CHERISH-DE @ British Science Festival

The British Science Festival kicks off today at Swansea University and at CHERISH-DE we couldn’t be more excited. From the 6th-11th of September the festival will explore a wide host of subjects, ranging from food to music, genetics to space, and climate change to cyber security.

In the exciting programme you can see the 100 free events that will take place on campus and throughout the city. As these are too many to cover in a blog post, we thought we’d highlight the talks and demos given by researchers involved with CHERISH-DE instead:

Discover the future of screen technology with computer scientist Matt Jones. Hear how his team are exploring displays that mutate to create textures and change shape to reveal controls like dials and switches depending on our needs. See some of the early prototypes that are connecting our digital interactions to the physical world.

With the anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon looming, Lella Nouri-Bennett reflects on how the world has changed since 9/11 in terms of politics, security efforts and our understanding of terrorism in the UK. In particular, how has counter-terrorism advanced over the last 15 years, how has our societal understanding of terrorism evolved and are we any safer now?

Over 20% of UK students have considered sex work. This award winning docudrama brings the real-life testimonies of students currently working within sex industry to the screen. The film was made as part of a pioneering new study, The Student Sex Work Project, which has transformed understanding about the motivations and needs of student sex workers.

This special screening will be followed by a Q&A with criminologist Debbie Jones, who co-led the study, producer Chris Britten and clinical sexologist Sam Geuens.

  • How do Machines learn? with Jonathan Jones • Sat 10 & Sun 11 Sep • 11:00 – 16:00 • National Waterfront Museum City Centre

Machine learning is a valuable tool in use in many applications today. Visit Jonathan’s stall to learn via examples and interactive techniques how machine learning can provide valuable results. The focus will be on drawing parallels between human learning, and how machines can learn in order to make informed predictions used in various fields from crime prevention to medicine.

Cinzia will be presenting her research on Big Data and the Internet of Things and answer any questions you might have at Soapbox Science 2016 Swansea. Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women scientists and the science they do.

From one industrial landscape to another

I (Thomas Reitmaier) recently joined the CHERISH digital economy research centre at Swansea University. Digital Economy (DE) research is an emerging theme within the UK and CHERISH-DE is linked to a handful of other DE research centres across the UK, all funded by the RCUK. To further this research agenda CHERISH sponsored the International Population Data Linkage Conference, so I was fortunate enough to attend the IPDL even though my research emphasizes user and community engagement, rather than on obtaining population-level insights by analyzing and linking big data sets.

The conference was hosted by Swansea University at the beautiful new Bay Campus. As I had just started working for CHERISH-DE – based at the older Singleton Park Campus – I had never been to the Bay Campus before. All I knew was that the National Cycle Route 4 connects both campuses. Route 4 is a beautiful and flat route, so once I got going I quickly covered a lot of ground and didn’t even realize that I had missed an earlier turnoff. I had overshot my target by about 2 kilometers. As I was now running late, I turned off Cycle Route 4 towards the A483, where I passed by Amazon Park. An industrial landscape of massive proportions.

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Amazon Park
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Amazon Park

A few hours later, I got to visit another, much older industrial landscape, as part of the pre-conference programme: the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. At Blaenavon we visited the Big Pit National Coal Musuem, a real coal mine, and were lowered 90 meters in the company of a former coal miner, who guided us around the coal faces, engine houses, and stables. Our guide joked that he has spent more of his life underground than a potato and not only told us about the technical aspects of mining and transporting the coal, but also about the communities in the surrounding valleys the industry supported. These are communities that are now struggling. He thought it was criminal that Wales imports coal from Australia, when there is perfectly good coal to be found here and in similar places across South Wales.

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Blaenavon Big Pit © ejbaurdo

Once we returned to the surface it was only a very short bus ride to the Blaenavon Ironworks, with it’s water balance tower, blast furnaces, and cast houses. But I particularly enjoyed looking at the refurbished worker’s cottages, each restored to be representative of a time period ranging from 1840 – 1960, as they offered glimpses of the social history of the workers.

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Blaenavon Ironworks

In stark contrast to these heavy industrial sites was Cardiff Castle, which we got to visit next. Over the centuries the castle passed hands from the Romans, the Normans, to the Bute family, who in turn gifted it to the city of Cardiff. The Butes owned lands in Glamorganshire and had feudal titles to common lands, which were rich with coal deposits. The Butes generated massive wealth by consolidating land rights which allowed them to develop and claim royalty on coal mines and iron industries as well as transport infrastructures. The immense wealth the Butes extracted from the coal fields and related industries is reflected in the expensively and profusely decorated rooms in Cardiff Castle. What a contrast to the humble dwellings I saw just a few hours earlier.

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Cardiff Castle Arab Room © microwavedboy

The Welsh Banquet that we attended at the Castle rounded the evening off with warm hospitality, traditional song, dance, food, and plenty of drink. All in all it was a fantastic days of diverse experiences. Retracing the steps I took on that day, I can’t help but wonder how our contemporary digital economies, industries, infrastructures, and communities will be remembered in 100 years time? To some extent the conditions and possibilities of our future community life are being hard-wired into our computing infrastructures we are building today. And so I can’t help but feel inspired and distressed all at once. Inspired by passion and commitment of local communities as well as by the creativity and intellect of colleagues and collaborators at CHERISH-DE that range across a variety of disciplines. But daunted by the task that lays ahead: to ensure that the technologies we develop together make the digital and physical spaces we live in convivial and sustaining. I have only been working at CHERISH-DE for a few short weeks, and my head is already spinning with ideas. I look forward to the years that lay ahead!

The New ABCs of Research – Ben Shneiderman Talk

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Ben signing a copy of his book on the day

The CHERISH-DE centre was delighted to welcome back Ben Schneiderman to Swansea University last month. The renowned computer scientist gave a talk on 21st June 2016 in the Wallace Theatre, Swansea University on his latest book The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations. 

Ben is a renowned figure within the world of Human-Computer Interaction and the founder of the well-known, annual CHI conference – an essential fixture in the HCI calendar.

Ben discussed the importance of researchers choosing ‘big, real-world problems’ as the starting point for their research questions. His book eschews the traditional, linear approach espoused by Vannevar Bush that moves from theory into applied, eventuben s bookally permeating into the real world for his ABC (Applied and Basic Combined) principle. This is based on a blending of the SED (Science, Engineering and Design) ways of thinking to find practical solutions to real-world problems and simultaneously present foundational theories. Louis Pasteur/ Pasteur’s Quadrant was given as an example of how scientific research can address a real-world problem from the outset.

Using a Google word count illustration and a Google Ngram, Ben illustrated how, in recent years, the concept of design has become an increasing force and influence in our world.

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Ben Shneiderman

Ben spoke about teams and leadership and how multi-author papers, on average, result in a better quality of paper. Team working is made possible via new technologie and there are fewer single author papers these days.

Amongst other things, Ben gave us two tips for successful teamworking and collaborations:

  1. Who does what when (down to the hour it’s expected!)
  2. Something small soon

His talk can be viewed via this link:

http://mrclabsestream.swan.ac.uk/view2.aspx?id=7191~4s~tgt9zFqg

Book website: http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/newabcs

Thank you Ben, for your visit- we look forward to seeing you again!

The Digital Economy Imaginarium: Immerse yourself in a positive future

The Digital Economy – “what it means to me and my organisation. Now. And in five years”.

Last Wednesday, 8th of June, Cherish- DE held the first event of a series, named Digital Economy Imaginarium. This session was facilitated by Prof. David Ford from Swansea University and both, speakers and attendees, enjoyed a lovely and sunny morning in the Techhub Cafe.

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Our centre is charged with supporting and fostering collaborations between academics and external organisations – large and small, public and private – within the Digital Economy space.

These series of events are dedicated to starting and continuing conversations around:

  • Three minute flashtalks on the Digital Economy from industry, public sector and academic points of view
  • Exploration of common problems and potential solutions
  • Start conversations and take the first steps to collaboration
  • Network with people and organisations working in related fields
  • Pathways to collaborative research

Take time out to imagine how technology can enable a positive future

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You can see the flash video of this session in our Twitter account

 

International Mobility: Next Generation Human Translation Tools

Applicants: Tom Cheesman (COAH: Languages), Vivienne Rogers (COAH: Linguistics).  Dates: 15 March, 2016- 17 March, 2016.

One of the funding opportunities of CHERISH- DE is the International Mobility Fellowship, which award up to £2K towards travel and subsistence to support a visit to, or to provide funding for a visit from, an international research collaborator that will build alliances for impact. This funding opportunity together with the Escalator fund that provides seedcorn funding, to stimulate ideas, support proof of concept activities and to develop proto-types enable researchers to get their projects off the ground and achieve their objectives.

Tom and Vivienne applied to CHERISH for an International Mobility Fellowship to attend a scheduled meeting of the European Masters in Translation (EMT) network at the Directorate- General for Translation (DGT), European Commission, Brussels where there were circa 70 attendees from 50 institutions across the EU.  They used the visit to set up the ‘Next Generation Human Translation Tools project; to discuss this project with international academic partners, representatives of DGT and industry partner SDL and establish common ground.

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Tom Cheesman and Vivienne Rogers in front of the European Commission
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European Masters in Translation at the DGT

This project is based on the analysis of the affordances of current Computer- Assisted Translation tools in very many languages pairs and on the development of better tools, primarily for professional and trainee translators, also for wider user groups such as community translators.

Lack of translation impedes communication and trade and excludes vast numbers of people from civic and economic participation. Thus this proposal addresses the CHERISH-DE themes as it has been designed to help communities and to develop an improved human generation.

The outcomes and more information about this project can be found in the post published on May 17, 2016.

#10 Voter engagement technologies for young people in resource constrained communities

10th project of CHERISH-DE Escalator Fund Award #aprojectaday

Principal Investigator: Dr Matthew Wall (Arts and Humanities).                    Co-Investigator: Dr. Stephen Lindsay (Computer Science).

The main objective of this proposal is to develop an informative, pleasing and flexible technology that integrates the tangible with the digital. Building on technologies developed for a ‘Vote Advice Application’ (VAA) website for the 2016 Welsh Assembly election, we will run a series of political engagement sessions with 16-18 year older students in ‘communities first’ educational institutions. This pilot will take the first steps towards refining existing VAA technologies in order to bring politics to life for young people. This proposal addresses the core themes of CHERISH- DE in several ways, but what this proposal especially seeks is to do is put the voice of Welsh young people in resource constrained communities at the centre of the development process.

For this research, the major parties running in the campaign have consented to provide the project with their official stances on each of the survey questions, giving the project greater validity and legitimacy.  Levels of political engagement among young people in Wales, particularly those in resourced constrained communities, are very low and the development of online technologies, together with ‘live’ sessions, can facilitate voter engagement. This proposal is inherently interdisciplinary as it brings together specialists in political science, computer science, and a technology company focussed on voter engagement.

The two main outcomes of this research are:

  • To develop a prototype digital and physical infrastructure and related teaching materials building on VAA technology
  • It will be of direct benefit to those students and educational institutions who are chosen to take part.

The total work plan will take over five months and the total project cost will be £4,731.76

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Matthew Wall. Principal Investigator

#9 Improving cognitive flexibility through bilingual rule switching tasks

9th project of CHERISH-DE Escalator Fund Award #aprojectaday

Principal Investigator: Dr Vivienne Rogers (Arts and Humanities).            Co-Investigators: Dr Darren Edwards (Human and Health)

This project addressed the Health and Social Care theme of the CHERISH- DE Centre, being focused on enabling individuals with autistic spectrum disorders. The purpose of this project is to provide a strategy to help reduce over- selectivity in autistic individuals through teaching them elements of different languages and training them to adapt their attention skills to be more flexible.  This research will be focus on demonstrating that people with ASD can improve their attentional skills through changing between languages. Different materials will be used throughout the project and the areas of bilingualism and psychology will work together during the language training in order to test their language and social abilities as well as their attention skills. The attention measuring software called e-prime will be used.

The team of this project will come from the Department of English Language and Literature and the Department of Interprofessional Health Studies, furthermore, if the pilot is successful the project will include colleagues from Computer Science to develop an immersive experience through a virtual reality software, thus enhancing the multidisciplinary research. If this first proof of concept is successful, a larger scale study will be extended, using techniques to make an independent website as well as to develop a virtual reality platform.

The outcomes of this project are: to introduce more flexibility in autistic individual’s attention; to reduce over-selectivity enabling better social and language skills; to develop interventions that allow ASD individuals to function better in society, enhancing the digital economy at the same time.

The total work plan will take over six months and the total project cost will be £4946.25

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Vivienne Rogers. Principal Investigator
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Darren Edwards. Co- Investigator