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Tag Archives: Research

At the current point of my PhD research, I believe I now have a broad view of the field, a plan outline for my research, have tackled with practical work, exchanged ideas with other researchers and now looking to define my specific research questions or problems. Further than that, I am preparing to start writing my upgrade I keep thinking about the whole process as whole that needs a successful conclusion.

One article that I was lucky to see passing before my eyes when I was beginning my PhD at UCP was “How to Choose a Good Scientific Problem” by Uri Alon. The title seems rather prescriptive but the analysis that it presents is highly enlightening.

The starting point of the article is that choosing a problem is, just as the culture of a specific lab, related to nurturing. When choosing a problem, both for a lab or for an individual researcher or student, the goal is maximising their potential by fostering growth and self-motivated research.

For that, Alon frames scientific problems in two dimensions: feasibility and interest. Feasibility reports to how hard/easy it is to complete a project, in what concerns time. Interest reports to “the amount in which they increase verifiable knowledge”. So considered options for positioning your research problems are: “low hanging fruit” – easy but not to interesting; “difficult is good” – difficult and low interest, and finally the best of options, feasible and with high interest. So choosing the right problem follows the Pareto principles according to an increasing level of difficulty and career development.

Some heuristics are provided that attempt to give students a more wise, defensive stance; “Do not commit to a problem before 3 months have elapsed” (whilst reading, discussing an planning) or “Resist the urge to “we must produce – let’s not waste time and start working”, with the given consideration to practical issues that usually arise such as funding, deadlines, etc.

The author departs to analyse how the ranking of problems occurs. Here, the value assigned by the community competes with the value, with the inner voice from the student or researcher. And a special mention is made to the importance of the supportive environment that the supervisors can provide and how much this helps to strengthen this inner voice. And how recurrent questions that go around inside for years can make the basis of good projects, how the self-motivation that emerges out of this can lead to a bigger commitment, a more rewarding routine and a greater appeal to the audience.

So how can one converge towards his problems? This way the author puts it reminded me of the old adage “Know thyself”. What are the personal interests, what is our perspective on a specific problem, what resonates with one’s values to explore? Achieving self-expression is one of the most important goals in research that may make work self-driven and revitalising.

On the concluding part of the paper, Alon focus on the schema of research, a path that is taken from beginning of research (A) to a particular end (B), and that is erroneously believed to be linear and predefined by most. In fact, in most of the cases the destination of research has been a newly found problem (C) in the way to solve the initial destination problem (B). In the course of a fuzzy stage called meandering of research, C became more interesting, feasible and worthwhile than that. As Alon puts it, the mentors’ task “is to support students through the cloud that seems to guard the entry to the unknown”.

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After having a go with the MYOs in our lab and compiling some C++ code for Atau and Miguel for the Metagesture project, and, having been involved on the 24h hackthon in Sonar 2015, which had “Wearables” for its main topic, all this brought all the motivation that I had around 2007 to do some serious hacking in this field. At the time I had just beginning to write my master thesis in mobile and ubiquitous computing, and one of the ideas that I had was to develop a bracelet that connected through Bluetooth, was localisable and had big array of sensors that I could measure and do some data mining on. So, more that seven years passed, here we stand now with the Smart Watch from Apple and the Band from Microsoft, amidst others. So I decided to give myself a treat for my birthday and buy one Microsoft Band to hack.

The initial setup wasn’t as trivial as I expected… I was doing it late in the night, was tired, my Windows 8.1 phone was almost out of battery, and only charged the Band for about half-an-hour. I got it to pair with my phone but connection didn’t last. And the Health app seemed to do nothing about that. Spend almost 30m trying to work it out without success. Being both a Microsoft and Apple consumer and developer, I must confess that the recurrent thought that builds on frustration came to my mind “Why doesn’t this work? If it was an Apple product this would have been a flawless process…”. Some reflections on this later on. But now in the morning, after devices were recharged during the night, restarting my smartphone, removing the previous Bluetooth pairing entry, everything seemed to work well. I would say it was all about the order of the steps in the pairing process, Health app initialization and connection. I am still not sure about what failed in the initial process, but I suspect you mustn’t pair the bracelet before launching the app.

Now everything is setup and about to do some more testing. Leaving for a bike ride and testing the tracking features ;)

On project RAPID-MIX, Goldsmiths EAVI team had a task assigned which has been recently completed. The main outcome is a report on the methodological framework to be adopted, based on User-Centred Design, which involved choosing and adopting a code of research ethics. This involved going through some of the most relevant codes of research, such as:

We decided to adopt the last one since it seemed the most encompassing and adequate to international collaborative research, and provided an extensive coverage and guidelines for good practice. These claim for values such as integrity, uniformity, fairness and confidentiality applied to guidelines such as:

  • Data practices for availability and access
  • Research procedures
  • Publication-related, review and editorial conduct

Overall, it provides a great ethical framework to work on and one of the fundamental aspects of any serious research work.

Last week, went to IRCAM, Paris, for a three-day intensive work meetings. Had the pleasure to see some of the great work that is being conducted there in HCI research for music technologies. Here’s three projects that show some of the amazing work:

Stonic App by IRCAM

Playing sound textures Project

Project COSIMA

Last October I presented my paper at Videojogos 2014, Conferência de Ciências e Artes dos Videojogos in Barcelos, Portugal

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In this paper I argued that music videogames, given the characteristics of the genre, may constitute an alternative and viable approach to music and audiovisual performance. Building on a music performance in 2013, in which I participated and used a videogame as a musical instrument, I analysed some of the aspects that have emerged and support this argument. I contextualised videogames within new media art and provided a brief analysis of the music videogame genre. I also identified some of the latest research efforts concerning conceptual and technical approaches, design features and frameworks that may assist the analysis and development of music video games suitable for performance.