We maintain a regular set of talks (twice monthly) to bring the members of NORTH Lab community together. Talks are a mix of internal speakers and external guest speakers. Everyone is welcome to attend these.

Recent and Upcoming

13/5/2020 (12-1, CCE2-011)

Bailey Kursar (Toucan) and Belen Barros Pena (Northumbria)

22/4/2020 (12-1, CCE2-011)

Kiersten Hay (Northumbria)


CHI Practice Talks 

8/4/2020 (12-1, CCE2-011)

Catherine Talbot (Northumbria)

25/3/2020 (12-1, CCE2-011)

Rob Wilson (Northumbria)

18/3/2020 (12-1, CCE2-011)

Laura Forlano (Illinois Institute of Technology)

Title: Improbable Futures: Automation and Imagination

Abstract: This talk introduces a critical approach to studying and designing futures by foregrounding the improbability of the many claims about emerging technologies — and, in particular, automated and algorithmic systems — as we experience them in everyday life. In contrast to the modernist project of prediction and control by nearly perfect machines, this talk argues that emerging technologies, like fallible humans, should be understood through their flaws and failures, gaps and glitches, seams and symptoms, errors and omissions, bugs and biases, and, importantly, the implications of these breakdowns on larger complex socio-technical systems. By integrating a deeper understanding of the myriad of ways in which emerging technologies malfunction — whether these are technical, social, cultural, political, economic or environmental failures — it is possible to destabilize the claims around these technologies for the purpose of re-imagining our future more than human worlds in line with the inventive turn. Through participation and becoming, it is possible to go beyond hybrid, situated knowledges and practices that move from the experiment (in the scientific sense) to the experimental (in the artistic sense), from optimization to imagination, from prediction to possibility, and from persuasion to speculation.

Bio: Laura Forlano, a Fulbright award-winning and National Science Foundation funded scholar, is a writer, social scientist and design researcher. In 2018-2019, she is Visiting Research Fellow at the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech in New York City and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Design at the Institute of Design and Affiliated Faculty in the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she is Director of the Critical Futures Lab. Her research is focused on the aesthetics and politics of socio-technical systems and infrastructures at the intersection between emerging technologies, material practices and the future of cities; specifically, she writes about emergent forms of work, organizing and urbanism. Forlano’s research and writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Journal of Business Anthropology, Demonstrations, Catalyst, She Ji, Design Issues, the Journal of Peer Production, Fibreculture, Digital Culture & Society, ADA, Journal of Urban Technology, First Monday, The Information Society, Journal of Community Informatics, IEEE Pervasive Computing and Science and Public Policy. She is co-editor with Marcus Foth, Christine Satchell and Martin Gibbs of From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen (MIT Press 2011). She received her Ph.D. in communications from Columbia University.

11/3/2020 (12-1,CCE2-011)

Donna Leishman

26/2/2020 (12-1, CCE2-011)

Kelly Widdicks (Lancaster University)

Title: Understanding and Mitigating the Impact of Internet Demand in Everyday Life

Abstract: The growth in demand for Internet data has implications for the environment due to the energy consumption from the underlying Internet infrastructure; this demand needs to be reduced to stop the continuous growth cycle of the Internet. In this talk, Kelly will provide a brief overview of Internet demand in everyday life and the opportunities for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) designers to reduce such demand. She will specifically discuss the new norms of watching that are driving Internet demand, given that the majority of global Internet traffic is formed by video. She will also discuss her work on designing for moderate and meaningful use of digital devices and online services, utilising HCI themes of wellbeing, work productivity, online privacy and relationships with others to reduce the demand for Internet data in ways that users might appreciate.

Bio: Kelly Widdicks is an EPSRC Doctoral Prize Researcher in the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University, interested in understanding and mitigating the negative impacts of technology on society and the environment. Her PhD research explored how the demand for the Internet relates to, and impacts, users’ everyday lives, as well as the opportunities for technology designers and wider stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, network engineers) to mitigate the environmental and societal impacts of Internet traffic growth. She has published work at CHI (top conference for HCI) and was recently awarded an EPSRC Doctoral Prize to continue her research until January 2021.


Clara Mancini (Open University)

Animal-Computer Interaction: Animals as Co-Designers of Multispecies Technologically Supported Ecosystems

Abstract:  The emerging discipline of Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) recognises animals as primary stakeholders, users and co-designers of animal-machine interactions, and places them at the centre of the design process. Through some of the projects that my colleagues and I have been working on at The Open University’s Animal-Computer Interaction Laboratory (ACI Lab), I will discuss the need for and benefits of ACI, as well as the design, methodological and ethical implications of animal-centred design. I will also endeavor to highlight ACI’s potential to improve our understanding of and interactions with other species, and to reconfigure human-animal relations towards the development of more sustainable ecosystems.

Bio: Dr Clara Mancini is Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design at The Open University’s School of Computing and Communications. She is the founder and head of the OU’s ACI Lab, and has led or supervised a range of ACI projects, including ubiquitous and ambient interfaces for mobility assistance and medical detection dogs, interactive enrichment for captive elephants, and wearable animal biotelemetry. Her ACI work has been published in the leading interaction design and ubiquitous computing venues, and she has lectured on ACI nationally and internationally. She set-up the ACI International Steering Committee and served as general chair for the ACI International Conference in 2016 and 2017, chairing again in 2020. Clara is interested in the design, methodological and ethical challenges and opportunities presented by this ACI, and is committed to demonstrating its potential to contribute to animal and human wellbeing, social inclusion, interspecies cooperation and environmental restoration.


Lynne Coventry

An Intro to the Academic Centre of Excellence (ACE) in Cybersecurity Research

Abstract: Professor Lynne Coventry is the Director of the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cybersecurity Research. This Centre incorporates researchers from across the university to provide a multidisciplinary approach to cybersecurity research. As an HCI researcher (from before the term was even coined ;-)) and psychologist Lynne is interested in the human aspects of cybersecurity and will share some insights from her recent work exploring the behaviours of healthcare practitioners and the role of HCI in reducing the non-malicious insider threat.


Belen Barros Pena

What is wrong with tech? – What older people taught me about digital technologies

Abstract: Mainstream HCI literature has a tendency to represent older people as technology challenged and technology averse. To address this “problem”, papers often recommend improvements on usability and accessibility, and occasionally the development of products and services designed specifically for older adults. But what is really the “problem”? And is it really a “problem”? Inspired by recent critical approaches to HCI work on ageing, the first study of my PhD tried to uncover what may be behind older adults’ reticence towards digital technologies. I suspect my work has not fully answered the question, but it sure taught me a whole lot about what is wrong with tech. I will try to share some of those learnings in this NORTH Lab talk.

Bio: Belén was a user experience practitioner for over 10 years until 2017, when she started a PhD at the School of Design of Northumbria University. Her academic background is somehow eclectic, including both computer science and anthropology. Although some people raise an eyebrow or two at this, Belén is by now convinced this interdisciplinarity has served her well.

Belén’s research explores what can be learnt about the design of financial technologies from groups who have been systematically excluded from its production process. So far she has worked with older adults in collaboration with the University of the 3rd Age; and with people living with mental health conditions in collaboration with a startup called Toucan. She is supervised by John Vines, Lars Erik Holmquist and Rachel Clarke from Northumbria University; and Dorothy Liviabella, head of the Vulnerable Customers team at Santander UK.


Mark Warner (Northumbria)

Being Silent Online

In this talk, Mark will discuss research he conducted as part of, and alongside his PhD research. The topic centres on people’s (in)ability to remain silent online. Within the context of HIV status disclosure in online dating or “hook-up” apps used by gay and bisexual men, he will discuss his research exploring the efficacy of “prefer not to say” options often designed into these disclosure fields. Through his research, he highlights how these non-disclosure options may not be an effective privacy preserving mechanism. He also highlights how people appropriate these disclosure fields to enhance their privacy by cultivating new meaning into their design. Finally, he discusses how select findings may generalise to other technologies, such as the global message delete feature implemented into many of today’s mobile messaging apps.

Bio: Mark Warner is a Lecturer in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Northumbria University, and is interested in the study of privacy and disclosure in online social environments. He comes from a multidisciplinary background, having worked for over ten years in policing and security management (MSc) and is about to submit his PhD thesis in Human-computer Interaction (HCI) at the University College London.


Anne Spaa (Northumbria)

Design for Policymaking

In this talk, Anne will discuss her PhD research that examines design for policymaking and government innovation, where she has been gathering insights around ‘evidence’ in a world of ‘evidence-based policymaking’, and how design research practices might (not) fit the current policymaking climate in the UK. In her studies she has been talking and working with policymakers, policy designers, think tanks and other policy informers. As part of this process, she worked at Policy Lab as junior policy designer. In the talk she will address several topics of discussion, such as what ‘provotyping’ might look like in policymaking, and how design researchers might grow a strategic and reciprocal relationship with policymakers and policy informers.

Bio: Anne Spaa is a PhD Candidate at Northumbria University School of Design, and is interested in design as a strategic and critical practice. She comes from an Industrial Design/Interaction Design background (TU Eindhoven) where she explored design for health and wellbeing (BSc), speculative and critical design, and design research (MSc).


Miriam Sturdee (Lancaster University)

Visual Research Methods in Human Computer Interaction

Human Computer Interaction is a hybrid study, and as such is open to new ways of creating, analysing, and working with data. Within this context, data is not numbers on a spreadsheet, but the hand-drawn image, and its associated processes. Here, I document a journey through sketching, drawing, painting and other visual arts as they pertain to the study of present and future technology. If we are all already designers, then we are most certainly all therefore artists, because to sketch is a universal construct, and one that can be used for subjective, communicative and impactful research. Visual research methods already have a billeted place in the social sciences and beyond, now they deserve more attention in the technological domain: beyond Sarah Pink’s seminal work on visual ethnography, where might we take these methods within computer science?


Angelika Strohmayer (Northumbria)

Technologies for Social Justice: Working To Design Digital Technologies With, In, and For Third Sector Support Services

Third Sector Organisations provide services for those made most marginal in society – those for whom public and private support services are not available. Increasingly, these services are looking towards digital technologies as ways of providing novel interactions for their service users as a means of providing support. In this talk, I will reflect on work I have carried out with sex work support services and rights activists, homelessness support services, and alcohol addiction peer support workers to begin to understand ways in which digital service delivery can layer services and service users’ experiences. Bringing this practical work together with theoretical conceptualisations of ‘justice’ in HCI, I will introduce the framework of Justice-Oriented Ecologies. I developed this as part of my PhD, but since then have found some unanswered questions which I hope to discuss with others and address in future work and collaborations.

Bio: Dr Angelika Strohmayer is a lecturer in Communication Design at Northumbria University. With a background in primary school education, International Development and Education, Angelika completed her PhD in Digital Civics earlier this year at Open Lab, Newcastle University. For the last year, she was also a Research Officer at Swansea University’s Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, working to document and improve research impact. She is an interdisciplinary technology researcher, working closely with third sector organisations, activists, community groups, and other stakeholders to creatively integrate digital technologies in service delivery and advocacy work. She aims to work collaboratively on in-the-world projects that engage people at all stages of the research process to engender change towards a more just and equitable world. She is dedicated to the inclusion of under- and mis-represented voices in research, design, and academia and proactively works towards equality, diversity, and inclusion. She is a founding member of, a feminist tech collective and international network of feminist researchers and designers working to make HCI a more welcoming, inclusive, and friendly discipline. She works across boundaries, bringing together disparate groups to engage in digital endeavours for personal wellbeing, community engagement, and public advocacy.


Chris Elsden (University of Edinburgh)

Sorting Out Valuation in the Charity Shop: Designing for Data-Driven Innovation through Value Translation

Recent work within HCI and CSCW has become attentive to the politics of data and metrics in order to highlight the implications of what counts and how. In this paper, we relate these discussions to the longstanding distinctions made between value and values. We introduce literature on ‘Valuation Studies’ and argue for understanding the politics of data through valuation, an ongoing social practice that transforms socially embedded values into different forms of more abstract value. This theoretical work is developed through an ethnographic study of contemporary UK charity shops, as a site focused on the labour of valuation, but embedded in both local and global values. Through this study, we consider implications for the intervention and design of ‘data-driven innovation’, with a particular focus on distributed ledger technologies. We argue that these technologies inevitably engage in valuation, and require careful attention to the ongoing processes by which value is translated and performed by different stakeholders.


Sunil Rodger (Newcastle University)

Exploring the Potential for Technology to Improve Cystic Fibrosis Care Provision: Patient and Professional Perspectives

Health care systems increasingly promote self-management of chronic conditions outside of traditional clinical environments, often through technologies which help to support patient self-care and engagement with medical professionals. We investigate specialist care provision in cystic fibrosis (CF), a life-shortening genetic condition, to understand the experiences of those living with it and of professionals who provide such care. Our work highlights how the motivations for the use of technology in this context are often intrinsically linked to the nature of CF itself and the constraints that the condition imposes on care provision. These include the high burden associated with self-management and clinic attendance; the ever-present risk of infection and a subsequent decline in health; and patients who are often very well-informed and actively engaged in their care. In exploring enablers and barriers to technology in this context, we highlight the importance of considering its integration into the chronic care cycles, practices, and structures of CF care.


Stacey Pitsillides (Northumbria University)

Designing Death for the 21st Century

Planning for death in the 21st Century is an intriguing prospect. With designers, architects, artists and technologists proposing new forms of burial and cremation including: the transformation of bodily matter into products such as diamonds; splicing DNA into trees; or using human remains to create energy. These developments move away from death as a taboo or private experience, rebranding death as an expression of either the self or communities, with new mediums that radically diversify current aesthetics.

Online environments have been part of this transformation by introducing digital versions of honouring the dead. This includes in-game memorials and funerals, most famously in Eve Online and World of Warcraft. The pervasiveness of technology creates an opportunity to redefine the way that death translates and extends, considering what new relationships we may have with the dead?

This talk will explore how practice research has the potential re-imagine death through a range of new mediums that radically diversify current aesthetics and meanings associated with death and dying. Through co-creation and public engagement, it produces new knowledge about people’s relationship to their physical and digital legacies. And explores the ways that speculative design can provides new forms of agency for creative engagement with our bodies and legacies at the end of life.

Bio: Dr Stacey Pitsillides is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Design at Northumbria University. Her research actively inquiries into how co-design can engage publics to speculatively explore their own mortality and legacy. Stacey’s research is grounded in breaking down hierarchies between designers, institutions and users. Through a mix of ethnography, cultural probes and participatory design methods, she has collaborated with hospices, festivals, libraries and galleries to curate a range of interactive events aimed at specific communities e.g. tech innovators, educators and bereaved family members. Her research has featured in a range of festivals including Death: The Southbank Centre’s Festival for the Living, The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival,Internet Week Europe, FutureFest, the Edinburgh International Science Festival and Dying Matters Week. She is the editor of a special issue on Networked Emotions for the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media and been consulted by tech companies, such as Google, during their development of new digital legacy tools.

Previous speakers

  • David A. Shamma (FX PAL) – 15/05/19
  • Nantia Koulidou (Northumbria) – 10/04/19
  • Claire McCallum (Northumbria) – 27/03/19
  • Austin Toombs and Colin Gray (Purdue University) – 13/03/19
  • Caroline Claisse (Northumbria) – 27/02/19
  • Lisa Thomas (Northumbria) – 13/02/19
  • Rosie Bellini (Newcastle) – 23/01/19
  • Christina Vasilou (Northumbria) – 28/11/18
  • Bettina Nissen (University of Edinburgh) – 19/11/18
  • Tommy Dylan (Northumbria) – 14/11/18
  • Helen Andreae (Northumbria) – 7/11/18
  • Jon Bird (University of Bristol) – 31/10/18
  • Paul Vickers (Northumbria) – 24/10/18
  • Samantha Finnigan (Open Lab, Newcastle) – 22/08/18
  • Thomas Pollet (Northumbria) – 25/07/18
  • Shaimaa Lazem (CSRTA · Informatics Research Institute) – 20/07/18
  • Wasim Ahmed (Newcastle) – 11/07/18
  • Marta Cecchinato (Northumbria) – 27/06/18
  • Andrew McNeil (Northumbria) – 13/06/18
  • Cally Gateshouse (Northumbria) – 23/05/18
  • John Rooksby (Northumbria) – 09/05/18
  • Mladjan (Jovanovic University of Trento) – 25/04/18
  • Rachel Clarke (Northumbria) – 28/03/18
  • Larissa Pschetz (University of Edinburgh) – 20/03/18
  • Chris Elsden (Northumbria) – 14/03/18
  • Augusto Esteves (Edinburgh Napier University) – 7/03/18
  • Gilbert Cockton (Northumbria) – 14/02/18
  • Wendy Moncur (University of Dundee) – 30/01/18
  • James Nicholson (Northumbria) – 24/01/18
  • Arthi Manohar (Northumbria) – 10/01/18
  • Nick Dalton (Northumbria) – 22/11/17
  • Stuart Murray – 15/11/17
  • Stuart Reeves (University of Nottingham) – 16/11/17
  • Tom Feltwell (Northumbria) – 25/10/17
  • Dave Green (Bristol) – 27/09/17
  • Kia Hook (KTH Stockholm) – 31/08/17
  • Lene Nielsen and Anders Bruun (IT University of Copenhagen) – 30/08/17
  • Pam Briggs (Northumbria) – 09/08/17
  • Marisela Gutierrez – 12/07/17
  • Morgan Harvey (Northumbria) – 28/06/17
  • Jay Evans (Medic Mobile) – 14/06/17
  • Dr Abigail Durrant (Northumbria) – 24/05/17
  • Dr Kay Rogage (Northumbria) – 10/05/17
  • Dr Santosh Vijaykumar (Northumbria) – 26/04/17
  • Prof Dave Kirk (Northumbria) – 12/04/17