School of Computing New Year research event 2019: contributions from the Centre for Social Informatics

Professor Hazel Hall presents at the School of Computing research event, 9th January 2019

The School of Computing research event, 9th January 2019 (photo credit Rameez Asif)

In recent years, the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University has marked the beginning of the new year with a research event. This year we held it on Wednesday 9th January 2019.

The agenda items on the day included: preparations for REF2021 led by Professor Ben Paechter; group discussions of the ‘organisation’ of our research within the School led by Professor Emma Hart; contributions from our colleagues in the Research and Innovation Office about how they support our research activities in general (Carol Johnstone), and on making the most of the University’s research management system (Dr Lindsay Ramage); and a series of presentations by colleagues from across the School’s research groups.

There were three formal contributions from staff conducting research within the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI). These were short talks by (1) Dr Laura Muir; (2) Dr Wegene Demeke and Dr Bruce Ryan; and (3) Dr Gemma Webster and Frances Ryan. (The staff who gave talks on current work in other research groups were Dr Ingi Helgason, Dr Tom Methven, Dr Rameez Asif, Dr Owen Lo, Professor Sally Smith, Dr Ella Taylor-Smith, and Dr Taoxin Peng.)

In the first presentation from CSI, Laura explained that the aim of her research is to make information systems better. This is acheived by studying human factors relevant to the design and use of such systems. Laura is particularly interested in the visual information seeking behaviour of ‘experts’. The methods deployed in her work include eye-tracking during cognitive tasks. This approach identifies where people look when using information systems, and allows for the gathering of spatial and temporal data about types of eye movement, specific gaze locations and durations, areas of interest, and scan paths. These and other metrics can be used to quantify information seeking behaviour. The eye tracking data collected in this way can then be triangulated with qualitative data (for example that gathered using think aloud protocols) to provide further insight for the improvement of information systems, and in skills training for those expected to use such systems.

Normally Wegene and Bruce would have presented on their own work as the second CSI presentation, but on the day of the event they were both out of the country in Brazil engaged in the research project that was the subject of their presentation. I therefore offered to present on their behalf. The slides are available on SlideShare and below. (For further information please see my earlier blog post on this project.)

The third and final presentation from CSI was delivered by Frances. She spoke about Social media by proxy: strategies for managing the online profiles of adults with dementia. This project is funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland through its Research Incentive Grant programme for early career researchers. The award was announced in July 2018. The project itself runs for 6 months from January 2019 with Frances as the Research Assistant, and Gemma as the Principal Investigator. This project draws on Gemma‘s previous research with people with dementia, carers, and dementia support organisations, and Frances’ PhD work on social media use. The broad goal of this work is to identify and share good practice in the ‘management by proxy’ of the social media profiles of adults with dementia. The specific aims of the project are to:

  1. Establish the methods used by social media proxies to manage the social media profiles of people with dementia in their care;
  2. Determine the extent that people with dementia actively engage in the management of profiles (with or without the support of social media proxies);
  3. Identify support materials that currently exist to help social media proxies in the execution of their roles;
  4. Determine the ways in which social media proxies identify, access, and rate the level and type of support currently available;
  5. Identify future priorities for the support of social media proxies;
  6. Highlight future research opportunities related to the support of social media proxies.

Frances and Gemma plan to report their findings in four outputs: (1) a project report, (2) a journal article, (3) materials for social media proxies (e.g. leaflets, resources to be hosted online by support organisations), and (4) an article for The Conversation. They will also host a dissemination event for project stakeholders, e.g. care home workers, carers of people with dementia, local authority officials, and members of third sector organisations that provide support to vulnerable/incapacitated groups. It is anticipated that the completed work will act as a springboard for further – and more extensive – research on the project themes in the future.

The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland

Dr Wegene Demeke and Dr Bruce Ryan research participatory budgeting in Brazil

Image result for GCRFMy Centre for Social Informatics colleagues Dr Wegene Demeke and Dr Bruce Ryan have started 2019 with a trip to Brazil. They are in São Paulo to develop some research on participatory budgeting, i.e. the process by which citizens (and not politicians) vote to decide how government money is spent. Participatory budgeting is well-established in Brazil – it was first implemented in Porto Alegre in the late 1980s – and is therefore an ideal location for research of this nature. Continue reading