My Placement at the BBC

post by Joanne Parkes (2020 cohort)

My Business Partner is BBC Research and Development. Early in 2020, I came across an advert for a funded ICASE PhD Studentship seeking individuals interested in Enhancing the Digital Media User Experiences using 14 Human Values. It was proposed that these values or psychological drivers which underpin our behaviour could be utilised in some way to shape future offerings and assess their impact rather than relying on more traditional performance measures such as clicks and view time. The studentship would be dedicated to investigating ways to delivering this.

Whilst my first degree is in Media Production and I initially worked in Radio, my career ended up being in Business Psychology where I have specialised in employee selection, assessment and engagement. This research area sits nicely at the Venn intersect of my interests so it was not a difficult decision to apply, especially as I was excited at the prospect of having time allocated to working with the BBC again by way of the placement.

Early on in the studentship however, I sat in on a presentation given by a couple of members of an earlier cohort on their placements. It didn’t seem that their skills and abilities were well used and I was left with an impression of it being not much more than a work experience. I’d resigned myself to the fact that I just need to get it over and done with and frankly, I hadn’t expected to get much more out of it than 20 credits and if I were lucky, perhaps some useful connections to leverage when it came to conducting my research.

I’m pleased to say that this has not been the case. It soon became apparent that my experience was going to be very different to what I’d heard about from 2 students whose experiences were perhaps the unfortunate exception to the rule. My industry supervisors engaged with me right from the start, setting up regular meetings which alternated between discussing their work and my studies. They sought my input on various projects which entailed everything from peer review to internal presentation of data analysis and made me feel valued for my contributions.

It probably helped that I started the studentship when my industry supervisors were part way through creating a Human Values inventory questionnaire which could be used to support several objectives such as helping to design values led ideation workshops through to assessing deliverables in terms of facilitating achievements of values aligned aspirations. My working history imbued me with directly relevant and transferable skills, giving me the confidence to review the work in progress and proffer constructive feedback which was granted more than lip-service consideration. This marked an unofficial start to working towards my placement.

Soon after, a section of the inventory was being tailored to measure alignment to some of the values in a workplace setting, specifically around ‘Belonging to a Group’ and ‘Receiving Recognition’. I could draw parallels with my previous work in the field of Employee Engagement, on measuring attitudes towards Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and again, I was encouraged to provide input towards survey items. Where this differed however was the intention behind the tool to engender self-reflection at time of answering, perhaps to prompt discussion with immediate teams and line-managers where values were not being met rather than analysis of responses at an aggregate level as is more typical in Employee Engagement surveys.

Early in the second semester, the placement was formally kicked off and I was able to be more involved in several short studies:

Study 1 (n: 153) sought attitudes from participants on BBC iPlayer’s capacity to fulfil their values using a 5-point Likert scale and used open questions to seek examples of programmes in each of the values areas (although platforms were often suggested as well, e.g. YouTube being posited for ‘Growing Myself’). This provided some insight into the values considered less well served plus an indication of group score differences relating to gender. There were some clear winners among programmes with ‘Blue Planet’ being listed most often by far for facilitating ‘Explore the World’.

Study 2 (n: 1,147) was a very short follow up survey where participants were provided with 20 programmes to rate in terms of their ability to facilitate each of the values. I helped to select the programmes based on a combination of recent ratings and output of Study 1 in an attempt to present a range of popular genres to increase the likelihood of the participant watching them. I was given autonomy over the analysis and presented our findings across the 2 studies to an internal R&D monthly sectional meeting which included the Head of Applied Research.

Study 3 (n: 15) took a big step from my comfort zone in the form of a in-depth interview on attitudes towards personalisation online. This is the first study I have been involved in where we are actively seeking to publish the findings – wish us luck!

Along the way, I have also volunteered to take part in studies conducted in other areas of BBC R&D. One (Orchestra Surround Sound) involved calibrating multiple devices (e.g. computer, phone, tablet) to create a more interactive and engaging experience with an orchestra which enabled participants to experiment with sound placement and volume. Another involved evaluating room acoustic representation in binaural spatial audio (Polymersive Reverb). Another sound specific study (Soft Clipper listening tests) related to software designed to address sound distortion as part of the BBC’s upgrade of FM transmitters. I also participated in a critical evaluation of R1 Relax and attended a workshop discussing benefits and ethical implications of applying AI&ML to thumbnail selection for programme representation. The latter was really helpful for picking up pointers on focus group facilitation (particularly in a remote setting).

As a panel member in a facilitated discussion group run by the BBC R&D Diversity & Inclusion working group which is driving a range of initiatives to identify and address challenges in this space, I shared what I considered to be challenges and benefits of my neuro divergence in the workplace. On another occasion, I participated in Hybrid Meetings User Testing, providing feedback on any issues or potential policies from my disability perspective. As much as this was another opportunity to network, it provided me a platform through which to advocate.

The work I have participated in, both that allocated by my industry supervisors and that which I have volunteered for, has been beneficial in a number of ways. Among other things, it has:

      • given me an idea of the scope of experimentation that the BBC has the resource to conduct,
      • helped me learn and practice research skills I am less comfortable with, particularly around qualitative rather than quantitative approaches,
      • given me some ideas as to how I might conduct some of my own research in the future,
      • provided me with some findings directly relevant to my research question,
      • cemented a strong working relationship with my industry supervisors to the extent that I feel a part of (and meaningful contributor to) the wider team rather than an adjunct.

A challenge with such a large organisation with many initiatives vying for attention seems to be that it can sometimes be hard to get traction for a new idea or initiative. However, many staff are still working remotely so I am not in a position to conclude if it is the nature of the organisation or a product of working in isolation that on occasion, it has seemed that proposing a cross team study has initially been akin to pushing against an opening door only to end up in a room called limbo.

On the other side, a benefit of the scale of my industry partner is reach when it comes to recruiting study participants. I was really impressed with the speed with which we were able to reach target completion rates on several occasions. This said, I have learned not to take this for granted as I have been aware of situations where colleagues have found recruitment much more arduous, so consideration still needs to be given to sampling, targeting and study appeal.

It seems almost impossible to reflect on anything that has occurred in the last couple of years without making reference to COVID19 related impacts. In my case, it has meant that there has been far less face-to-face time, but I don’t believe that this has been too detrimental as, prior to commencing the studentship, I had worked mainly from home for some years. This said, I was finally able to visit the offices towards the end of last year and a tour of the facilities has revealed options for study approaches that whilst potentially beneficial, now seem perhaps indulgent because in my mindset, the location is so novel to me.

When the placement started (and when it will end) has a very blurred timeline, it certainly hasn’t consisted of a discreet 3 month full or 6 month part time block which comes with the potential to over-commit but also comes with the potential to forget a genuine partnership throughout the course of study.

To conclude, I have gained a lot more from the placement than I had initially expected. I’ve had facetime with people well placed to support my research in the future and importantly to me, I’ve felt that I have made meaningful contributions throughout rather than (virtually) turning up in order to tick a box.

 

Think Aloud Walking Study

post by James Williams (2020 cohort)

Hi everyone. I am currently a second-year PhD candidate at the Nottingham Geospatial Institute and the Horizon Centre for Doctoral training. My research investigates leisure walking experiences curated using user engagement. The research has the industry partner of the Ordnance Survey. 

I am recruiting for a study around the East Midlands (even if outside of this please get in contact) for a think-aloud walking study, where participants will be temporarily provided with a GoPro and asked to think aloud during a walk. The walks should be between 30 minutes – 1 hour and agreed before the day.

Participants should be over the age of 18, and able to complete a walk of this length.  

More details on this project can be found on this sheet

Please get in contact with me at James.Williams@Nottingham.ac.uk if you would like to request more information or request a study interest document.

And feel free to share this study with your network!

Thank you!

James Williams

 

Call for Participants – Impact of the Kooth Platform on Subjective Well-being

post by Gregor Milligan (2021 cohort)

The “Impact of the Kooth Platform on Subjective Well-being” pilot study is exploring the changes in subjective well-being of participants before and after the use of a digital mental health support platform. We are particularly interested in exploring if the Kooth app impacts the subjective well-being of its users.

We are currently recruiting participants to use the app 3 times a week for 6 weeks. Participants will answer weekly surveys that will enable the understanding of their subjective well-being and experience on the platform.

We are looking for participants that fall within these demographics:

  1. Participants will be between the ages of 16 and 25
  2. Participants have not used the Kooth app before

If you fit into this demographic, we’d like to invite you to take part in this study, in which we will evaluate the effect of Kooth on subjective well-being. It will not be necessary for you to discuss your medical or mental health history or that of others, and you are under no obligation to disclose any information you do not want to. The surveys are designed to take around 5 minutes and will take place online. You will receive a £25 shopping voucher for contributing to the study.

This study will take place between March and May 2022, with dates to be confirmed once we have an idea of the number of participants.

For more information, or to sign up, contact Gregor Milligan at gregor.milligan@nottingham.ac.uk.

Many thanks,

Gregor Milligan and Liz Dowthwaite

Journal Paper Published in the Computer Law & Security Review

“Defence Against the Dark Artefacts: Smart Home Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Standards”

post by Stanislaw Piasecki (2018 cohort)

Dr. Lachlan Urquhart (Lecturer in Technology Law, University of Edinburgh and former CDT student) had the first idea in terms of the paper’s topic, which has evolved quite significantly since then concerning its content, structure and methodology. The paper has been written by myself, Lachlan and Professor Derek McAuley (Professor of Digital Economy, Faculty of Science, University of Nottingham). The initial version was based on the practice-led project module completed during the 2018-2019 academic year (part of the Horizon CDT PhD programme). The first title of the project was “Defence Against Dark Artefacts: Mapping Smart Home Cybersecurity Standards”. While I was working on the PLP, the United Kingdom Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published a series of documents aggregating various standards in its “Code of Practice for Consumer Internet of Things (IoT) Security” and the associated “Mapping of IoT security recommendations, guidance and standards to the UK’s Code of Practice for Consumer IoT Security”. During the same period of time, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) mapped standards in its “IoT Security Standards Gap Analysis”. We realised that the mapping has already been done both at national and EU levels and, as a result, focused our work on analysing the assumptions underpinning emerging EU and UK smart home cybersecurity standards, changing the article’s title to “Defence Against the Dark Artefacts: Smart Home Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Standards”. Staying up to date was crucial to making our paper relevant and as accurate as possible. I considered the publication of the documents mentioned above as a positive development as I was able to completely focus on the analysis of the assumptions upon which IoT standards are based, the most interesting aspect of our project in my view. My motivation to write this paper has always been to stir discussions about those assumptions and contribute to moving policies into a positive direction for EU and UK citizens. While the main objective of our work has not changed, the means to achieve our goals did. For example, as a result of team discussions, we decided to use the routine activity criminological theory to explain security risks associated with the current design of many smart products. This theory has supported effective policymaking and crime prevention strategies for a long time and has recently been applied more frequently to “virtual” world-related scenarios. Discussing and contributing ideas with my co-authors was a great experience, which certainly improved the content of our article.

We started discussing the outline of the paper already in 2019. My professional background is in law and politics, and our project also involved work in fields such as computer science, cybersecurity and criminology. For this reason, the interdisciplinary nature of our team was helpful and important. In addition to online research and team discussions, I organised meetings with experts from the University and with people I met during various events (such as the 2019 EUROCRIM conference in Ghent, Belgium) to receive advice. However, the interdisciplinary nature of our project remained a challenge for me and involved much reading and discussions to better understand the computer science and criminological aspects of our article, especially at the beginning of my PhD journey (I was still getting familiar with certain basic terminology used in the computer science field). In my opinion, this part of the paper preparation process greatly enhanced my research knowledge and skills. While I will never become a computer scientist, learning about this field of study by reading journal papers, books but also asking questions to computer scientists continues to help me in proposing the most relevant and accurate legal solutions, as my work often lies at the intersection of law and technology. Writing this journal paper has reminded me of the value and importance of interdisciplinary work.

In terms of the review process, the initial journal, to which we submitted our paper had difficulties in finding reviewers and we decided to withdraw our submission. We made this decision before any reviewer was found. I discussed this with my co-authors to make sure that this was ethical (until then, I did not know that withdrawing the submission was in some cases an acceptable decision) and we contacted together the journal in question to be certain that they are comfortable with this as well. This is why the publication process has been much longer than anticipated. This has also influenced our work as we had to stay up to date with new research and technological developments, and include them into our paper while waiting for reviews. Subsequently, we decided to submit our article to the Computer Law and Security Review journal, known for its interdisciplinary nature. The reviewers were quickly selected and we started working on their comments.

Two persons reviewed our work and, in my opinion, the comments were fair. The reviewers were open to discussing them and it felt as if they really wanted to improve our paper rather than just criticise it. The article required a minor revision, which has been completed after two cycles of amendments. While we agreed with some comments, we disagreed with others but always found a common solution. I did anticipate some suggestions. For example, in terms of the structure of the paper, I have suspected that this might be something that they could comment on as I was hesitating myself on how to order specific sections. In this regard, the reviewers helped me in seeing this issue more clearly and finding the right solution. They also suggested citing additional articles, defining certain technical terms and giving more examples of real-world situations to illustrate my arguments. This has definitely improved our paper. In terms of the remarks we disagreed with, we were able to explain to the reviewers what we meant by particular statements and convince them that they are important. This also allowed us to refine those statements and make them clearer for future readers.

While publishing our paper took a rather long time due to the necessity to withdraw our first submission and switch journals, writing this article was a valuable and challenging process, my first publication of interdisciplinary work, an opportunity to collaborate with more experienced researchers and learn about various aspects of journal paper publications. I have already applied what I learned by submitting a second paper this year (based on the first two chapters of my PhD), which has been recently conditionally accepted for publication. Among others, this time I tried to use more concrete real-life examples to support my statements and define technical terms. Even though there might be very well-written articles, I think that there is always room for reviewers’ suggestions to further improve them, and I look forward to participating in the review process again in the future.

 

Measure and track your mood with smart clothes

post by Marie Dilworth (2017 cohort)

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to wear a t-shirt that measured your emotions and your mood?

One day this might be a reality!

We are running an online survey to understand what people think about emotion-tracking smart clothing.

We would love to know what you think about the idea.

If you can it will take 10-15 minutes to fill out this survey to support PhD Research.

This research is being run by:

  • University of Nottingham, School of Computer Science and
  • Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, Mental Health Technology

Survey:
https://nottingham.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/would-you-wear-mood-measuring-smart-clothes

 

Thank you for giving your time to support mental health technology research!

Marie Dilworth
PhD Candidate
School of Computer Science
University of Nottingham

 

https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/groups/mixedrealitylab/

https://nottinghambrc.nihr.ac.uk/research/mental-health

 

 

 

Broadening Horizons in the Horizon Scanning Team

post by Charlotte Lenton (2020 cohort)

The Possibilities Were Endless

The industry partner for my PhD is the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) which is a member-based organisation working with organisations throughout the rail industry to improve railways in the UK. RSSB has vast connections with industry organisations throughout the sector which meant I could have pretty much undertaken any rail-related role in a whole host of companies to get first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in rail. So why did I decide to stick to an office-based position within RSSB?

In December 2020, the small but excellent, Horizon Scanning team of two at RSSB kindly came along to an online event that I organised with other members of the CDT to talk about their work and techniques used in horizon scanning. This presentation was well received by my colleagues and left me wanting to know more about how this technique works in practice, as well as how the outcomes benefit organisations within the rail sector. It was quite opportune that the team would be starting to do some horizon scanning work as part of the Rail Technical Strategy (RTS) refresh in the summer of 2021 which was around the time that I would be starting my placement. The RTS was the main industry document which helped to shape my PhD proposal throughout Year One of my studies. Following the initial training I was allocated as the lead student analysis for the RTS ‘Easy-to-Use’ horizon scanning work.

Horizon Scanning: Thinking the Unthinkable

Very few people are excited by the prospect of change, especially when the potential changes and their impact are largely unknown. As a horizon scanning analysis my job was to think about changes and the various implications that these could have on the rail sector. I was to explore the horizon for early signs of potential changes, collate information about these emergent changes, and think about how these changes could make a difference to the industry. In this sense, I was to think about the unthinkable and process this information in a way that would be helpful for managers to begin to anticipate the future.

Taking the RTS roadmap for the Easy-to-Use priority as a starting point, I began to search the internet for key terms relating to the different topics. Anything I found that I thought was an indication of something new, a change, a confirmation or just background information on one of the topics, I logged in an online spreadsheet. Each data point collected was then reviewed on a weekly basis at a sensemaking meeting where I discussed the recorded items with the horizon scanning principal. This was a useful exercise for us both as it helped him to get an idea of the types of things that I was finding during the scanning process, but it also helped me to justify my reasoning for logging the data points depending on their categorisation.

(Image: The current roadmap for the Easy-to-Use priority of the Rail Technical Strategy)

The Rules: There Are No Rules

Unlike academic research, the validity of the information source was not subject to much, if any, scrutiny providing it was an indication of a novel idea or potential change. The example that was used during training, which will always stick in my mind, was that an idea expressed in a blog post by a man sitting in his living room at 2am in Lagos should not be discounted just because of the source if the idea is an indication of a potential change on the horizon. Other sources with similar ideas may be found further down the line which validate or reject the ideas posted by this late-night blogger. So, for the purposes of information gathering even this type of blog post should be logged in the database alongside sources such as academic journals, newspaper articles, books, and television programmes.

Adapting to this unrestrictive method for capturing information and knowledge was a particular challenge for me as it went against everything I have been taught to do as part of my academic training. I was so accustomed to only using and trusting sources that are deemed valid by the academic community that I found it hard to log sources that felt ‘invalid’ as they were merely the opinion of one person in a blog that only a few people have read. This led me back to thinking about a module I had previously completed as part of my Masters in Gender Studies. In this module we discussed the inequalities that exist within the production and sharing of knowledge because of how the academic world is geared towards only listening to voices that have been validated and verified by our peers. Why do the comments of a professor from a top UK university matter more to the academic community than the words of a Black Feminist activist talking about her first-hand experiences of racial and gender discrimination? Whilst I am not suggesting that the academic community should start referencing every other person that posts their thoughts and opinions online, perhaps we, as academics, should begin to take a more flexible approach like the techniques of horizon scanning in our search for knowledge to gain a better understanding of the world outside of the four walls of academia.

Writing For a Different Audience

Towards the end of the placement, I was asked to start writing a report to be disseminated throughout the rail sector which highlights some key areas for potential change in the future. Unlike writing for a university assessment or an academic paper, this type of reporting needed to short and snappy whilst consolidating the evidence from many data points found during the scanning phases. In one sense it was quite like writing for social media where you must get your point across in as few characters as possible whilst still making an impact on your audience with a statement about how these potential changes could impact their work or service.

I think this type of writing is just as important as writing for journals and books for academics as social media can be used as a vehicle for disseminating research beyond the fourth wall and into the public domain in a more familiar and understandable way. I am not suggesting that we should all start doing Tik Tok dance videos to disseminate our research, but it does seem that social media remains an underutilised platform for communication with wider audiences. It is also only recently that I have started seeing webinars and training sessions being offered through the university to train PGR on how to communicate their research through social media. Needless to say, I will be booking myself on to one of the sessions imminently!

Broadening My Horizons

Overall, I feel that the placement with RSSB has given me excellent first-hand experience of what it is like to work within a busy team of researchers in an industry setting. I have been encouraged to think outside of the box and change my perspective in terms of what is considered ‘valid’ knowledge. The practical experience of using Horizon Scanning techniques and writing for different audiences has also improved my transferable skills available to me throughout and at the completion of my PhD.

I cannot thank Guy, Sharon, Mel, and the team enough for welcoming me into the world of R&D at RSSB with open arms and treating me to such a valuable set of experiences throughout my placement.

Drivers and Barriers to Digital Inclusion

post by Oliver Miles (2018 cohort)

Interning as an Embedded Research Associate with CityMaaS

 Finding the right internship – introducing CityMaaS

From July-September 2021, I had the privilege of working as an embedded research associate with CityMaaS, a London based start-up in the digital inclusion space. This opportunity arose after pitching my PhD at a Digital Catapult networking event for students and start-ups. I prioritised attending this event as I was especially keen to experience work in a start-up environment. In the weeks following, I was introduced to Rene Perkins – CityMaaS CEO and co-founder. We agreed that at the intersection of her work on digital inclusion, and my work on values-driven personalisation, there was scope and mutual interest for a research project uncovering the drivers and barriers to digital inclusion adoption. Over a series of conversations, we discussed aims and objectives, ultimately formulating some questions and a target population. As I continue to write up research findings, I’ll talk only very briefly about research method and content. The focus here is more on the process of co-creating the ‘right’ internship, doing research work as an intern, and working as an embedded researcher within an external company. After introducing key concepts and CityMaaS products and services, I’ll talk about research participants, rationale and outcomes, reflections on navigating a specifically ‘research orientated’ internship and plans for future work.

Concepts, products, and services

Digital inclusion is a far-reaching domain, but the focus of CityMaaS is specifically on applications of accessibility and mobility. CityMaaS software solutions include ‘Assist Me’ – a web tool for personalising the audio-visual and interactive content on websites; ‘Mobility Map’ – a mapping tool inclusive of machine-learning driven predictions of location accessibility and personalised route planning features; and ‘AWARE’ – an automated compliance checker, scoring and reporting a websites’ alignment with globally recognised web standards[1]. Improving accessibility online and offline is therefore, in a nutshell, the unifying objective for these solutions.

Who are digital inclusion solutions for?

People with additional accessibility and mobility needs – specifically those affected by conditions of visual, audio, physical and cognitive impairment – are ultimately the critical target end-users in terms of product interaction. Crucially though, they are not the clients: As a business to business (B2B) company, CityMaaS market and sell their solutions to public, private, and third-sector organisations with a view to improving their in-house digital inclusion offer; the general incentive being adding socio-economic value.

Why do corporate opinions and practices matter?

While the appeal of improving accessibility and mobility could/should be thought of as self-evident, if companies are to invest in bespoke solutions such as Assist Me, they need to not only be sure of its technical functionality, but confident it thematically aligns with their own conceptions of digital inclusion. Corporate clients therefore, were our population of interest for this work.

Research Activity:

My work combined designing, conducting, and analysing interviews with senior heads of digital from 3rd party organisations known to CityMaaS, with the aim of answering an overarching question, ‘what are the drivers and barriers to digital inclusion?’. Results – from thematic analysis of semi-structured interview transcripts, expressed as 10 value themes driving or hindering accessibility and mobility – would go onto inform the design of an ideation workshop (Fig 1).

Figure 1 – Digital inclusion themes

Interviewees and selected colleagues would then engage in specially designed accessibility and mobility solution ideation workshops, aligning features and functions of CityMaaS products with the 10 emergent themes (Fig 2).

Figure 2 – Software demo, product attributes & values-driven ideation exercise

Research Outcomes:

For CityMaaS, outcomes are aimed here at better defining the qualitative touchpoints for digital inclusion and discovering desirable uses for software, grounded in real-world values. For myself as a researcher of values-driven personalisation in the digital economy, this was a chance to explore emergent drivers and barriers as a values-orientated resource to digital solutions ideation in diverse corporate settings.

Reflections on navigating ‘researching’ and ‘interning’

There were several practical questions which required collaborative discussion with the CDT, most notably the nature of the partnership, data collection and storage, and my potentially conflicting status as both a doctoral research student and CityMaaS intern. We agreed the best framing of my status was that of an ‘embedded research associate’, as while I would be working alongside the CityMaaS team, my research would require university ethical clearance if results were to be useful to me in the wider PhD. As such, data collection and storage were conducted through university systems and protocol. I received no renumeration for my work with CityMaaS, with the prior agreement that research was explorative and not directly connected to business development activity on my part.

In terms of the nature of the work, the biggest challenges were those of project management, resourcing (providing interviewees, access to data) and ultimately ‘scope creep’. In terms of project management, mapping activities to a Gantt chart was personally beneficial, and I ensured that at numerous stages, there were deliverables which kept me accountable. For example, conducting initial requirements gathering sessions with CityMaaS business development and technical colleagues allowed me to hit an early goal of enumerating product features and functions, helping me to learn the product portfolio before interviewing participants later.

Delegation of activities also aided productivity where appropriate. As an example, my colleague in business development had much better access to interested and already connected corporate organisations than I did, meaning the substantive element of the internship wasn’t mostly generating participants.

The biggest danger though remained scope creep. Again, I found that effective project management and having short-term deliverables helped: I was able to complete internal requirements gathering, interview design, participant interviewing, analysis, and workshop design in the allotted 3 months’ time. Completion of ideation workshops though proved to be an ambitious final component; consequently, scheduled to take place in early 2022. While this remains realistic for me due to relatedness of the work to my PhD, if the project had to complete at any of the prior stages, outcomes were designed to be useful as standalone findings.

Conclusion & Future work

On reflection, I found the internship one of the most useful CDT activities for me in terms of both continued professional development and alignment with my own research interests. Moreover, I had never considered working in the digital inclusion sector before or had the opportunity to contribute to research in a start-up environment. As I complete workshops in February 2022 and write-up, I hope my findings are insightful to CityMaaS and useful to furthering my own understanding of values-driven consumption in the digital economy. I would also recommend the Horizon CDT network and partners at Digital Catapult, in terms of networking and finding bespoke internship opportunities.


[1] Based on the w3 (2018) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Based on the w3 (2018) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/

Digital manufacturing, say what?

Reflection on developing a digital manufacturing toolkit for children

post by Natalie Leesakul (2018 cohort)

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of manufacturing? Assembly lines? Boring and repetitive tasks? Loud noises?

Over the years, the manufacturing sector has evolved and moved more towards the age of digitalization. However, as the sector entered the era of Industry 4.0, skilled-labour shortages started to become a problem. The sector is experiencing the phenomenon where current employees are retiring while failing to attract new skilled employees. The manufacturing sector was not on my radar until I started my PhD at Horizon CDT (Grant No. EP/L015463/1) working in partnership with DigiTOP (Grant No. EP/R032718/1), and that has completely changed my perspective. This sector is filled with innovation. It is about forward thinking. At the core, there is a major element of maximizing productivity and efficiency by utilizing advanced technologies but also a shift towards ensuring seamless human-machine collaboration and contributions to sustainability and the Net Zero movement. After getting more involved in this sector in the past three years, the question that always comes up is how do we make manufacturing sexy? How do we inspire future generations to be interested in manufacturing?

As part of DigiTOP’s work, we are developing a toolkit to help organizations implement and integrate digital technologies. We provide research on the role of human factors and the impact of technology on the workforce along with use cases and recommendations on the technology adoption and design. One of the on-going toolkit developments is an educational set of resources focusing on the introduction to digital manufacturing aimed at a younger audience (primary and secondary children). I had an opportunity to be a part of the team in charge of developing the content from the start of the video production to running our very first workshop with students in collaboration with Speakers for Schools.

At the start, the first question to answer was how to transform a complex topic into something that is easy to comprehend by the children. We see digital manufacturing as “the use of smart, digital, autonomous and intelligent technologies within the manufacturing sector. These technologies include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, sensors and distributed data networks.” Certainly, there was quite a bit to unpack from this definition. Putting ourselves in the shoes of a 7-year-old, a short animated film was chosen as a communicational medium. Acknowledging that there was not any other existing child-focussed videos on manufacturing at the time, we decided to go forward with the plan and the video was produced in collaboration with Cloudifacturing and Digitbrain projects. The video production kicked off with choosing the right supplier. We searched for a video producer who really understood the brief and the video style of our preference and that required reading through multiple proposals as well as extensive discussion on animation style, colour schemes, voiceover artists, etc. Once we decided on the proposal, we provided the producers with an initial script that covered the objectives and key messages of the video including:

        • Introduction to general changes in industry 4.0/digital manufacturing
        • Cloud-based technologies and human factors considerations
        • Digital twin
        • Human physiological sensing
        • Human robot collaboration
        • Virtual reality in manufacturing and design
        • Responsible technology development and adoption

The challenge we had was explaining all of the above topics in a 3-4 minute video. We consulted with experts in child education to translate (boring) academic language into child-friendly and exciting dialogue. After many editions and revisions of the script, here is the final cut of the video:

The project did not stop at the video production. We are continuing to develop further content to support the use of the video as part of a school curriculum. For our first trial, we were invited to run a workshop through Speakers for Schools program under the weekly theme of digitalization. The workshop dove into the topics mentioned in the video in an interactive manner. We wanted to hear from the students while still making it fun and educational. The workshop was divided into three sections: 1. Subject and skills for digital manufacturing; 2. Sensors; 3. Humans & Robots. I was responsible for the third section. Creating workshop content for younger audience required a completely different approach to a preparation for a conference presentation. How do we gain their engagement especially in a virtual environment? What kind of activities needed to ensure positive engagement? How do we keep them entertained instead of dozing off? How do we make it simple but still interesting? We had various brainstorming sessions to find different ways to run this workshop. We found that to keep the same narrative in all three sessions, creating a fictional character called ‘Amy’ who is a digital factory manager was the way to go. Throughout the workshop, Amy faces different scenarios where she needs helps from the students to make decisions. We used tools such as running polls, storytelling, yes/no questions, and lots and lots of pictures!

In my session of human-robot collaboration, I asked the students to help Amy assign tasks to either human operators or robots.

I was very surprised by some of their answers. The answers were mostly robots even for making coffee! To me, this demonstrates the pro-technology nature of the younger generation. They seemed to be quite comfortable with the topic and it was quite refreshing to see positive engagement from the students. Although we are now living in the world of digitalization, the final note that we left the students with was data and ethics. It is important that we are aware of potential issues and impacts that may arise from technology in order to balance the interests of all stakeholders. Special thanks to the team: Dr. Glyn Lawson, Debra Fearnshaw, Dr Adrian Marinescu, Dr Setia Hermawati, and Siobhan Urquhart.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blogpost. I hope this sparks your interests in digital manufacturing and public engagement. My name is Natalie, Horizon 2018 cohort, and my PhD focuses on the adoption of collaborative embodied autonomous systems in the case of digital manufacturing from legal perspective. 😊

 

 

Call for Participants: Testing for Transparency

PhD researcher Ephraim Luwemba (2019 Cohort) is currently recruiting participants to take part in Testing for Transparency Interviews.

About the Interviews

The interviews form an important part of the Testing for Transparency project. By interviewing the people who design digital services, we hope to ensure it is relevant and that we have a realistic impression of the technical and institutional challenges faced when attempting to create transparent privacy policies.

Who can take part

If you currently work on digital services that are likely to be accessed by children or have worked on them in the past, we would appreciate your input. We are looking for professionals involved in all aspects of creating a digital service including but not limited to QA and user testing specialists, UI and UX designers, copywriters, content creators, project managers, project architects, and contract lawyers who have been involved in the drafting of website policies and terms of service.

Amazon voucher

We are offering a £15 Amazon voucher to interviewees as a token of thanks. If you prefer, we can also donate the same amount to a charity of your choice. To do so, please let us know which charity you would like us to send a donation to by e-mailing Ephraim.Luwemba@nottingham.ac.uk prior to your interview.

You can read more information about the project at Testing for Transparency Interviews