image Photoswitch: a design to support photographic representation in family homes


I am an interaction designer and researcher at Culture Lab, Newcastle University with a longstanding interest in the study of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) from social, cultural and critical perspectives. This is grounded in my career connecting the arts and sciences, industry and academia, and a interdisciplinary background in Fine Art (BA Hons), Interaction Design (MA RCA) and Social Psychology (PhD). I am particularly interested to explore how the creative practice of design can be leveraged in research to explore how people shape, and are shaped by, digital technologies.

My academic research in recent years has focussed on the design and use of digital photographic tools to support the expression of identity in different contexts and domains – at home, at work, with friends, with family, and by different communities and cultures. Related to this, I have extensively studied HCI concerns for supporting the expression and functioning of personal and social identity through digital media. My work to date has further investigated practice-based approaches to research, exploring how the artefacts and practices of design can be used to communicate ideas and experiences within research processes. Leading from this, I was on the organising committee for the first Research Through Design (RTD) conference, held September 2013 at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

These linked research interests may be illustrated with ‘Photoswitch’: a design for field deployment in family homes to empirically explore social tensions on family representation between adults and their teenage children, with research insights informing domestic digital photo display innovation.

In April 2013 I started a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship exploring opportunities for interaction design practitioners to foster dialogue, common ground, and knowledge exchange in technology research projects that engage diverse expertise and stakeholder communities: The aim is to deliver methodological insights about the application of design practice in interdisciplinary knowledge exchange.

The fellowship is case study based; and for each case study, I intend to adopt a different role within the design process (e.g. as a design practitioner, observer, or facilitator). One case study is a two-year RCUK-funded project studying the creation and management of digital identity across the human lifespan: Charting the Digital Lifespan (CDL).  This project involves my involvement as a practitioner, in close collaboration with different disciplinary partners, to design compelling forms of research engagement: deployable prototypes that prompt reflection on existing digital identities; and props and scenarios to envision future identities. The project will generate multi-generational perspectives on the subject, from children through to older adults.

Before taking up the fellowship, I worked on the Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy (SiDE) hub, exploring amongst other things the potential of photography at school to support children with additional needs in interpersonal communication, and how the design of photographic equipment could enhance this.

Other recent work has explored design interventions to support cultural visiting experiences at memorial sites within a global context.