Author: Alan Blackwell
I only have one big research question, but I attack it from a lot of different angles. The question is representation. How do people make, see and use things that carry meaning? The angles from which I attack my question include various ways in which representations are applied (including design processes, interacting with technology, computer programming, visualisation), various methods by which I collect research data (including controlled experiments, prototype construction, ethnographic observation), and the theoretical perspectives of various academic disciplines (including computer science, cognitive psychology, engineering, architecture, music, anthropology).
If you are based in Cambridge, you may like to attend the following talks on human-computer interaction.
This page lists a few large research themes and major projects illustrating them. Smaller projects, including contributions to research communities and research-related teaching, are described on my publications page, and other activities page.
Crucible is the Cambridge network for research in interdisciplinary design, which I founded with David Good. The network encompasses very many projects, funding sources and collaborators. Crucible projects include practical design work (as commercial consultants or in academic contexts) that draws on multiple disciplinary perspectives. We also carry out a significant amount of design research - investigating the processes of design work, developing facilitation processes for design activity, informing public policy related to the design of public value from academic research, and creating new and experimental software tools for designers to use. Many of these projects draw on my core expertise in visual representation.
Software and Creativity
Many contemporary arts practitioners develop software, incorporate it into their work, or use software tools to extend their professional practice. This research theme involves collaboration with a wide range of artists, including many with international profiles, exploring the ways in which they use representations. We have created a wide range of new software tools and programming languages for composers, performers, choreographers, sculptors and others. Many of these projects are linked via the Crucible page.
Social Media and Activism
Internet technology research is crucially dependent on understanding the social dynamics of the ways in which it is used, and collaboration with social scientists is essential to provide intellectual rigor and new insights. These projects have investigated the design and deployment of new social media, both in the world at large (various professional and political contexts), and within the University itself. In all cases, the representation of social relations around and within technical systems has been critical to understanding and the development of new understanding among all stakeholders. Many of these projects are linked via the Crucible page.
Energy Monitoring and Usage
Electricity is invisible, so our awareness of environmental impacts arising from energy use is solely dependent on the quality of the visual representations provided of energy use. Ever since contributing to the design of the first generation of semi-smart domestic gas meters in 1991, I have taken an interest in the user interface of home energy controls and monitoring. Several of our projects are concerned with helping people understand and control the patterns of energy usage in their homes. Many of these projects are linked via the Crucible page.
PhD Students' Research
- Michal Kosinski - psychological instruments for the assessment of business value in social networking technologies.
- Mo Syed - design techniques for incorporating social factors in technology development.
- Luke Church - social, cognitive, philosophical, artistic and technical perspectives on the manipulation of information.
- Chris Nash - Supporting Virtuosity and Flow in Computer Music.
- Cecily Morrison - Bodies-in-Space: investigating technology usage in co-present group interaction (thesis). Now a Research Associate in the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre.
- Lorisa Dubuc - Design research to assist conversation in dementia.
- Darren Edge - Tangible user interfaces for peripheral interaction (thesis). Now at Microsoft Research Asia, Beijing.
- Nick Collins - Autonomous Agents for Live Computer Music (co-supervised with Ian Cross) (thesis). Now a lecturer in Computer Music at the University of Sussex.
- Martyn Dade-Robertson - the application of architectural design principles to the design of software navigation (co-supervised with Francois Penz and Maureen Thomas). Now a lecturer in Architecture and Communication at Newcastle University
Older projects (some sites no longer maintained)
In Autohan we were trying to solve the basic problems of home control, where a multitude of devices must interact with each other and the residents in a sensible manner. One output was the tangible programming language "Media Cubes".
The EUSES Consortium is an NSF-funded collaboration with researchers at Oregon State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, Penn State University, and the University of Nebraska whose goal is to develop and investigate technologies for enabling End Users to Shape Effective Software.
EPSRC funded project, now complete, investigating notations, abstraction, representation and interaction in a metaphor-free theoretical framework.
Long-term dissemination and archival of material related to the Cognitive Dimensions of Notations usability framework, including publishing and professional education projects.
Collaboration with the Cavendish Laboratory Inference Group - Dasher is a data entry interface incorporating language modelling and driven by continuous two-dimensional gestures. More general implications are in how we can interact with adaptive "intelligent" interfaces.
European-funded research project, now complete (and various partners disappeared) designing tangible user interfaces that can be used in classrooms to access the web, control query engines, and stucture discussion.
Ko, Andrew J., Abraham, Robin, Beckwith, Laura, Blackwell, Alan, Burnett, Margaret M., Erwig, Martin, Scaffidi, Christopher, Lawrance, Joseph, Lieberman, Henry, Myers, Brad A., Rosson, Mary Beth, Rothermel, Gregg, Shaw, Mary, Wiedenbeck, Susan (2011): The State of the Art in End-User Software Engineering. In ACM Computing Surveys, 43 (3) pp. 1-44.
Blackwell, Alan, Rode, Jennifer Ann, Toye, Eleanor F. (2009): How do we Program the Home? Gender, Attention Investment, and the Psychology of Programmin. In International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 67 (4) pp. 324-41.
Toye, Eleanor F., Sharp, Richard, Madhavapeddy, Anil, Scott, David, Upton, Eben, Blackwell, Alan (2007): Interacting with mobile services: an evaluation of camera-phones and visual tags. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 11 (2) pp. 97-106. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00779-006-0064-9
Jones, Rachel, Milic-Frayling, Natasa, Rodden, Kerry, Blackwell, Alan (2007): Contextual Method for the Redesign of Existing Software Products. In International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 22 (1) pp. 81-101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327590ijhc2201-02_5
Blackwell, Alan (2006): Ten years of cognitive dimensions in visual languages and computing: Guest Editor's introd. In J. Vis. Lang. Comput., 17 (4) pp. 285-287. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvlc.2006.04.001
Rode, Jennifer A., Toye, Eleanor F., Blackwell, Alan (2004): The fuzzy felt ethnography-understanding the programming patterns of domestic appliances. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 8 (3) pp. 161-176. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00779-004-0272-0
Blackwell, Alan (2001): See What You Need: Helping End-users to Build Abstractions. In J. Vis. Lang. Comput., 12 (5) pp. 475-499.
Blackwell, Alan (2001): Pictorial Representation and Metaphor in Visual Language Design. In J. Vis. Lang. Comput., 12 (3) pp. 223-252.
Ward, David J., Blackwell, Alan, MacKay, David J. C. (2000): Dasher -- A Data Entry Interface Using Continuous Gestures and Language Models. In: Ackerman, Mark S., Edwards, Keith (eds.) Proceedings of the 13th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology November 06 - 08, 2000, San Diego, California, United States. pp. 129-137. http://acm.org/pubs/articles/proceedings/uist/354401/p129-ward/p129-ward.pdf
Whitley, K. N., Blackwell, Alan (1997): Visual Programming: The Outlook from Academia and Industry. In: Empirical Studies of Programmers - Seventh Workshop October 24-26, 1997, 1997, Alexandria, Virginia. pp. 180-208. http://www.acm.org/pubs/articles/proceedings/chi/266399/p180-whitley/p180-whitley.pdf
Petre, Marian, Blackwell, Alan (1997): A Glimpse of Expert Programmers' Mental Imagery. In: Empirical Studies of Programmers - Seventh Workshop October 24-26, 1997, 1997, Alexandria, Virginia. pp. 109-123. http://www.acm.org/pubs/articles/proceedings/chi/266399/p109-petre/p109-petre.pdf
Blackwell, Alan (2005): Cognitive Dimensions of Notations. In: VL-HCC 2005 - IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing 21-24 September, 2005, Dallas, TX, USA. pp. 3. http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/VLHCC.2005.26
Morrison, Cecily, Blackwell, Alan (2009): Observing End-User Customisation of Electronic Patient Records. In: Pipek, Volkmar, Rosson, Mary Beth, Ruyter, Boris E. R. de, Wulf, Volker (eds.) End-User Development - 2nd International Symposium - IS-EUD 2009 March 2-4, 2009, Siegen, Germany. pp. 275-284. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-00427-8_16
Commentary for End-User Development chapter of The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed..
Morrison, Cecily, Blackwell, Alan (2009): Hospital user research using new media arts. In: Proceedings of the HCI09 Conference on People and Computers XXIII , 2009, . pp. 345-353. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1671011.1671055
Blythe, Mark, McCarthy, John, Light, Ann, Bardzell, Shaowen, Wright, Peter, Bardzell, Jeffrey, Blackwell, Alan (2010): Critical dialogue: interaction, experience and cultural theory. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2010 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2010, . pp. 4521-4524. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1753846.1754189
Blackwell, Alan (2014): Visual Representation. In: Zahirovic, Armin, Lowgren, Jonas, Carroll, John M., Hassenzahl, Marc, Erickson, Thomas, Blackwell, Alan, Overbeeke, Kees, Hummels, Caroline, Spence, Robert, Apperley, Mark, Holtzblatt, Karen, Beyer, Hugh R., Kjeldskov, Jesper, Burnett, Margaret M., Scaffidi, Christopher, Svanaes, Dag, Hook, Kristina, Sutcliffe, Alistair G., Schmidt, Albrecht, Cockton, Gilbert, Kaptelinin, Victor, Christensen, Clayton M., Hippel, Eric von, Tractinsky, Noam, Challis, Ben, Shusterman, Richard, Hudson, William, Mann, Steve, Whitworth, Brian, Ahmad, Adnan, de Souza, Clarisse Sieckenius, Fishwick, Paul A., Grudin, Jonathan, Poltrock, Steven, Gallagher, Shaun, Dix, Alan J., Nielsen, Lene, Randall, Dave, Rouncefield, Mark, Bowman, Doug A., Kock, Ned, Cairns, Paul, Few, Stephen, Dautenhahn, Kerstin, Paterno, Fabio, Cyr, Dianne, Mortier, Richard, Haddadi, Hamed, Henderson, Tristan, McAuley, Derek, Crowcroft, Jon, Crabtree, Andy, Stephanidis, Constantine, Giaccardi, Elisa, Stappers, Pieter, Blandford, Ann (eds). "The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed." The Interaction Design Foundation .
Blythe, Mark, Bardzell, Jeffrey, Bardzell, Shaowen, Blackwell, Alan (2008): Critical Issues in Interaction Design. In: Proceedings of the HCI08 Conference on People and Computers XXII , 2008, . pp. 183-184. http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=ConWebDoc.21491
Milic-Frayling, Natasa, Jones, Rachel, Rodden, Kerry, Smyth, Gavin, Blackwell, Alan, Sommerer, Ralph (2004): SmartBack: supporting users in back navigation. In: Proceedings of the 2004 International Conference on the World Wide Web , 2004, . pp. 63-71. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/988672.988682
Petre, Marian, Blackwell, Alan (2007): Children as Unwitting End-User Programmers. In: VL-HCC 2007 - IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing 23-27 September, 2007, Coeur dAlene, Idaho, USA. pp. 239-242. http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/VLHCC.2007.13
Blackwell, Alan, Burnett, Margaret M., Jones, Simon L. Peyton (2004): Champagne Prototyping: A Research Technique for Early Evaluation of Complex End-User Progr. In: VL-HCC 2004 - IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing 26-29 September, 2004, Rome, Italy. pp. 47-54. http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/VLHCC.2004.10
Blackwell, Alan, Hague, Rob (2001): AutoHAN: An Architecture for Programming the Home. In: HCC 2001 - IEEE CS International Symposium on Human-Centric Computing Languages and Environments September 5-7, 2001, Stresa, Italy. pp. 150-157. http://csdl.computer.org/comp/proceedings/hcc/2001/0474/00/04740150abs.htm
Edge, Darren, Blackwell, Alan (2009): Peripheral tangible interaction by analytic design. In: Villar, Nicolas, Izadi, Shahram, Fraser, Mike, Benford, Steve (eds.) TEI 2009 - Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction February 16-18, 2009, Cambridge, UK. pp. 69-76. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1517664.1517687
Beckwith, Laura, Kissinger, Cory, Burnett, Margaret M., Wiedenbeck, Susan, Lawrance, Joseph, Blackwell, Alan, Cook, Curtis (2006): Tinkering and gender in end-user programmers\' debugging. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2006 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2006, . pp. 231-240. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1124772.1124808
Rode, Jennifer Ann, Stringer, Mark, Toye, Eleanor F., Simpson, Amanda R., Blackwell, Alan (2003): Curriculum-focused design. In: Proceedings of ACM IDC03: Interaction Design and Children , 2003, . pp. 119-126. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/953536.953553
Stringer, Mark, Toye, Eleanor F., Rode, Jennifer Ann, Blackwell, Alan (2004): Teaching rhetorical skills with a tangible user interface. In: Proceedings of ACM IDC04: Interaction Design and Children , 2004, . pp. 11-18. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1017833.1017835
Rode, Jennifer Ann, Toye, Eleanor F., Blackwell, Alan (2005): The domestic economy: a broader unit of analysis for end user programming. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2005 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2005, . pp. 1757-1760. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1056808.1057015
Rodden, Kerry, Milic-Frayling, N., Sommerer, R., Blackwell, Alan (2003): Effective Web Searching on Mobile Devices. In: Proceedings of the HCI03 Conference on People and Computers XVII , 2003, . pp. 281-296.
Myers, Brad A., Burnett, Margaret M., Rosson, Mary Beth, Ko, Andrew J., Blackwell, Alan (2008): End user software engineering: chi\'2008 special interest group meeting. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2008 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems April 5-10, 2008, . pp. 2371-2374. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1358628.1358687
Morrison, Cecily, Blackwell, Alan (2008): Co-located group interaction design. In: Proceedings of ACM CHI 2008 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems April 5-10, 2008, . pp. 2587-2590. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1358628.1358718
Milic-Frayling, Natasa, Sommerer, Ralph, Rodden, Kerry, Blackwell, Alan (2004): SmartView and SearchMobil: Providing Overview and Detail in Handheld Browsing. In: Crestani, Fabio, Dunlop, Mark D., Mizzaro, Stefano (eds.) Mobile and Ubiquitous Information Access - Mobile HCI 2003 International Workshop September 8, 2004, Udine, Italy. pp. 158-171. http://link.springer.de/link/service/series/0558/bibs/2954/29540158.htm
Blackwell, Alan, Edge, Darren (2009): Articulating tangible interfaces. In: Villar, Nicolas, Izadi, Shahram, Fraser, Mike, Benford, Steve (eds.) TEI 2009 - Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction February 16-18, 2009, Cambridge, UK. pp. 113-118. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1517664.1517693
Edge, Darren, Blackwell, Alan (2009): Bimanual tangible interaction with mobile phones. In: Villar, Nicolas, Izadi, Shahram, Fraser, Mike, Benford, Steve (eds.) TEI 2009 - Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction February 16-18, 2009, Cambridge, UK. pp. 131-136. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1517664.1517697
Blackwell, Alan, Green, T. R. G. (1999): Does Metaphor Increase Visual Language Usability?. In: VL 1999 , 1999, . pp. 246-253. http://csdl.computer.org/comp/proceedings/vl/1999/0216/00/02160246abs.htm
Blackwell, Alan, Marriott, Kim, Shimojima, Atsushi (eds.) Diagrams 2004 - Diagrammatic Representation and Inference - Third International Conference March 22-24, 2004, Cambridge, UK.
Blackwell, Alan, Jansen, Anthony R., Marriott, Kim (2000): Restricted Focus Viewer: A Tool for Tracking Visual Attention. In: Anderson, Michael, Cheng, Peter C-H., Haarslev, Volker (eds.) Diagrams 2000 - Theory and Application of Diagrams - First International Conference September 1-3, 2000, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. pp. 162-177. http://link.springer.de/link/service/series/0558/bibs/1889/18890162.htm
Blackwell, Alan, Wallach, Hanna M. (2002): Diagrammatic Integration of Abstract Operations into Software Work Contexts. In: Hegarty, Mary, Meyer, Bernd, Narayanan, N. Hari (eds.) Diagrams 2002 - Diagrammatic Representation and Inference - Second International Conference April 18-20, 2002, Callaway Gardens, GA, USA. pp. 191-205. http://link.springer.de/link/service/series/0558/bibs/2317/23170191.htm
Crilly, Nathan, Clarkson, P. John, Blackwell, Alan (2006): Using Research Diagrams for Member Validation in Qualitative Research. In: Barker-Plummer, Dave, Cox, Richard, Swoboda, Nik (eds.) Diagrams 2006 - Diagrammatic Representation and Inference - 4th International Conference June 28-30, 2006, Stanford, CA, USA. pp. 258-262. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/11783183_34
Blackwell, Alan, Phaal, Robert, Eppler, Martin J., Crilly, Nathan (2008): Strategy Roadmaps: New Forms, New Practices. In: Stapleton, Gem, Howse, John, Lee, John (eds.) Diagrams 2008 - Diagrammatic Representation and Inference - 5th International Conference September 19-21, 2008, Herrsching, Germany. pp. 127-140. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-87730-1_14
Blackwell, Alan (2008): Cognitive Dimensions of Notations: Understanding the Ergonomics of Diagram Use. In: Stapleton, Gem, Howse, John, Lee, John (eds.) Diagrams 2008 - Diagrammatic Representation and Inference - 5th International Conference September 19-21, 2008, Herrsching, Germany. pp. 5-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-87730-1_4
Bresciani, Sabrina, Blackwell, Alan, Eppler, Martin J. (2008): A Collaborative Dimensions Framework: Understanding the Mediating Role of Conceptual Visua. In: HICSS 2008 - 41st Hawaii International International Conference on Systems Science 7-10 January, 2008, Waikoloa, Big Island, HI, USA. pp. 364. http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/HICSS.2008.7
Blackwell, Alan, Burnett, Margaret M. (2002): Applying Attention Investment to End-User Programming. In: HCC 2002 - IEEE CS International Symposium on Human-Centric Computing Languages and Environments 3-6 September, 2002, Arlington, VA, USA. pp. 28-30. http://csdl.computer.org/comp/proceedings/hcc/2002/1644/00/16440028abs.htm
Blackwell, Alan (2002): First Steps in Programming: A Rationale for Attention Investment Models. In: HCC 2002 - IEEE CS International Symposium on Human-Centric Computing Languages and Environments 3-6 September, 2002, Arlington, VA, USA. pp. 2-10. http://csdl.computer.org/comp/proceedings/hcc/2002/1644/00/16440002abs.htm
Commentary for Semiotics chapter of The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed..