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.

View Profile Send Email

Abigail Durrant

I’m a designer and researcher based at Open Lab Newcastle University (formally the Digital Interaction group at Culture Lab), pursuing human-computer interaction (HCI) research through design-led inquiry.
I have a longstanding curiosity in the design-led study of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) from social and cultural perspectives. This is grounded in my interdisciplinary career spanning the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Graduating with a Fine Art degree from Newcastle in 2000, I have worked as a professional artist with gallery representation and run an interaction design consultancy.  Following postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Art (RCA) and the University of Surrey (Microsoft Research European PhD Scholarship Programme), I hold specialist applied skills in computer-related design and a deep knowledge of critical and experience-centred approaches to HCI research. 
Over the last 16 years, I have developed extensive professional experience in industry, academia and the public sector. In a commercial design research context, I have drawn upon my expertise in ethnography, film making, conceptual design and visual communication to deliver understandings, strategic directions and possible futures for technology innovation in Healthcare, Telecommunications and Government.
My academic research has focussed on the development of digital photography and social media, specifically to support the expression of identity in different contexts and domains, and by different communities and cultures.  My approach is creative, practice-based and interdisciplinary, using design to understand and communicate ideas and experiences. I’m a passionate advocate of dissemination platforms supporting ‘research through design’.
Alongside my Leverhulme Fellowship (ECF-2012-642) I have significant demonstrators of impact in terms of funding, publications, and services to academic communities. I am Principal Investigator at Newcastle of EPSRC Charting the Digital Lifespan (CDL) project (EP/L00383X/1) and previously Researcher Co-Investigator on EPSRC 'Scaling the Rural Enterprise' (EP/J000604/1) and most recently am Co-Investigator on a project internally funded by Newcastle Institute of Creative Arts Practice (NICAP). I was General Chair for the new Research through Design (RTD) 2015 Conference.
I have recently returned from Maternity Leave (July 15 to April 16), previously taking Maternity Leave in 2012.  And it has been worth it to have my two occasionally entertaining children.

View Profile Send Email

Other Projects