights they could not draw from lectures alone. However, there are a lot of reasons for not wanting/being able to participate in such exercises.

My point is not to make a decision to exclusively use either lectures or group assignments – rather, course organizers should plan ahead, and let their students know that the course is planned a certain way, but that there are options to deal with contingencies. Be specific about the accommodation you have already organized, and let students know you are open to work on those. This will make the course better accessible e.g. for students with care responsibilities (parents, care takers, …) or working students.

Speakers / Teachers

Again, ask yourself: Who gets to speak their truth in your course? Which area(s) of expertise do they come from? What is their background?

Inviting people from different areas of research, or from another University (Applied or not), can break the stereotypes people might hold about them. Of course, this implies that you yourself have successfully invited them.

Technologies

Ask yourself, and your students: Which technologies and platforms do we use? Why? Where do the technologies we use come from? How can we expand and improve them? Which alternatives are there?7

Reflection

Again, ask yourself and discuss with your students: How have things been done before, and why this way? Based on which criteria did we chose the lecturers for this course? How did they come to where they are now? Which biases could be present here?

Course Surroundings

Nothing can really be discussed without looking at its surroundings. For example, a course on Critical Theory might sound great – but it has to be available and accessible to the students in every aspect. How else are they going to complete the course?

So, ask yourself, when looking at your HCI course: How does this fit into the bigger picture? Is it the only HCI course in the whole curriculum? Does it represent current research?

Backlash

In “Denkweisen der Informatik”, the course I worked with as a TA, reflection is part of every exercise. To complete any challenge, a student has to answer some questions about the previous tasks and their work. What did they learn? What did they like? What did they not like, and why? What was easy, what was hard? How does the topic connect with their other work?

There is always a small number of students who react negatively to these questions and the content concerning diversity. Basically, they only want to learn how to code, and give the impression not to be interested in how things evolved or could be improved upon, on the non-technical side8. Many answer the questions only halfheartedly, but some go rather deep and even enjoy taking the time to sit back and reflect.

I think that is the main point: some people will get annoyed with all the “leftist politics” in the course. Others will enjoy having time to reflect and discuss. There will be valuable feedback. Some will be happy that they finally saw people like themselves in your course, succeeding at what they are interested in. And many will be grateful for your consideration and accommodation of their needs.

You will have made your course (more) usable for many.


  1. For example, even if there is a part of a class on logic about the “founding fathers” of logic, there is no discussion at all about “founding mothers”.
  2. This is why the paper’s title references the Spooks’ song “Things I’ve seen”.
  3. Ableism, various kinds of sexism, racism, imbue our life from day 0, and we are so used to these -isms that they seem to be normal. However, shouldn’t it be normal to acknowledge people and their experiences, instead of ignore and hurt them?
  4. According to publicly available statistics of TU Wien, 83% of roughly 5700 students enrolled in informatics in the current semester are male, no matter their country of origin. 66% are Austrian and male. (https://tiss.tuwien.ac.at/statistik/lehre/studien)
  5. The answers to these questions paint a picture of who the people we trust are, and how they are similar (and different) to us. This is a great point to reflect upon your own biases, and act accordingly.
  6. Even though university buildings in Austria have to comply with certain accessibility standards, not all lecture rooms at TU Wien can be self-determinedly used if one is a wheelchair user. To reach some rooms, there are no elevators, in others the doors can be difficult to open, or there is no accessible toilet in the vicinity.
  7. In a course I completed in my 2nd semester, one exercise was to create an article in the German Wikipedia. This sounds like an easy task. However, the German Wikipedia community is rather famous for its discussions whether topics are “relevant” enough to warrant their own page. An exercise in the course where I worked as a TA asked the students to create videos and upload them to YouTube. This, as well as the Wikipedia exercise, raises the question if students want their university-related content connected to the other data already connected with their account. And if they do not want this, can they even create another account?
  8. This is probably due to the fact that at TU Wien, informatics students are a rather homogeneous group, and there are massive stereotypes influencing the students’ decisions for this field of studies.

User Research Methods: Focus Groups

This entry has been published on December 3, 2018. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am December 3, 2018 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

This was an assignment on a current class I am taking. In short, the task was to write a short report on a research method, so that readers can understand the method without having to do a lot of research. The PDF can be found here: [method report PDF]

Continue reading User Research Methods: Focus Groups

New Page: Talks

This entry has been published on October 19, 2018. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am October 19, 2018 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

During the last year, I have been accepted as a speaker at a couple of events. Fortunately, many of them made video-recordings, so even if you were not able to attend the events, you can still see the presentations and hear me speak – at the moment, many are only available in German, but I hope to get some captions done soon(TM).

Here is the list: https://pascoda.fairydust.space/talks/

I will update it whenever something new comes up.

Write-Up: Bias in Algorithmic Systems

This entry has been published on September 22, 2018. Please bear in mind I have changed my views on some things since then. -- Dieser Eintrag wurde am September 22, 2018 veröffentlicht. Bitte denk beim Lesen daran, dass ich meine Ansichten zu einigen Dingen seither geändert habe.

So, here comes the final write-up I handed in this summer for the Critical Algorithm Studies course. The course is really cool, and if you have the chance to do so, I absolutely encourage you to enroll. Last semester, we looked at algorithmic systems, and how they (re)produce bias, from various viewpoints (it’s possible that the approach changes for next year).

Continue reading Write-Up: Bias in Algorithmic Systems