Reflection on Writing and Presenting a Conference Paper

post by Laurence Cliffe (2017 cohort)

The Audio Mostly 2019 conference provided me with a relevant and convenient platform through which I could present an outline of my PhD research activity to date. Convenient, and also economical, as this year it was hosted by the University of Nottingham’s Department of Music, but also highly relevant, as many papers from this particular conference’s previous proceedings have presented themselves as being important points of reference though my PhD work to date. Having followed particular research projects of specific relevance to my PhD, Audio Mostly not only presents itself as an appropriate platform for the publication of my work, but also as springboard for other publishing possibilities. This is made evident by many projects being initially presented at Audio Mostly, and then having additional work included within them and then being published and presented as journal articles or at other conferences as the projects progress and evolve.

The published paper presented a synopsis of what I considered as the most pertinent points of my research so far. Rather than presenting specific research data from the results of studies, the paper presented the results of my practical lab-based activities in the development of a working technical prototype, and outlined my methodology and approach, and two proposed study environments, the latter being the subject of currently ongoing and future plans for the development of the project.

All of my supervision team had input on the paper, from proofreading to practical advice and providing some written introductory content. Another academic, involved in one of the proposed studies, also provided some written content specifically relating to the introduction of this specific part of the project. I wrote an initial draft and then sent it to the relevant parties with a specific request on how I thought they may be able to contribute and help with its authorship.

One comment from a particular reviewer proved very useful and centered around the use and definition of a specific acronym. This prompted me to investigate the issue further and, as such, has enabled me to focus my research to a much greater extent and to communicate more effectively the subject of my research to others. It has also provided a much clearer definition of the place of my research within its specific sphere of study.

As well as presenting the paper, I also had the opportunity to demonstrate my technical prototype at the conference. Having been scheduled to present my paper before my demo gave me the perfect opportunity to engage with people whilst demonstrating, answering questions, and continuing discussions as a result of my presentation, and also answering some of these questions practically via the technical demonstration. Generally, the feedback was complimentary and demonstrated an interest in my work, especially in relation to its study through practical application.

Authors whose papers were successfully accepted to the conference have since been invited to contribute to a special edition journal on audio interactivity and to build on the papers initially presented. This seems like a logical next step, as I have since completed some of the proposed studies, and therefore can include the findings and conclusions from these studies in the paper, with a view to formulating a journal article, and providing me with an opportunity to publish the subsequent stage of my PhD research.

On reflection, there are two particular challenges that sprint to mind as a result of this publication and presentation process. The first was the practical task of synthesising a 7000-word paper into a 20-minute presentation. What content to include? What content to leave for discussion? How much detail do I need to include on specific points to get the points across? These were all questions I was asking myself. Another challenge was the problem of presenting ‘live’ research. By the time I actually presented, my research had moved on. I’d changed some of the technology within the prototype and another study opportunity had presented itself which I hadn’t included in my future work section. This led to a bit of back peddling during the presentation, but I did have the opportunity to discuss these points with individuals during my demonstration.

Link to my paper.

Originally posted on Laurence’s blog.

Plastic Buttons, Complex People

post by Velvet Spors (2017 cohort)

Publishing a Paper about In-Person Interactions at a virtually held Conference (CHI PLAY)

The National Videogame Arcade (now National Videogame Museum) is a games festival-turned-cultural centre that celebrates games and the people who make, play and interact with them. While more traditional museums might now allow visitors to directly interact with their exhibits, the NVM encourages this direct interaction in an open, genuine way: “Games are for everybody” is one of the core values of the museum. Outside of being an educational and creative hub for everything games-related, it is also my PhD’s industry partner.

Before the NVA moved to Sheffield in September 2018 to become the NVM, I was lucky to join my research partner for most of their last month in Nottingham. Since my research is centred around exploring ideas of (self-)care through a justice-, collective- and games-informed lens (to paint a picture with broad strokes), I was very keen on figuring out how people in the NVA made sense of it, how they created meaning in their interactions with the space and others: To do so, I joined visitors during their “journey” through the NVA: I watched people play games, enjoy themselves (or get frustrated!) and share and make memories.

After carefully analysing the data (and a couple of busy months with other studies), I asked two of my fellow doctoral researchers if they would be interested in exploring the data once again and writing a paper together: Gisela Reyes-Cruz (my go-to-person for everything interaction and ethnomethodology-related!) and Harriet “Alfie” Cameron (who has a keen eye for everything museum- and power-structures-related).

Together, we wrote and submitted “Plastic Buttons, Complex People: An Ethnomethodology informed Ethnography of a Video Game Museum” to CHI PLAY 2020, where it got accepted!

The paper explores how people interact with each other through establishing practices in and around the playable exhibits, but also between each other. It finishes with some ideas and design implications that spaces that want to engage people in co-located play can take on to support or disrupt group interactions.

Here is our abstract as a teaser:

“This paper reports on an ethnomethodology-informed ethnography of a video game museum. Based on 4 weeks of ethnographic fieldwork, we showcase how groups of visitors to the museum achieved the interactional work necessary to play games together and organise a museum visit as a social unit. By showcasing and explication excerpts of museum visits we make the taken-for-granted nature of these interactions visible. Embedded within an activity map that outlines how people prepare, play, wind down and exit games, we showcase the sequential, temporal, and carefully negotiated character of these visits. Based on our findings and the resulting Machinery of Interaction, we propose three design implications for spaces that aim to exhibit video games and/or try to facilitate co-located, collective video gameplay.”

It is a weird feeling to present our first paper in a virtual format, but it is a tremendously joyful occasion (and a very enriching learning experience)!

This paper would not have been possible without the support of my supervision team Martin Flintham, Pat Brundell and David Murphy; the lovely and wonderful folks at the NVA/NVM, all of the visitors who took part in research and Stuart Reeves for valuable comments on one of the earlier paper drafts!