Design Informatics, Human Computer Interaction and Data Visualisation

A list of potential topics for PhD students in the area of Design Informatics and Human Computer Interaction.

Interactive Network Visualization

Supervisor:  Benjamin Bach

This PhD topic investigates interactive and visual means to better understand complex network data. Visualization allows to understand information otherwise hidden in data, statistics or mathematical models. Visualization is a powerful means to understand complexity, to create hypotheses and to inform further research. As no visualization is able to capture the entire picture, interactive exploration and manipulation of the visualization can further support an analysts workflow. The goal of this thesis is to create novel information visualization and interaction techniques to help people understand network and relational data.

More about Interactive Network Visualisation

Interactive Data Visualization for Immersive Augmented Reality

Supervisor:  Benjamin Bach

The latest generation of augmented reality (AR) display-technology has reached a level of consumer-readiness, including head-mounted and stereoscopic display (e.g. Microsoft HoloLens), as well as developer support. This technology is of interest in the visualization of 3D-networks of biological data such as, derived from gene expression measures, chromatin structures, and brain-connectivity networks.  Besides an improved perception of depth, immersive augmented reality will likely benefit collaboration and interaction with existing display and interaction technologies (projectors, screens, mouse, keyboard). The main question is how these technologies can play well together in order to support a seamless workflow and improved analytical paradigm.

In particular, this project will investigate creative approaches to support workflows around biological data, using a hybrid setup of screen and holograms (Microsoft HoloLens). Which data needs to be visualized as hologram? How to interact with holograms? How to visualize that data? Which data is to be shown on the screen? How to couple both environments to provide for a smooth workflow?

PaxVis: Visualizing Peace and Conflict Data

Supervisor: Benjamin Bach

In collaboration with the School of Law (University of Edinburgh) and the College of Art, this topic investigates the role of data analytics and visualization in the domain of peace negotiations and conflict. For example peace negotiations are available as huge data base of tagged and untagged documents capturing decisions an progress; news and social media provide data on the evolution of conflicts; organizations provide data about peace indicators and conflict. In an interdisciplinary environment, the student will help shaping emerging research around interactive visualization, analytics tools, online platforms, storytelling, and public outreach, supporting policy makers, NGOs, peace negotiators and researchers.     Preliminary work:

Bridging Creativity and Digital Fluency Education

Supervisor: Susan Lechelt

Computing is an inherently creative subject, however, the ways in which it is typically taught do not always convey its creative potential. How might the subject be introduced to learners in a way that leads them to appreciate its creative potential, as well as promoting engagement and a deeper understanding? Previous work has demonstrated that there is much to be gained by teaching digital fluency concepts through methods inspired by creative practice, for example by teaching about binary numbers through dance and choreography, or using theatre as a way in to learning about data science. This project will be concerned with developing new creative interfaces (e.g., through physical computing and digital fabrication) for teaching about aspects of computing, and evaluating the efficacy of these with target audiences (e.g., children and young people). 
Example of previous work:

Understanding Digital Fluency Challenges for Creative Practitioners

Supervisor: Susan Lechelt

Creative practitioners (e.g., visual artists, performing artists, musicians, etc.) are frequently faced with the task of learning new computing skills or computational methods. This can be necessary, for example, in order to expand their practice (e.g., by learning to use machine learning or XR methods to develop new products or outputs) or to expand their business (e.g., understanding how to digitise their work to reach new audiences). This project will engage with creative professionals to investigate the challenges that they face when seeking to learn new computational skills or methods, and to understand the strategies they use to overcome them. Furthermore, it will use participatory methods to develop and evaluate digital resources to support their learning of new computational skills.

Sustainable HCI and Sustainable Interaction Design for Longer-Lived Technologies

Supervisor: Susan Lechelt

In the face of the climate emergency, there is an urgent need to rethink how we design, make and use technology within environmental limits. I welcome project proposals focused on understanding issues mediating the longevity of physical-digital technologies (e.g., connected devices, IoT) and informing the development of more sustainable technologies. For example, proposals could concern working with communities of repair to understand the competencies that are important for repairing electronics, then investigating how these competencies might be taught in learning environments (e.g., makerspaces or classrooms). Proposals could also be design-focused, for example investigating sustainable design processes and developing prototypes of more sustainable technologies that foreground longevity and repairability.


Exploring the Intersection of Digital Wellbeing and Generative AI 

Supervisor: Tara Capel

The field of Generative Artificial Intelligence (Generative AI) has seen rapid advancements, raising questions about its potential impact on wellbeing and its ethical implications. On the one hand, generative AI provides access to a vast amount of information on topics related to health and wellbeing and can process and generate content across modalities such as text, image, and audio. This offers a range of potential benefits for wellbeing, including personalised content creation, mental health support, wellbeing tracking and analysis, and enhanced opportunities for self-expression and creativity. However, generative AI is also the source of many wellbeing challenges, ranging from an overreliance on technology for wellbeing support, privacy concerns, bias and discrimination, to perpetuating misinformation, disinformation, and harm through the creation of deepfakes and inaccurate information. 

I welcome project proposals focused on this intersection of generative AI and digital wellbeing. In particular, qualitative approaches to understand how diverse groups of people/communities use and encounter generative AI, opportunities and concerns around its use, and how they might re-imagine or appropriate its use through co-design and speculative design methods. This human-computer interaction/design informatics research project will consider how we might design generative AI that supports wellbeing in a way that is ethical, interactive and contestable.