Dr Ann Light
Visiting Research Fellow
Research Interests:For a list of publications, please see: www.dcs.qmul.ac.uk/~
My research principally concerns technologically mediated interaction and particularly how people make sense of using the networks that are connecting them, and, increasingly, connecting the things round them. My thesis explored communicating and building relationships through websites. I've just finished a phenomenological study of how the experience of receiving mobile phones calls differs from fixed line calls. I've been concentrating on people's accounts of using technology, devising a method of getting the fine-grained detail necessary to explore experience and investigate changes in attention so I can make design recommendations based upon it. I am generally interested in methodology and, in particular, qualitative methods and techniques for learning about people's behaviour.
Two projects close to my heart at the moment are:
1) how to render invisible systems of pervasive computing imaginable to the broadest range of people so that they can participate in the design of their future. I am hoping to use dramatic forms to work with different groups in society to explore the 'what ifs' of connecting things together. And:
2) what makes something 'real' in a totally vernacular way; again to explore people's understanding of the changes that digital networks can bring. There will be many ways of tackling the digital divide between the Wranglers (Sterling 2005) who 'get' the idea of managing the networks spreading in all directions around them and those others for whom they remain a mystery. The transition from 'magic' to 'realness' will be one stage that people pass through in their journey to wrangling ? can it be speeded up?
In other words, as a non-technical person who wandered into a computer science department 10 years ago, I feel a mission to take what I discovered there back into the world I left, where such things were and are still viewed as the stuff of science fiction.
I am by nature interdisciplinary and enjoy crossing boundaries. For instance, I am part of the management team for the radically interdisciplinary Leonardo Network (EPSRC's 'Culture and Creativity' programme) and co-editor of our forthcoming special issue on 'Culture, Creativity and Technology'. I was similarly involved on the AHRC/EPSRC's 'Technology and Social Action' Designing for the 21st Century cluster, which has just formally finished. Our cluster is continuing to work on themes that emerged, such as the role of the designer as mediator (rather than expert), FLOSS (free, libre and open source software) and documentary-making.
This academic life is combined with writing for the BCS Human-Computer Interaction Group's (BHCIG) web service, UsabilityNews, and developing strategy in a user-centred design company specialising in interactive systems. I also help to run a charity that supports cultural exchange using digital kit between the UK and Ghana. Thus I spend part of my week disseminating research findings as well as attempting to produce them.
Bruce Sterling (December 2005) 'Shaping Things' The MIT Press