Some news, mostly around writing

Articles, Blog, Design with Intent, PhD, Site Announcements

• My PhD, which was inspired and indeed sired by this blog, back in 2007, has finally been approved by the examiners. I’ve put the thesis online with a few comments. I’ll have a proper post reflecting on it all in due course – just need some time to think about it. Thank you to everyone who’s helped along the way.

• In March I joined the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, as a senior associate working on the SusLabNWE project, and also some executive education work for partner organisations. It’s a wonderful place with some great people, and I’m very pleased to be part of it. There are some exciting events coming up around the SusLab project, which will be announced later in the summer.

People and energy: A design-led approach to understanding everyday energy use behaviour, a paper based on the first phase of our SusLabNWE work, co-authored with Flora Bowden, Catherine Greene, Clare Brass and Rama Gheerawo, has been accepted for EPIC 2013, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference taking place in London in September. A more detailed abstract is also available.

• Last year, my post about behavioural heuristics, based on a workshop run at Interaction 12 in Dublin, attracted quite a lot of interest. I have now had an article, Exploring Problem-Framing Through Behavioural Heuristics, accepted and published in the open-access International Journal of Design, which explores the concept in more detail, using some empirical research around interaction with heating systems from the EMPOWER / CarbonCulture project as examples. The article was co-authored with David Harrison, Rebecca Cain, Neville Stanton and Paul Jennings.

• Last September, Rob Phillips and I ran a stall at the Brighton Mini Maker Faire inviting visitors to create instructions for other people, around the tasks of making tea or making fire. The idea was that the way someone explains a system to someone else can provide insights into his or her mental model of the system, and that asking people to create these kinds of ‘peer instructions’ could be a useful research method for design. We have had an article exploring this accepted for the ACM Interactions ‘On Modelling’ forum, edited by Hugh Dubberly, so ‘Making instructions for others: exploring mental models through a simple exercise’, co-authored with Sharon Baurley and Sarah Silve, should be published in Interactions 20(5) in September 2013. I will make sure an open-access version is available.

• Following my previous Guardian Sustainable Business article, I was commissioned by Autodesk to write another, this time on design for repair and the possibilities of wider sustainability (and social) impacts not just through making products that last longer, but through building people’s understanding of everyday systems, and giving us the confidence to change the world for the better. I think there’s something quite powerful here, and it potentially relates to both civic engagement and the debate over ‘seamlessness’ in interaction design. A blog post about this is in gestation.

• I’ll be writing about thermostats for The Atlantic‘s Object Lessons series (thanks to Ian Bogost).

• Finally, my short biography of Tom Lawrence Williams, the founder of the Reliant Motor Company, commissioned by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, has now been published, and appears to be free to view online (most articles need a subscription, which most UK public libraries have).