Work can demand time away from home. For some employees being away from home might be a few days on a frequent basis, for others it may be much longer periods. Being away from home can impact on family life and participation in family rituals, creating a challenge to managing the competing demands of work and life. Information and communication technologies assist in overcoming the barrier of distance, between the absent worker and family.

This research will focus on mobile workers across a number of different employment sectors (for example, technology, construction, and tourism industries, and the armed forces). It will look at both family and organisational practices.

The research will find out what mobile workers and their family members consider to be family rituals (both secular and religious) and why it is important for these family members to share these moments together. Specifically, it will seek to understand what those rituals might be in different types of family setting. It will look at the role of existing digital technologies in supporting families to engage in such shared ritual activities.

The research will also explore, through a series of design-led activities, what the challenges and opportunities are for technology use in these family settings. And then, in close collaboration with the families, the project will design and develop some novel prototype digital technologies. This approach will use both high- and low-tech designs which participating families will live with and use, helping us to further explore the role of potential technologies in supporting remote engagement in family rituals.

Alongside working with families, the research will also find out how organisations consider the work-life balance of their mobile employees, and how these organisations may assist in helping a family to connect whilst the employee is away from home. These organisations will be invited to attend a workshop at the end of the project, to learn about the research findings, and debate how the outcomes should be taken forward in future research and their potential impact on the organisations.

Project details

April 2013 – September 2015 (with ongoing elements)
EPSRC (EP/K025678/1)
Funded value:
  • David Chatting, Newcastle University
  • Jo-Anne Bichard, Royal College of Art (Co-Investigator)
  • Paulina Yurman, Royal College of Art
  • Adele Ladkin, Bournemouth University (Co-Investigator)
  • Juliet Jain, UWE Bristol (Co-Investigator)
  • William Clayton, UWE Bristol
  • Carina Gansohr, University of Duisberg-Essen
  • Diana Nowacka, University College London

NORTH Lab investigators

Dave Kirk

I am Professor of Digital Living in the School of Computer and Information Science. I study Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and the design of interactive computational technologies. I'm particularly interested in design research methods and the ways in which technology design can be centred on rich understanding of user experiences, cultures and contexts.
I have previously held positions as Senior Lecturer of Experience-Centred Design and then Reader in Cultural Computing at Newcastle University, Lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction in the Mixed Reality Lab and School of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, and as a post-doc in the Socio-Digital Systems group at Microsoft Research Cambridge. My background is in Psychology (BSc) and Ergonomics (MSc) with a PhD in Computer Science. Over the years my work has been heavily influenced by the sociologists, philosophers and designers that I've collaborated with and consequently I take a design-led, social science orientation to understanding human experience and its application to the design of digital technologies. Accordingly, and although trained as an experimental scientist, my research is increasingly based on qualitative methods and design-research practices.

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Abigail Durrant

I am an Associate Professor at Northumbria School of Design, an interaction design practitioner and researcher, predominantly working in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI).

My design-led research explores how digital technologies may support personal identity management. In particular I am interested in the concept of ‘digital personhood’, and how digital interactions shape ideas of selfhood, wellbeing, social inclusion, and futures.

Previous research explored the representation of Family through photos, following the transition to digital and the widespread adoption of smartphones and social media by younger generations. Projects delivered fascinating insights about how digital photography and online social networking has transformed traditional practices of assembling Family Photo Albums. Related research has considered digital photographic practice for expression in educational contexts, and for leisure, tourism, and cultural visiting.

I have also worked in transnational research settings, to explore the media archiving practices of cultural institutions, in Rwanda and Slovenia. In these projects, the research focused on understanding digital support genocide memorialisation, and considering, not just personal identities in the digital ‘photowork’, but also national identities and international communities of practice.

More recent research has considered how individuals manage personal identity online as they live through major life transitions, critically investigating how digital technologies may both enable and constrain expression and well-being, in the context of the lifespan and longer-term digital interactions.

My research approach is practice-based, interdisciplinary, and participatory, using creative design inquiry to understand and communicate ideas and experiences. I was trained in Design (BA, MA (RCA)) and Social Psychology (PhD), and my recently completed Leverhulme fellowship has delivered methodological insight about the transformational value of design within multi-disciplinary research teams. I’m a passionate advocate of dissemination platforms supporting research through design, and have a special interest in the use of video to support inquiry, and in the use of visual argumentation in design research dissemination.

I have significant demonstrators of impact in terms of funding, publications, and services to academic communities. I am Principal Investigator of EPSRC 'INTUIT: Interaction Design for Trusted Sharing of Personal Health Data to Live Well with HIV' project (EP/R033900/1), to start in October 2018. I am currently Co-Investigator (Co-I) of EPSRC 'Playing out with IOT' (EP/P025544/2).

I recently completed the Leverhulme Fellowship (ECF-2012-642) in December 2017. I was previously Co-I at Newcastle University on an EPSRC 'Charting the Digital Lifespan (CDL)' project (EP/L00383X/1), and was previously Researcher Co-Investigator on EPSRC 'Scaling the Rural Enterprise' (EP/J000604/1). I was Co-Investigator on a project internally funded by Newcastle Institute of Creative Arts Practice (NICAP), and an Innovation Pilot for Creative Fuse North East, in collaboration with NICAP and partner organisations. I contribute to a number of academic communities, including SIGCHI Conferences and the Design Research Society (DRS) Conference. I am a Steering Committee member for the biennial RTD Conference series (and was previously General Chair of RTD 2015). I am also a member of the AHRC Peer Review College.

I currently supervise 7 PhD students, and a number of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Design, Digital Media, and Human-Computer Interaction. I teach the following subjects at both undergraduate and postgraduate level: Interaction Design, Creative Arts Practice, and Research Methods including Design Ethnography, and Using Film and Video for Design Research. I am Co-Lead (with colleague John Vines) of the 'Co-Create' research strand within the University's strategic IDEATE theme, aiming to deliver design-led research and innovation grounded in participatory methods.

I have extensive commercial design research experience prior to working in academia, engaging in Healthcare, Consumer Goods, Telecommunications, Leisure and Entertainment, and UK Government.

I work part time and have taken two periods of Maternity Leave in recent years, between July 2015 and April 2016, and June 2012 to February 2013. And it has been worth it to have my two occasionally entertaining children.

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