In a society that seems to be increasingly motivated by personal gain, be it financial or otherwise, altruistically offering your energy, knowledge, and more importantly your time, towards a cause you find meaning to is a refreshing deed for the soul. Although I have participated in voluntary work before, the academic workload over the past three years has not allowed me to do so. Until now! Inspire Foundation was established in early 2019 by a group of researchers/employees of the University of Nottingham as well as individual from across the city. The goal? To bring together and integrate new and established communities through cultural and educational events and activities.
Back in April, during a conversation with a friend (and one of Inspire’s founders), he informed me about the project they were putting together and the STEM club for young people they had just start running. I have always enjoyed working with kids (I have spent more than two years doing work on the social-emotional development of pre-schoolers) and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get involved, once again, in voluntary work. I decided to attend one session which was a broad and palatable introduction to computer science. The youngsters were enthusiastic and after the presentation, we spend some bonding time together. It was apparent to me at this point that this was an initiative worth getting involved with.
The main project of the foundation is the “Victor Tudorica” Bursary and Saturday Club, in memory of Victor Tudorica, a student at The University of Nottingham how unfortunately passed away back in 2016. With the goal of promoting and delivering educational activities and workshops in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) fields this initiative is aimed at young people between 11-15 years of age from disadvantages and potentially vulnerable backgrounds. The club ran for 6 months (March 2019 – August 2019) and it included a vast array of activities ranging from building LEGO robots to discussing skills for the future and from creating short movies to dismantling old computer hardware. The club also paid a visit to our own Mixed Reality Lab where we had the chance to talk to researchers, have fun at the VR playground and get our personalised laser-cut tags.
The most memorable activity for me was the movie-making session. At the previous meeting, we formed groups of 3-4 people and decided the theme of the short movie as well as set up our storyboards. We had, therefore, the structure of the story ready and upon our arrival, we decided what roles each one will play, where we are going to shoot our scenes and what kind of props we will need. After finishing with shooting, we spend a good amount of time editing our movies which we then presented to the entire group. It was an excellent activity for the young ones, being both engaging and informative since they learned how to use a camera and editing software as well as solving problems on the spot.
After the completion of the Saturday Club, I was wondering whether to get more involved with Inspire Foundation in the upcoming year and a couple of weeks ago I received a message regarding Inspire’s annual general meeting. Walking into the meeting, I was still not sure whether my academic work will allow me for a more committed role in the charity. These doubts, however, were waived away after experiencing first-hand the commitment and engagement from all other members. I decided, consequently, to become a trustee for this year. It is, indeed, the first time I become involved in this way with a charity and I very much looking forward to this journey.
Inspire Foundation has already several plans for the upcoming months, ranging from events with communities around Nottingham to re-initiating the Saturday club and engaging with the University of Nottingham in promoting STEM activities. Last week, for example, we participated in an event organised by the Polish community in which we set up an exhibit with our Lego Mindstorms Robots. Three kids from the Saturday Club were also present and helped out with the event. I will try to keep you updated on our activities with another blog post in the near future.
My overall experience with the Inspire Foundation has been nothing less than fantastic. Engaging with an organization that provides teenagers with the opportunity to explore new routes for their future as well as allowing me to meet new people and interact with local communities is one of the best decisions I have made this year and I would highly recommend for everyone to get involved.
The GIFT Project is an international project funded by Horizon 2020, which explores new ways of engaging with cultural heritage through gifting . The scope of the project is huge, and draws together researchers, artists, designers and museum professionals from across Europe, including the University of Nottingham’s Mixed Reality Lab . GIFT has developed and deployed various experiences with museums in Denmark, Italy, Norway, Spain, Serbia, the UK and the USA since it began in 2017. It has several different ‘tracks’ within it, each of which explores different elements of gifting, interactivity and cultural experiences. For example The Gift Experience allows the user to choose objects or places within the museum; photograph them; personalise elements of it, for example with a written note or audio comment; and then gift it to someone to experience for themselves. Another example is The One Minute Experience, which uses templates and guidelines to enable visitors to write short texts about objects viewed in the museums, which they can then leave as gifts for other visitors. I was lucky enough to meet the wonderful Dr Jocelyn Spence, the lead Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham for the GIFT project and originator of VRtefacts (developed alongside the equally wonderful Dr Dimitrios Darzentas), early on in my PhD. Through her, I learned about the GIFT project and the amazing work they were doing.
My PhD project is working with the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery to explore relationships between audience, art and venue, and how those relationships can be better understood and developed into something more long term, personal and meaningful, through the use of novel technologies. Naturally, the GIFT project offered a fantastic insight into some of the ways work like mine is already being undertaken, and a chance to see how this work is received by the public users. When I was given the opportunity to help with a two day deployment of the VRtefacts experience as part of the GIFT project, I was delighted to get on board.
In late May 2019, at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery we showed VRtefacts to the public for the first time. The project, without spoiling anything for any reader who may yet get a chance to experience it themselves, used virtual reality (VR) to encourage visitors to donate personal stories to the Derby Museum. Enabled by a combination of tactile and digital technologies, and a beautiful VR environment created by Dr Dimitrios Darzentas, visitors were able to interact with artefacts in a thoroughly immersive and novel way. My role for the course of the deployment was to get the visitor settled into the VR environment, set the scene for their donation experience, and then to guide them through their storytelling. We heard from a broad array of people, who donated an even broader range of stories. From hypothesising what the artefact may have been used for, to memories of related objects and places, to tangential personal anecdotes and fictional hyperbole, we were gifted with some fantastic tales that added a resonant, human layer to the objects displayed. The value of this to the museum, the visitor, and the research project are multiple. For example, for the museum, it gave a new avenue to understanding their audiences, and the meanings they take from the exhibits shown. For the visitor, it allowed them a deeper way to engage with the exhibits, a space to reflect on their own experience or expertise, and a platform to share those reflections with others. Finally, in terms of research, it demonstrated a novel, exciting way of accessing audiences, as well as the importance of inter-disciplinary projects in contemporary research.
The future for museums and galleries comes, in part, in a technologically driven, interactive format, which enables visitors to experience not just the exhibits, but the museum experience as a whole in novel and exciting ways. VRtefacts is a timely and exhilarating glimpse at what future museum visiting may entail, and the feedback from the public who engaged with the project was overwhelmingly positive. By providing a way for visitors to interact with artefacts and exhibits in a tactile, personal way, it became apparent that each visitor had their own interpretations, reflections, and indeed stories for each piece, brought to the fore by the enoblement of the technologies involved, that they were excited to share with the museum as well as each other. Enabling the visitor to share their stories was not only well received by them, but also by the museum who were pleased to learn about the histories of each piece, or the personal relevance of the artefacts to the individual. VRtefacts represents one face of the future for museums and galleries, in which personalised interactivity forms an important part of the visitor experience.
On a more personal note, the project demonstrated just one way that technologies can be utilised to enable and encourage connections between visitors, cultural venues, and exhibits. Despite my involvement beginning late in the process, just a few weeks before the date of the intervention, I was delighted that my feedback on the human engagement element was integrated into the final experience, and it provided a valuable insight into how these kind of projects are developed and deployed in a museum setting. Running the experience also allowed me to revisit storytelling skills I had established during my time working at an escape room, and develop those skills in a new context. Most importantly I think, it gave me an insight into the practicalities of running an intervention; potential pitfalls and opportunities, the value of a strong team, and the importance of foresight (like bringing spares for your spares!). I’m looking forward to being involved in more projects like this in the future, learning more and offering more back, even at some point using these skills I have been developing to stage my own interactive experience within a cultural institution as part of my PhD.
Harriet Cameron (2018 Cohort) and Velvet Spors (2017 Cohort)
Hi, our names are Harriet and Velvet, and we’re PhD students within the Horizon CDT. In September 2019 we ran a full day workshop as part of the Digital Economy Network summer school. The workshop was designed to reach academics from across a broad spectrum of subjects and schools of thought, and bring them together to explore how identity, space, and place (ISP) were present in their research.
We ran the workshop as a group of four researchers; Velvet, Harriet, Luke and Hanne, all of whom are currently at various stages of their PhD’s within Horizon, and all of whom have different academic and professional backgrounds. We came together as a group because we recognised that each of us had a strong link with identity, space and place within our work, and were keen on exploring how these concepts both shape, and are shaped by, a wealth of different influences. For instance, Harriet comes from a background in human geography, and explores situated identities in both virtual and physical worlds, and Velvet is interested in human-centred, holistic ways of being with each other as a way of caring for yourself—being explicitly and implicitly connected. Together, we were able to provide a broad basis of theoretical and practical knowledge about identity, space and place, in order to facilitate valuable discussions around the importance of these topics, and their impact on research practices and outcomes.
We split the day into three core sections, each to address a different aspect of ISP. The first part of the day was spent simply getting to grips with these ambiguous and diverse concepts, sharing each other’s understandings and reflecting on our own assumptions. In our first activity, we set everyone free to spend a few minutes running around Jubilee campus, and finding examples of identity, space, and place; sending photos back to us so we could then discuss what everyone had chosen and why. This was a fantastic exercise, because all the photos taken were unique and showed completely different interpretations of not just definitions of identity, space, and place, but also different interpretations of the spaces they interacted with.
The second part of the day was designed to encourage reflection on how ISP affects daily life, and daily routines. We asked each delegate to draw a map of a route they take regularly or had recently taken, and then talked through what each person had created. Each map was highly individualised, in terms of what was represented, how those things were represented, and how the delegates showed their own personalities on their maps. This activity demonstrated not only how ISP impacts every single person on a mundane level, but it also allowed us to begin discussions on how technology shapes and is shaped by ISP at a day-to-day level.
The third part of the day continued to draw on themes of technology in ISP and got everyone thinking about how ISP related technology might be shaping their research, and how technology could be used to capture and explore ISP more overtly. In this section we got everyone to play free games related to ISP in some way and talk through which elements from our earlier discussions were apparent in the games, and which were more hidden. This allowed for some great exploration of how virtual and digital space, place and identity can be experienced, accessed and represented.
The last bit of our write-up contains personal reflections from each of us individually, showcased in a conversational presentation (if you feel like it, please read it out loud in two silly voices!).
Velvet: We ran the workshop not only to get researchers thinking about these complex themes and how they shape and are shaped by our research, but also as a part-experimental pilot and part sense-making activity: It was designed to feel the space out — literally and figuratively — to see if there was potential for a collective way of working and being with each other. Happily, the workshop was a success, and it seems that long term connections were made which will be fostered as a mechanism to continue these crucial discussions and share knowledge between participants.
Harriet: The multitude of voices we were lucky enough to bring together for the workshop, ranging from computer scientists, to engineers, to architects and more, contributed momentously to the positive outcomes we were able to draw from the day. It also demonstrated the value of these kind of events, where researchers with different ideas and perspectives come together, break each other out of their comfort zones, and question the assumptions that are all too easy to forget to question ourselves. It’s sometimes easy to become so involved in your own subject that you can forget the real-world applications and implications of concepts you may have come to take for granted. Hearing from those other perspectives not only re-centred us, but it also gave some fresh ideas and takes on those topics that we had almost forgotten to continue to critically examine. This was best demonstrated for me during our discussions defining space, place and identity early on in the day, when one delegate offered their definition of place as a “region in space, defined by co-ordinates”. This was so interesting, because they took their definition and applied it to cyberspace, comparing co-ordinates as used in the physical world, to URL’s used to navigate the internet. They explained that navigating websites, much like navigating physical places, requires you to narrow down your co-ordinates further and further, until you reach a point where you are capable of finding your exact destination. In the real world, this might be zooming in on your map app, or switching to a local paper map instead of a regional one. Online, this might mean navigating to the area of the website which contained the content you were interested it, by clicking through toolbars and hyperlinks. This offered a fresh perspective on navigating online spaces which I had never consciously considered before and has contributed to my own understanding of cyberspace.
Velvet: But apart from these overarching understandings and fresh impulses, running the workshop also generated insights for own personal research.
Harriet: A big part of my own research centres around trying to understand identities of individuals as situated, fluid constructs which are performed as part of social, cultural and political contexts. Part of the value of this workshop for me came in the form of being able to see those different identities demonstrated, not only in the context of students studying all over the UK taking part in a workshop at the University of Nottingham, but also in the ways that those different identities were reflected on during the activities and within the discussions. During the mapping activity for example, we were shown what priorities and performed identities the workshop participants had as part of their daily routine, be that in the form of their favourite shop, their place of worship, their favourite places to study, and so on. No two maps were drawn in the same way, even if they shared certain places or themes, demonstrating the breadth of experiences and the impact of our own identities on the landscape.
Velvet: On a very individual level, this workshop also showed me how people approach similar topics in very different, multifaceted ways. For my own PhD work, this means that I now feel even stronger about bringing people from different areas together and to create a safe, inclusive and open space together, so that synergies and a mingling of ideas can happen. When we first discussed doing this workshop, we were worried – perhaps even slightly apprehensive – about the experimental and open nature we wanted to implement. Most workshops we have attended in research or academic settings tend to be very directed, expert-led and focused on clearly defined goals or outcomes. In most of these workshops, we also bring ourselves in as a researcher or expert – a very different version of ourselves than in private. In a way, our workshop asked for a researcher perspective, but also a very private and personal one. Bringing an authentic version of yourself into an unknown space is difficult and a slightly scary undertaking – especially if you feel strongly about the concepts that are being discussed. Space, place and identity can become very personal very soon, especially since they are ideas and factors that everybody has experienced. Bringing lived experienced into a group requires a collective understanding of what it means to open up and how to approach it respectfully, without letting ideas go unchallenged. Now, having conducted this workshop, I am excited about exploring a variety of facilitation, openness and outlines with space/place/identity and in my own studies – especially how to do the whole process justice.
Harriet: In conclusion, hosting this workshop as part of a series of Digital Economy Network summer school activities was a fantastic opportunity to share and develop expertise and ideas, with a host of others who all brought their own invaluable perspectives to the workshop. On a personal note, it was also a much-appreciated plunge into facilitation and public speaking, in a way where I was able to practice those valuable skills, in a space with other researchers at similar points in their academic journey, whilst also facilitating and encouraging them to do the same.
Velvet: After a personal reflection and getting feedback, we aim to turn “Space/Place/identity” into a series of activities, with other workshops and get-togethers to exchange knowledge, but also to hold space for each other to be. How that’s going to look like in future? We are not entirely sure yet, but this workshop has laid out the groundwork for sure. We aim to facilitate it in an unconventional, experimental way that allows for a non-hierarchal way of organising ourselves. Maybe we are going back to web rings, individual HTML webpages – maybe we are going to use peer-seeded automated networks. Whatever shape it might take, we are excited to work on it collectively!
Finally, we want to shout out to Felicia Black and Monica Cano, whose patience and perseverance made this workshop not only possible, but a success. Thank you, Felicia and Monica!
Mel Wilson (2018 cohort) has recently returned from the CRITIS 2019 conference in Linkoping, Sweden where she successfully submitted the paper titled Exploring How Component Factors and Their Uncertainty Affect Judgements of Risk in Cyber-Security
Post by Melanie Wilson (2018 Cohort)
This conference paper was submitted following the work done for my PLP. It involved the process of recording and analysing the effects of uncertainty in experts’ ratings of cyber security risks, using an interval range method. This procedure allows capture of a value for uncertainty in a rating, by the use of an elliptical marking, as illustrated below.
A larger ellipse represents a greater uncertainty and a smaller represents greater certainty.
Following the PLP write up my PLP supervisor Josie McCulloch suggested that I might like to present the findings at a conference. Coincidentally I had been talking with an industry colleague who holds a doctorate in cyber security and is a senior figure in the cyber security industry with a large, international company with a particular interest in the industry sector addressed by the PLP work. He had suggested CRITIS as an ideal showcase for the paper.
After passing the details on to Josie, Zack and Christian we all felt that this was a worthwhile submission and after some discussions decided that we would submit a long paper with some adjustments from the original PLP work, to cover a greater range of data and greater depth of statistical analysis. Zack was to work on the statistical adjustment, with Josie and me looking at the general paper presentation and Christian inputting as necessary from his more experienced perspective of conference submissions.
I have been a commercially published author since the late 1980s, but I have not published an academic paper before. I enrolled on the Graduate School online course “ An Introduction to writing for academic Journals” which I found very helpful. It explained clearly the process and ways of dealing with each stage both practically and emotionally, as it recognised that peer review can be a harsh undertaking and hurtful if one’s mindset it not aligned to the process.
In general peer review does not differ too much from that of submitting to a mainstream publication. The biggest difference from my perspective was that you had several reviewers, rather than just a single editor. This meant that there were several different perspectives to address.
As a team I felt that each of us as contributors brought a different perspective and style to the paper. I had wondered how this might be aligned, as this kind of working, on a paper, was new to me. We all contributed to the paper by using overleaf; we also discussed ideas around changes and met to talk over differing aspects before the first submission. This was a really interesting process and one I really valued as it gave me a good insight into the way others could work in academia.
Following submission and peer review we again put our ideas forward on adjustments that could be made, and each contributed in their area. We met a discussed the points and addressed each one that was highlighted by each reviewer taking on board the suggestions and often hypothesising on the perspective of each reviewer and their field of expertise. Most of the points were valid and were useful contributions towards clarity and completeness within the paper. I feel we addressed all the points we felt had validity for change and we explained our perspective if we felt the point was perhaps unclear, but correct. I felt that working in this way was very helpful and our different ways of looking at the project benefited us all as it brought greater depth of multiple perspectives in to play.
I was impressed with how we all worked together on the project and how well everyone’s skills complemented the others. I’ve worked in a great many industry and charity sector teams and am very aware of the psychological process of team building, but in this case the transitions were smooth and at all times calm and friendly.
The conference was very interesting and gave me a chance to hear about other work in the area as well as the have many talks with various attendees on a large range of associated subjects. Particularly interesting were those working is gamification on learning strategies which link into my PhD work.
An added and very exciting bonus was that the paper was presented with the Young CRITIS award. The conference process has a rejection rate of 2/3rds of submissions and our paper was stated as a clear winner of the award, which is something I feel proud to have been a part of.
I am hoping to use this method of recording uncertainty in some of the questionnaires for my PhD in terms of capturing the uncertainty of risk, online as experienced by children. I also want to use the capture of uncertainty from the teachers of the children in terms of the skills changes they perceive that the children have experienced.
From my perspective as an Evolutionary psychologist the capture of uncertainty in risk is a very necessary part of the data needed to improve the industry’s ability to predict and assess how both experts and the general population assess risks and consequently respond to them. Using this uncertainty capture can help us to analyse what biases may be influencing decision making and to find methods to mitigate these as we increase individuals’ abilities to accurately predict the probability of the risks effect.
I am pleased that I undertook the PLP I chose and have progressed the work in this way. I am looking forward to working with this method and team in the future.
From the Digital Space, Place and Identity Workshop
What is an academic workshop? As someone coming from ten years in industry I was not sure. I’ve since attended several, and have now led one, which I talk about here. I hope this blog sheds light on what a workshop is, what happens, and how it is useful. I led the workshop with my fellow Horizon students Velvet Spors, Harriet “Alfie” Cameron, and Hanne Wagner.
A workshop is an opportunity to discuss work in progress. It is a chance to engage with researchers who share an interest in the topic. It is also a space to test out aspects of your research. Or you can share a useful skill or working practice that might benefit other researchers. Sharing knowledge and collaborating with other researchers is the best way to think about it.
The four of us delivering the workshop shared some themes in our research. We positioned it as an opportunity to communicate these themes and our ideas within them. We are keen to find potential collaborators, and to build a community around the themes. In the long-term we would like to share works and outcomes via a collaborative virtual space.
The workshop was for a full day and consisted of a series of activities based around three key themes. These themes were Space, Place and Identity. We sought to examine their use in digital and interdisciplinary research.
My initial understanding of Space, Place and Identity were as follows:
Space was physical and without human meaning or context impressed upon it,
Place was Space with meaning impressed upon it, and,
Identity can apply to Places, groups and individuals. It is multipart, sometimes spatial, and defined by the groups and the Places we inhabit.
There is a complex relationship between all three, each influencing the others.
Velvet, Alfie and Hanne are more capable of explaining the subtleties of these interrelated concepts. Their parts of the workshop sought to explain and investigate them and related theory further. It was great to watch the interdisciplinary group who joined us discuss and unpick competing definitions.
Velvet introduced the structure of the workshop, setting out the key themes and purposes. They also introduced several icebreaker activities to define the themes. I sat with a group that included an architect, an engineer, a humanist sociologist and a human computer interaction specialist.
For the engineer and architect, space is a bounded subsection of a physical region, with places being the physical buildings and rooms. The humanist sociologist defined space as conceptual, and as specific spaces that contain identities. For example the space of the university contains student and academic identities. This shows that different disciplines have different understandings of the same words. There is always much work to do in reconciling these differences to enable interdisciplinary research.
Alfie provided knowledge of human geography and delivered a session where we had to draw a map of a route we regularly took. This showed how different people conceive of the spaces and places they inhabit and move through. Hanne collated the work that took place in the workshop, summarised it, and presented the group’s call to action and intentions for future work.
I provided a brief introduction to various mainstream, emerging and alternative technologies. I then showed how they served as bases for digital space and identity. This led to discussions of the problems and opportunities in these technologies, and how our research examines or is affected by them. As an example: the dominant paradigm of internet services, such as Facebook, follow the client-server model. The client-server model has many client devices connect to one server. The server becomes a “single source of truth”. There are implicit biases in the client-server model. These may then inform identities and spaces on platforms using it.
I then got people to play space and identity-oriented computer games. My PhD research is into game engines for future media with BBC R&D. The workshop was a useful opportunity to get people to engage with some unusual “games”. Specifically, narrative-focused experiences and those without obvious objectives. It was enlightening to see how people responded. It became clear that computer games need technical, practical, and cultural knowledge. Not everyone has this knowledge, or the means to access it. There are also assumptions in interactivity and the term “game”. Some participants found experiences that lacked clear or meaningful agency confusing.
There was discussion around the value of such experiences as compared to games that are more objective-oriented. There was also comparison to other visual media such as television and film with non-interactive narratives. One experience called Flotsam – playable here: https://candle.itch.io/flotsam – gave two people wildly different experiences. One person’s decisions led to an inspiring phrase that resonated with their research. Another’s led to their being trapped in a place the game warned them against. This led to much discussion, particularly given the two-dimensional and limited colour palette of the game. These limitations required more interpretive “work” compared to “realistic” games, yet somehow gave a more meaningful experience.
I found the workshop useful on several levels. In practical terms, I have improved my communication, presentation and collaboration skills. The workshop enabled me to engage with varied perspectives. It also allowed me to better understand others’ areas of expertise. Preparing and delivering my part, and the discussions within the whole workshop, gave me much needed clarity in what my priorities are. It is valuable to intensely investigate an aspect of one’s research. This helps to understand what really matters to you, inspires you, and where best to focus your research efforts to make full use of your skills.
Finally, huge thanks to Felicia Black and the Digital Economy Network for supporting our workshop. We are grateful for all the help in making the day run smoothly!
This summer school was presented by Canterbury University in collaboration with the Leicester Castle Business School of De Montfort University, Leicester.
I attended on the Monday & Tuesday of this three-day event, as I had a family commitment on the Wednesday.
The presentations on the Monday were specifically addressing ideas around cyber-crime, social engineering and fraud. These are particularly relevant to me as my PhD is around increasing children’s abilities to identify and resist activities and approaches whilst online. I am addressing these from the perspective of enabling children to recognise attempts from others to engage in social engineering and to have the confidence and personal autonomy to reject anything they feel uncomfortable with, and to seek help where it is needed.
I am working with the Northamptonshire Police cyber-crime team on this and as such have a valuable insight into the challenges they have seen children facing as well as my own perspective as a psychotherapist working with children.
The summer school was the first of its kind to be run at Canterbury University and was led with great enthusiasm and skill by Jason Nurse. The summer school involved people from academia, social enterprise and industry which allowed a large variety of input and ideas to be expressed. Jason was skilful in accommodating discussions within the topics and I found that this approach, rather than the “talked at” approach, was very beneficial. Cyber-crime is a fast-growing field and the traditional approaches of academic study, which often take years to complete, are at risk of being overtaken as both technology and its associated exploitation by criminals proceeds at a rate far outstripping the slower traditional progress of academic work.
I feel this pace change was reflected well in the way the summer school was run. Some of the input could have been improved with more industry input to increase the pace and knowledge of the current challenges further, but I believe that Jason is aware of this and plans to address this in future events.
The first session explored the basics of cyber-crime reflecting on what forms it can take and highlighting how insidious it can be. It addressed the aspects of this area of criminology that are rapidly expanding and exploiting the tools that are available to enhance crime via technological means. One big take-home from this introduction and discussion was how fast this is developing in criminal circles where there are few restrictions and great financial gains to be made. This is at odds with the crime fighters and honest technological industry where there are checks and balances to be met in all circumstances which often results in a slower response which the criminal can exploit.
The Cyber Protect and Prevent Officer for Kent then gave us her perspective on how cyber-crime was affecting policing and the tensions between businesses which often wanted just to solve the issue and move on with business as usual and the desire to pursue cyber-crime as a crime with ramifications for the criminals.
The final session of the day looked at profiling cyber criminals and looking at how these criminals might be led into a perpetrator role. This is particularly relevant to my work because vulnerability leads to both perpetrator and victim activities and the two routes often share common factors.
At the end of the sessions we arranged to meet after dinner in a pub in Canterbury. Doing so was valuable as it provided a relaxed atmosphere in which to talk further with other attendees both about their work and that of others and gave a great deal of insight into the varying field that are involved with this ever-expanding and important field.
Tuesday morning looked at how cyber-crime is often underlined by psychological methodologies that criminals have learnt to use in order to perpetrate their crimes. We explored how social engineering uses a number of methods to elicit cooperation from people, utilising their vulnerabilities and often just their normal desires to help others and be nice. Again, this is an area that I focus on a great deal and feel addressing our ability to say “no” is fundamentally decreasing individuals’ vulnerability to such tactics. There is a noticeable difference in the psychological mechanisms that criminals exploit ruthlessly and the non-criminals’ tendency to trust.
The afternoon sessions addressed the cost to businesses from cyber-crime. It was led by Edward Cartwright from De Montfort University and Anna Cartwright from Coventry University. It addressed business vulnerabilities and the attacks that businesses face daily, and the routes into the enterprise which are often indirect. The conflicts of security and running businesses were highlighted and discussed. The reality of end users often not rejecting companies following a breach and whether reputational damage is as damaging as is often thought. In Anna’s session we looked at the financial motivation for attacks and at what level the attacks and demands became profitable for criminals.
Finally, we looked at the problems and advantages in cyber security that Small and Medium Sized Enterprises face, addressing the challenges of this sector where often there are just a few individuals trying to complete multiple roles.
This summer school was fun. Where a learning experience is fun, lively and open to discussion, I feel far more is gained than from a situation where there is just one voice with very little interaction.
It greatly benefited from a range of perspectives and allowing those to be expressed and discussed. I feel everyone learned something from the variety and range of participants at the event and very much look forward to taking part next year.
This past May, 28 PhD students from three CDTs based at Imperial, Cambridge and Nottingham participated in a creativity sandpit.
Post by Natalie Leesakul and Shazmin Majid (2018 Cohort)
One of the perks of being Horizon CDT students is the connection with the network of centres for doctoral training led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Through this connection, Shazmin and I took part in a 3-day creativity sandpit workshop organized by Imperial HiPEDS in collaboration with Nottingham Horizon and Cambridge Sensors CDTs. This workshop was quite a unique summer school experience as it was designed for the students to work in a multidisciplinary environment to solve real world industry based problems using the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) framework to help generate innovative ideas. Industry professionals from companies such as a Formula 1 racing team were also in attendance.
On the first day, the workshop started off with various ice-breaking activities, providing the space for the students and industry professionals to get familiarized with each other and learn about others’ backgrounds. Fortunately, as part of Horizon CDT training, we are prepared to do an elevator speech on the spot; hence, giving a quick snapshot of our PhD research was not too difficult. However, the challenging part was discussing the research in more detail with others who have very different backgrounds and skillsets. While Shazmin and I have a background in Psychology and Law respectively, majority of the students are engineers and computer scientists. It was certainly refreshing to hear from a different perspective. Some of the questions and suggestions we got were something that we have not thought of before. Certainly, one of the crucial skills that we have taken away from this experience is the ability to simplify our PhD projects into something that a mixed audience can understand while maintaining engagement in the discussion. This ability to simplify our work in the wild helped us to connect with our own work and really hone in what we are trying to achieve in terms of aims and objectives.
On the second day, after the ice-breaking activities, we went on to learn about CPS and how it can be applied to different projects from the industry to academic research projects. This framework comes in quite handy for doctoral students as our aim is to find the research gap and produce innovative and original ideas to that field of research. This framework is applicable throughout the whole PhD, from the time when we have writer’s block to the time when we have a lot of ideas and not knowing what to focus on. CPS can help in generating the innovative ideas and also eliminating the ‘not-so-good’ ones; it introduces 4 stages of idea developing: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement. During this activity, we were encouraged to discuss with others and to think about our preferences in the process based on our skills. Following the CPS group work, the next activity was to form a team and explore the real-world challenges provided by the industry ranging from Formula 1 racing to drone solution to ad-tech. This was when we needed to put the learned skills together – maintaining a good rapport in a team consisting of people from different backgrounds and applying the CPS framework.
For the second day activity, I chose a Formula 1 (F1) racing challenge on how to best make use of the existing data in order to gain more fan base. The problem we received was that F1 fan base started to become stagnant, if not declining. Hence, the goal of this challenge was how to attract the new demographics while maintaining the current fan base.
In term of applying the CPS framework to the sandpit challenge, I’ve learned that the stage of clarifying and ideating was my strongest suit. Coming from the business and law background, I’m very comfortable with unpacking the problem, identifying facts, and generating solutions at the abstract level. In contrast, developing technical solution is not part of my practice. Hence, when forming a group to work on the challenge, I looked for others who had the technical expertise. As mentioned before, working in a multidisciplinary team was certainly a challenge on its own. My team consisted of 5 people – our team dynamic ranged from law to marketing to engineering. Certainly, we had a significant competitive advantage over the other teams given the number of people we had on the team and the wide range of expertise. However, the brainstorming session got very messy and unorganized which was problematic as we had to work in a limited amount of time. We started off with shouting out different ideas. Then, we had to choose the most promising idea to further develop which we struggled with quite a bit at this stage.
Thus, this was when we applied the CPS framework. We revisited the challenge objective to truly understand what was the problem we were trying to solve. From that, we looked at the ideas and started crossing out the ones that did not quite answer the question. Once we narrowed down the ideas to a few that we liked, we took on the big picture approach by bringing different ideas under one main solution – starting a promotional campaign for industry wide with the particular racing team as the major driver of the campaign. We arrived to “Feel the data” campaign which was designed to introduce F1 to a new market segment by playing on the FOMO (fear of missing out) trend. We wanted to create the hype around F1 so the idea was to organize a pop-up event at major attraction in the city and then rotate the event to different cities after a few weeks. The pop-up site would include various activities such as driving simulator, pit stop tire changing, and impersonation of driver’s personal engineer. The activities would be designed based on the data of the drivers and their teams in order to create more immersive experience and also incentivize the diehard fans to join the event given that they would gain more insights into their favourite teams and drivers. There would also be a rewards app for the fans to collect points from visiting different sites to win freebies and to vote for the next location of the pop-up site. We hoped this campaign would increase the fan base as it would expose F1 sport to the new demographics and help the crowd understand this sport better.
I found the creative sandpit challenge quite similar to the PhD journey in a nutshell. First, I needed to understand the problem and the root cause of it. Second, I had to explore various solutions in order to find the most optimal one. Third, it was all about how to convey the findings to a wide range of audience. Similarly, a PhD is about understanding the problem, filling in the knowledge gap, and convincing the community of why this project is worth pursuing. At Horizon, we are trained to go broad and expand our research objectives then strategically narrow down the scope to the specific. With that, the ultimate goal is to provide creative and innovative approach to tackle the challenge – just like the industry R&D projects!
As part of the challenge we received a short brief on the types of data that the racing team were able to show viewers which ranged from car algorithmic outputs to physiological measures of the driver. However, the company were reluctant to deliberate further about the physiological measures of the driver based on the ethical and legal challenges of showing this data on air. After the brief, all members of the summer school were asked to choose the industry challenge they wanted to tackle and then further split into specific teams which tackled the problem from a specific angle. Naturally, as my PhD looks into health markers, I gravitated towards exploring driver physiological data. We ended up being a small team of three, one other student who also had a background in health markers and another more traditional computer science PhD student.
We had half a day to explore the problem with the ability to ask F1 representatives questions, with the plan to pitch our idea to industry specialists in the morning the next day. We brainstormed our ideas using post-it notes and jointly decided which ideas were most feasible. We came to the decision that showing the following types of physiological metrics of the driver could be of interest to fans: heat levels, hydration, and heart rate. We were told that showing specific metrics would result in an ethical and legal problem so instead of showing specific numbers, we thought we could visually show the data in a less identifiable way. For example for hydration levels, we could have an icon of a water bottle with a categorical (potentially 3 categories) indicator of level of fullness. The company showed interest in our initial idea, especially the Director of Engineering who further formulated that our idea could potentially fit into a database that they are trying to make progress with specifically targeted at the Young Driver Programme. We developed our idea further with this information and prepared our pitch in the morning. The “quantified self” is a term that I learned during my PLP which describes the cultural phenomena of self-knowledge through technological self-tracking. Based on my knowledge of this, I was the one to open the pitch by describing this and asking the audience how many people were wearing some sort of wearable tracking device (a large proportion was!) to describe how we as a generation were gravitating towards becoming the quantified self and how our idea was following this trend.
We received very positive feedback from industry experts on our pitch. I have been in touch with the Director of Engineering since the summer school and hope to arrange a visit to the company in the near future.
Reflection on event
When we were practising how to use CPS, we had to critically reflect on our strengths and weaknesses. Our experiences of group work with Horizon helped us understanding our default behaviours, this allows us to improve ourselves and know what skills that we still lack of and how others can help us out. Because at the end of the day, even though a PhD may feel like a journey of one, in reality, we have a lot of support and it is important to know who and when we should ask for the support. Thus, when forming a team, we were encouraged to look for those who had the skills that we lack to ensure that the team consisted of various skill sets so that everyone had a unique contribution to the team. It was a little stressful at first as we only had the afternoon and the next morning to complete the assignment before presenting it to the industry. Although we were able to generate a lot of ideas, we spent a decent amount of time dwelling on the initial ones that each one of us came up with. This was when the CPS played a big role in helping us filtering out different ideas in order to generate the most optimal solution as a team which we could then develop it further. We were under pressure, however, we had to learn how to work together and liaise with each other in spite of our differences in expertise. Building a good team was definitely a challenge on its own, but it was a very valuable experience. We, as multidisciplinary PhD students, are constantly working with people from different disciplines which it is not always easy. By having more practice working in a diverse team, we have learned to better clarify and communicate our ideas which we can continue to apply throughout our doctoral process.
Last but not least, one of the unplanned bonding activities we (both the students and people from the industry) did together was chasing down the peacocks for pictures – good times!
Paper Title: Human Behaviour-based Automatic Depression Analysis using Hand-crafted Statistics and Deep Learned Spectral Features
The work presented in this paper is the extension of my CDT PLP module. During the PLP, we found that current clinical standards for depression assessment are subjective, and requires extensive participation from experienced psychologists. Therefore, my supervisor (Dr. Michel Valstar) and I explored a video-based automatic depression analysis approach, and find our approach beat state of the art systems in a dataset. As a result, we decided to write a paper about this approach.
This bulk of the paper was written by me. Since I didn’t have much experience about writing paper at that point, my supervisor helped and taught me about how to organize a paper, as well as how to implement ablation studies to show the strengths of the proposed approach. In addition, my external partner (Prof. Linlin Shen) also helped me to check the typos and languages. After, several rounds improvement, we eventually submitted the paper to FG conference which focus on the automatic face and gesture analysis.
Three months after the submission, we received the reviewers comments, where two of them gave ‘weak accept’ and two of them gave ‘borderline’. In the rebuttal, we addressed issues one by one. For some real drawbacks, we made some changes. Also, some comments were gave due to the misunderstanding of the paper. To deal with them, we detailed explained in the rebuttal.
This study is the basis of my PhD study. Based on this work, while we continuously developing a better model for practical use, we also looking to other temporal modeling methods.
Building several models for not only depression analysis, but also personality traits and anxiety analysis.
On January 26, 2019 I had an excellent opportunity to present my PhD research project. More specifically, I spoke about the findings emerging from my research interviews in Dar es Salaam with various stakeholders of the Tanzanian data ecosystem: government, donor institutions, local community organisers, start-ups, international experts and academia. This study aimed to understand what processes take place on the ground when people try to take advantage of data and technology to transform Dar es Salaam into a ‘smarter city’, and what the challenges are.
This was a public event as part of the ODI Fridays – free lunchtime lectures for everyone. Below is the video recording of the presentation.
On October 1-3, 2018, I had the pleasure to participate in the first National Open Data Symposium in Omanas a speaker on principles and benefits of Open Data. The presentation covered various definitions of open data, including examples in some key sectors such as health, education, transport, etc.
I was pleased to see representatives from five different sectors across government and private sector together, having a discussion, raising challenging questions. There are many agencies within the government, which have started publishing open data, and these efforts are a bit uneven. I think the most important thing about the symposium was that these agencies came together to start moving towards a collaborative approach to open data. This event sent a powerful message to the public, government and even international open data community that Oman strives to advance their open data agenda and has desire to bring best international practices in this process.
Being one of the international speakers in the event and having worked with the World Bank on open data in many countries, it means to me that Oman is really keen to learn from other international experiences and adopt best global practices in their approach to do open data and moving towards smarter future. We need to remember that we’re increasingly living in cities, and Open Data is key to creating a platform for smart cities. Citizen-focused smart cities increasingly use data analytics to improve service delivery to its citizens making them more accessible, engage with the communities, find joint solutions to most pressing urban issues, making our cities more livable and sustainable. As my own area of academic research lies in looking how open data can support smart cities, I want to see Oman open data use it for open urban innovations and delivering better services to its people.
Conversations evolved around how to make data more usable for the data users. Engagement with the consumers of the data was one of the key points that was raised throughout the symposium. I echo one of the participants comments that value of releasing open data comes from data use. One of the key elements to open data is adopting open license that explicitly gives permission to use and re-use data for any purpose, including commercial purposes. If the license does not exist on the portal and does not articulate those rights for data re-use, the users cannot be sure that they can use the data. This is one of the challenges Oman will need to address to enable the open data benefits, especially for economic growth that were extensively discussed at the Symposium.