As the group where my research career began, where I attained my PhD degree – and began my partnership with Jesper – the University of Melbourne’s Interaction Design group holds a special place in my history and my heart.
It has been extremely important for me to renew face-to-face collegial and personal relationships with the researchers at Melbourne, which in turn will strengthen the Melbourne-Aalborg connection. As I continue to discover, research collaborations and opportunities are as much about the personal relationships formed with people in the field as they are about your academic credentials.
Research wise, Frank Vetere (University of Melbourne), Yvonne Rogers (University College London) and myself are conducting a study with small groups of older adults (70+ years) to observe and understand their creativity, explorations and coordination around technology. We are using the MakeyMakey (http://www.makeymakey.com) toolkit “using bananas as a keyboard to play piano” as a starting point, allowing participants to then create and explore other possibilities using the toolkit. It is a very open-ended study, but if we gain some interesting results, we have plans to continue the study in Melbourne, London and Aalborg simultaneously with additional participants.
The projects we are participating in here are really interesting, but for me, spending time with Yvonne Rogers on a Melbourne tram as we ride to St Kilda to visit the Sunday Markets, and the conversations that we have on the way about HCI and her work, set up a rumble of inspiration for my own research, which is more than just the sound of the tram wheels on the sun baked tracks. Sitting at an outdoor table with Paul Dourish at the Belgian Beer Café, on a balmy autumn evening, sparks new ideas on how our current research might sit within the global HCI context. Chats with Steve Howard at an AFL football game, while cheering the local team, spur me on to be mindful of the importance of the social and instrumental aspects of “smart” cooking. These experiences are affecting my approach to my research, opening up my thinking to consider new perspectives gained from both formal and informal conversations with the inspirational and experienced HCI researchers who have “collided” in Melbourne at this time.
Research Correspondent, Jeni Paay