From despair to where? Some lessons from lockdown

This was originally written as a ‘reserve’ presentation for RIVAL event 3‘s ‘sharing our skills’ section. Fortunately enough people who are good at presenting volunteered, so Hazel Hall suggested I turn it into a blog-post. 

So here it is. The first part is a whistle-stop tour through my current ‘life under lockdown’; the second part is some lessons from recent online conferences I’ve attended, and from many community council online meetings. It’s meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but with some genuine lessons and realisations.

I should admit that the title of this post is a deliberate misnomer. I’ve despaired over many things, but turning RIVAL events virtual is not one of them. (It has been a lot of work though.) 

Click any image to see it full-size in a new tab or window.

Thanks to Marina Milosheva for advice on an early draft. Continue reading

What has Bruce been up to during lockdown?

It appears I’ve been relatively quiet during the past 5 months, at least on this blog. There have been personal reasons for this, as covered in my personal blog. The relevant rants are:

Since I got back to Napier in early May, I’ve been working with Dr Gemma Webster on our project ‘Information avoidance and diabetes’. There aren’t many posts on that blog yet, but here is Professor Hazel Hall’s writing on the poster I presented on Monday (8 June) at at an e-conference. You can find tweets about it at #AECIST20. And look out for a blog post in the next week or so.

poster on 'information avoidance and diabetes' project

Click the image to see the full-size poster in a new window or tab.

Outside of Napier, I’ve also been doing some work with the Scottish Tech Army, mostly proofreading and editing internal documents. I’ve continued working with £eithChooses and ‘my’ Edinburgh community councils.

Today, during this week’s ‘non-work day’ I’ve been updating my online CV and publication-list. The latest two additions are two papers that have very recently been accepted for publication. The first is on the RIVAL project, led by Professor Hazel Hall. This paper covers the project’s contributions so far to practitioner-researcher engagement, and looks ahead to further anticipated contributions from more networking events. Hazel’s post looks forward to presenting that paper the (virtual) 83rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST2020).

The second covers how Scottish community councillors tend to develop and us information literacy (IL). This paper is an output from the LIL-DEM project, led by Peter Cruickshank. The key messages are that (1) community councillors report that their information-handing skills are not derived from their formal education (the focus of so much IL research) but from work and everyday life; (2) that these are practiced by joint working. This, I hope, is a small but valuable addition to investigations into workplace IL, as for example examined in Information at Work: information management in the workplace, edited by Katriina Byström, Jannica Heinström and Ian Ruthven.

And so my final self-trumpet toot tonight is that my review of that amazing book should soon appear in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science.

Digital exclusion in Scotland: tweets by @operanomad and @OliverEscobar

NB @operanomad and @OliverEscobar gave retrospective permission to copy their tweets. 

Cat Macaulay (Chief design officer at the Scottish Government, @operanomad) talks about the ~800,000 digitally excluded people in Scotland. She states in another thread: [it] benefits no one to have so many digitally excluded/inactive and no or low basic digitally skilled in Scotland. (I’d add that this argument applies worldwide. This is not a criticism of the focus on Scotland in the following.)

Cat Macaulay’s recent thread on the numbers of digitally excluded people in Scotland starts here. She says

Digital exclusion is a combination of access to a device, to connectivity and means to pay for it, and basic digital skills. It’s not just about having access to a device. Factors such as poverty, motivation, confidence and accessibility issues for disabled people, also issues.

2 in 10 adults in Scotland (880,000) lack basic digital skills. 1 in 10 have no basic digital skills. Particularly important in lockdown are those basic skills – find info, order shopping online, fill in a form online etc. Source: https://lloydsbank.com/assets/media/pdfs/banking_with_us/whats-happening/lb-consumer-digital-index-2019-report.pdf

On basic access – latest Scottish Household Survey findings – a) 13% of households have no internet access at home (rises to 17% in lowest income households) – ie c 680000 people do not have internet access at home and b) 1 in 8 adults do not use the internet at all. Source: https://gov.scot/publications/scotlands-people-annual-report-results-2018-scottish-household-survey

And then we have to factor in people who have internet access at home and basic digital skills but can afford little or no access. Multi person and multi child household where the numbers of devices and data allowance size are issues etc

Data is harder to access there unfortunately. And data on children not clear other as while many children are digitally active it’s often at school and schools and colleges struggle to ensure all young people have access to internet at home.

So overall assumption is that c 800000 are digitally excluded, 680000 because they do not have access to the internet at home and the rest a combo of no and low digital skills and/or poverty and/or extremely limited data.

There’s a wee exchange between Cat Macaulay and ‘CitizenParticipation’ (@OliverEscobar) here:

CM: Lockdown. No Netflix. No news sites. No health info. No zoom with friends. No social media. No gaming. No YouTube. No podcasts. No ebooks. No Spotify. No online learning. For the 800000 digitally excluded Scots that’s life right now. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it…

OE: The digital divide has been an inequalities booster for some time. This #coronavirus crisis throws into relief the importance of universal digital infrastructure as a foundation for the digital public sphere of the next decades.

CM: Absolutely – critical national infrastructure for a post-covid world for sure. Benefits no one to have so many digitally excluded/inactive and no or low basic digitally skilled in Scotland.

PhD studentship available at Edinburgh Napier University: more detail

(More detail about this post.)

We are currently advertising a fully-funded PhD place within the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University for an October 2020 start date.

The scholarship is a Skills Development Scotland Collaborative award offered through the ESRC-funded Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS). It is for a doctoral study on natural language interfaces to support career decision-making of young people. The practical work to be undertaken for this PhD centres on the development of a dialogue system utilising existing data held by Skills Development Scotland, for young people to engage ‘in conversation’ about their career interests, aspirations, and strengths. The system to be developed is anticipated to take the form of an interactive avatar with identifiable human characteristics.

The doctoral study will supervised by staff from two research groups within the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University: (1) the Centre for Social Informatics (Professor Hazel Hall), and (2) the Nature-inspired Intelligent Systems group (Dr Dimitra Gkatzia). A third supervisor from the School of Applied Sciences completes the team (Dr Pete Robertson). Our group has a strong track record of supervising SDS collaborative studentships, with two completions to date (in 2018 and 2019) and three on-going studentships.

We are keen to receive applications from Computer Science or Software Engineering Bachelors or Masters graduates (or those due to graduate in these or other relevant subjects in summer 2020), who have some experience of studying Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, or Machine Learning (e.g. as part of a module, or in a project), and have achieved (or are on target for) a 1st class or 2.1 degree.

The studentship is offered either as a 3 year programme at Edinburgh Napier University for a successful applicant who already holds a Masters qualification that includes 60 credits of research methods training, OR as a 4 year 1+3 programme for a successful applicant who does not yet hold such as Masters qualification. In the case of the latter, the first year – which is also fully funded (fees and stipend) – will be undertaken at the University of Edinburgh on the Masters programme in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies.

  1. Applications for this studentship should be submitted to GradHub by Thursday 30th April 2020 at midday https://gradhub.sgsss.ac.uk/students/login
  2. Interviews are scheduled for the afternoon Thursday May 7th 2020 (most likely online)
  3. The start date for successful candidates is Thursday 1st October 2020
  4. Full details of eligibility criteria and the application process (through GradHub) can be found on the Current studentship opportunities page of the SGSSS web site at https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/studentship/natural-language-interfaces/

After successfully completing the SGSSS application process (i.e. submission of application documents to GradHub, successful interview on 7th May , and studentship offer from SGSSS), the candidate to be appointed will be admitted to the PhD programme at Edinburgh Napier University.

For further information about this studentship, please contact Professor Hazel Hall (h.hall@napier.ac.uk) or Dr Dimitra Gkatzia (d.gkatzia@napier.ac.uk) .

PhD studentship available at Edinburgh Napier University

(adapted from an email from Professor Hazel Hall)

Edinburgh Napier University is keen to receive applications from Computer Science or Software Engineering Bachelors or Masters graduates (or final year/Masters students due to graduate) with (or on target for) a first class or 2.1 degree, and who have some experience of studying Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, or Machine Learning (e.g. as part of a module, or in a project).

The successful applicant will join  as a 3-year student, or as a 1+3 student:

  • A 3-year PhD student will spend the whole period of the studentship with us at Edinburgh Napier University. To qualify for the 3 year award, the student should already hold a Masters qualification that includes 60 credits of research methods training.
  • A 1+3 student will take the Masters degree in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh in year 1,  and then follow this with the three year doctoral study with us here at Edinburgh Napier University. The +1 year is also fully funded with all fees paid, plus a stipend. If we appoint one of our current Edinburgh Napier undergraduate students to this studentship, he/she will take the 1+3 route to PhD. (We will make the arrangements for admission to the University of Edinburgh, as per the processes that we have followed for the three 1+3 students already recruited to this doctoral programme.)

Key dates of the application process are:

  • Thursday 30th April midday: deadline for submission of applications – NB submissions must be made through SGSSS’ GradHub system (https://gradhub.sgsss.ac.uk/students/login)
  • Thursday 7th May pm: interviews
  • Thursday 1st October: studentship starts

 

There are further details of the studentship and how to make an application at:

 

 

What has Bruce been up to in the last 6 months?

Academic/Napier

  • The RIVAL network: I’m PA to the ∏, administrator, map-creator, videographer, data-analyst and much more
  • IL measures paper: Peter and I are contributing a section to a paper by Gunilla Widen. This will report not he survey of community councillors, and how (not to) measure workplace information literacy.
  • marking: some marking of students’ placement reports.
  • information avoidance in diabetes: because I don’t want to know about my diabetes, but because I do want to know why this is. And I want to to help others with this bad combination, and to maybe generate some theory!
  • SFC GCRF map. This is to create a web map of SFC-funded GCRF projects. Draft version is here: http://bruceryandontexist.net/SFC/VA42-2019_11_19/. <insert moan about administrivia>
  • Failure: not yet finished paper on PB in São Paulo, Brazil. I still need to code the data, etc

Non-academic

  • Still minutes secretary and web-weaver for 3 Edinburgh community councils
    • But I’ve worked out how to cut down on the hours while still doing what they want.
  • £eithChooses PB event: publishing, IT, web, admin…
  • Community Councils Together on Trams: minutes and asking important impertinent questions
  • Failure: I didn’t cease smoking. Instead Varenicline made me vomit.

Global Challenges Research Fund: sector meeting 29 October 2019 #GCRF

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) ‘is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries’. Its delivery partners include the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the SFC to produce a web-map of the GCRF projects it funds.

I was invited to present about the map at the SFC’s GCRF sector meeting at the sector meeting on 29 October.

Hence a major part of this post is to record what Isaid about the map. The other major part is slightly edited versions of my live-tweets from the meeting. The rest of the post is Bruce-thoughts tweeted at the time, in (round brackets), and Bruce-thoughts that occurred while writing this post, in [square brackets].

My work was very well received, so I am very happy to have boosted my reputation (and that of Edinburgh Napier University), with representatives of the other Scottish universities, and with a significant research-funder.

All photos and information reported below are © the presenters and their relevant colleagues. Click the images to see the full-size versions. Continue reading

What has Bruce been up to in the first half of 2019?

Napier

When What outcome and notes
December to early January marking Work-based learning mid-year reports Success: Marking was done, including handling students’ queries, and writing and delivering a presentation on how I will mark final reports.
January PB in Brazil: whether and how PB benefits the very poor in Sao Paulo work on a paper was stalled for ages. It took until late June to get a focus-group transcribed. Translation is to follow…
February to May running WriteNow! sessions on Wednesday afternoons
  • success! 95% of writing goals met; 23,720 words written (579 per session per attendee)
  • failure: I wasn’t paid for this. Even though the initiative was strongly appreciated by participants from other schools, the feedback on the funding bid was ‘schools should do this themselves.’
February onwards RIVAL: 4 networking events in 2019-2020 for Library and Information Scientists and practitioners See project website for details.
March onwards GCRF map/database The Scottish Funding Council wants a map of all of the GCRF projects it funds. Image of possible look-and-feel is here awaiting contract-signature
February, May Internal examiner for 3 BIT MSc students All three passed. (Credit belongs to the students and their supervisors!)
April-May Writing RFC funding applications
  • Information avoidance in diabetes (PI: Gemma)
  • LitRev paper with Leandro (PI: Colin)
  • examination of Todd’s data (PI: Laura – she wrote this bid)
May Marking Computing in Contemporary Society courseworks Work was done.
June Marking Work-based learning final reports work in progress

 

Elsewhere

January onwards minuting meetings between Community Councils Together on Trams and Edinburgh Council’s Trams Team better citizen-involvement?
September 2018 onwards  member of £eith Chooses steering group Success! See website. Survey on possible improvements due to close soon.
since time immemorial minutes and websites for three Edinburgh community councils: Leith CentralLeith Harbour & NewhavenNew Town & Broughton Success, I think: better recording and publicising of hyperlocal government activities
ongoing taking part in various democracy events, e.g. practical democracy project, Democracy Alive Some better understanding of what various bodies are doing to improve democracy. I’m not sure how effective they will be, or what my role should be.

Alicja Pawluczuk and John Morrison’s presentations at #digiimpact

I’m trying to work a bit less and play more, so today I was delighted to take a break from writing academic paper-writing to attend an event based on my colleagues’ (Alicja Pawluczuk and John Morrison) PhD research. This post is my tweets, hopefully in chronological order, with minimal editing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for all of the round-table discussion, but it would have been bad practice to tweet from that anyway.

John is ‪@digiethnography. My less relevant tweets are in block-quotes. Continue reading