I'm a cognitive scientist (the dark-side of psychology) based at the University of Edinburgh in the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation, and the Human Communication Research Centre, specialising in perception, communication, joint action, ageing and Human-Machine Interaction. A substantial amount of my life is spent analysing people’s eye movements while they read, interact with technology, or engage in dialogue and co-operative actions. The purpose? To unravel the mysteries of human cognition while simultaneously improving the efficiency, interfaces and design of computer systems. There is little chance of me having to retire early.
My main projects at the moment include generating and analysing real-world navigation dialogues (SPACEBOOK) and the cognitive modelling and analysis of professional translators (CASMACAT). Past projects include investigating cooperative joint action and multimodal communication for Human-Robot Interaction (JAST); over in Psychology I worked on Dynamic Images and Eye Movements (DIEM), the aim of which was to model visual attention over moving, real-world stimuli. Acronyms are a big part of research (or getting funding anyway). Recently I've become interested in (cyber) security, particularly "usable" security and human factors. The old adage about the human being the weakest link in any security system remains true. For me, this combines issues of basic Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) design, human memory and attention, along with establishing trust, comfort and confidence. Plus, of course, the flip-side: how to prevent trust, comfort and confidence from being exploited/abused (i.e. risk assessment in a digital environment).
With experience of working for psychology and computing departments at both Edinburgh and Dundee, I'm used to working on multidisciplinary projects, as well as teaching courses and supervising students in psychology, computing, linguistics, business studies and art/design. I’ve organised international conferences, co-edited the book “Eye Movements: A Window on Mind and Brain” and try to find time to write up as much of my research as possible. As well as being involved in several multinational EU projects, I have previously been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the ESRC, IBM and have collaborated with Fujitsu. For my sins, I remain the Lab Supervisor for the Joint Eye-tracking Laboratory in the basement of the Informatics Forum and have had some fun with conductive gel (there is a combined BioSemi EEG and EyeLink eye-tracking facility in the Electrophysiology Suite next door).
B.Sc. (Hons) Logic & Philosophy of Science – Statistics
M.Phil. Cognitive Science
Binge researching (defined by Arnt Lykke Jakobsen in his exaugural), cynicism, poverty and self-abuse.
Academic Link / Quote of the moment:
ICTs [information and communication technologies] are great in making information available; they are less successful in making it accessible, and even less so in making it usable.
Floridi, Luciano (2013). E-ducation and the languages of information. Philosophy & Technology, 26(3), 247-251. doi: 10.1007/s13347-013-0124-9.
Non-Academic Link / Quote of the moment:
Richard Wilson on Hold (available free in the UK on demand): http://www.channel4.com/programmes/richard-wilson-on-hold/4od
Everywhere you turn humans are being replaced by machines. Whether you are shopping, banking, parking the car or booking an evening out, the chances are it's computers or an automated phone system and not real people that you'll be dealing with.
Actor Richard Wilson investigates the rise of automated services across Britain and put the machines to the test, to reveal who's really benefiting from the switch to DIY technology.
Richard struggles with a supermarket self-service till, takes 15 minutes to pay for parking by phone and totally fails to get voice-activated cinema booking lines to understand him.
In a bid to put automated phone systems of some of the country's largest services providers to the test, Richard creates his own call centre and reveals the best and worst for on-hold waiting time.
More and more companies are using voice recognition systems. Richard speaks to customers who complain that this type of technology is frustrating to use and often doesn't recognise national and regional accents.
Retailers claim all this self-service technology offers customers more choice and faster, better service. Yet a survey for the programme suggests which of these services gives us the biggest headache.