Example Research Themes

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in My Life in Data

In November 2013 the details of how a £350 million fund would be used to train over 3,500 PhD students in engineering and the physical sciences, was announced by UK Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts.

The Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) was awarded funds to train 80 students over five cohorts commencing in September 2014. The CDT remains in the Digital Economy theme with a focus on digital identity and personal data.

Horizon themes

Current research themes include:

2014:

  1. Community identities and place
  2. Digital identities for personalised media experiences
  3. Intelligent mobility
  4. Introducing a social perspective to future digital identity products
  5. The contextual footprint at work
  6. Augmenting fast-moving consumer goods in the home to support sustainable living and wellbeing
  7. The Internet of Things at home
  8. Personal data to encourage wellbeing
  9. Personal data and privacy in context
  10. Personal movement profiles for more sustainable buildings
  11. Adult social care and digital identity services

2015: 

  1. Using live brain data to create, affect and communicate in artistic and therapeutic ways
  2. Using personal data in TV content
  3. The effects of brain tumour treatment on digital identities and experiences
  4. A day in the life of your language
  5. Data, Psychology and Consumer Understanding
  6. Developing dynamic and inclusive ecosystems for the visually impaired community
  7. Surveying Personal Data
  8. Digital identity for travellers
  9. Datamining and visualisation for Big Data
  10. Intelligent Transportation Systems

2016: 

  1. Using personal data to configure navigation support for blind and partially sighted people
  2. Analytics for Enhanced Personal Medical Identities
  3. Artistic Explorations of Personal Data and Digital Identity
  4. User Privacy Choices
  5. Impact of new data and technology on human and system performance
  6. Map design for navigation applications in future highly automated vehicles
  7. Smart Ticketing
  8. People-centric smart cities
  9. Optimization of interventions of social-technical systems
  10. Reflections on Personality and Identity through Analysis of Facial Expression Dynamics
  11. Interventions to rediscover the digital 

2017:

  1. User-centred design of interactive personalised prosthetics
  2. Visual Interface Design for Feedback of Everyday Data
  3. Enabling environmental citizenship
  4. Asthma and the Digital Ecosystem
  5. Healthy conversations with agents
  6. Embedding digital interventions into everyday life
  7. Intelligent Mobility
  8. Digital Identity and Interactive Musical Performance
  9. Future Experience Technologies (FXT)
  10. Fitbit for the Brain
  11. theme tbc

2014 Cohort

The 2014 cohort are working closely with external partners over the 4 years of their PhD on the following research themes:

1. Community identities and place. 

How can community digital identities centred around particular places be expressed and how do they relate to personal identities? How can the digital representation of place support this? How can knowledge of place and community be used to collect enriched descriptions of place whilst protecting the identity and personal data of the individual contributor?  How much personal data can be constructed/inferred about an individual or community using geographic information?

Industry Partner: Ordnance Survey
Student: Iona Fitzpatrick
Back to list

2. Digital identities for personalised media experiences 

This project will explore how relationships traditionally built on trust can be maintained as cultural venues increasingly use data to deepen their understanding of customer activity and preferences and to tailor communications and programming. Are there opportunities for the data collected on an individual’s interactions to be shared transparently to enrich that customer’s experience and levels of engagement and in turn increase the sustainability of the venue?  For example, how might cinemas enable filmgoers to discover and express their digital identities by curating personal film histories, to explore collective film histories or to develop a narrative on memories of previous interactions with the building and its cultural and commercial offer?

Industry Partners: Broadway Media Centre, Digital Catapult
Student: Tatiana Styliari
Back to list

3. Intelligent mobility

This project will explore how our personal data and digital identities might enhance future end-to-end journey experiences across a lifetime of travel. How can they deliver personalised travel experiences that join-up across multiple services and contexts? What are appropriate ways of sharing our data with these services and/or others to achieve wider benefits for all concerned? This project will have the ultimate aim of improving traveller experience, providing personalised information and considering the concept of end to end mobility as a service. There are a number of different perspectives that may be taken in addressing this challenge, including computer science (information architectures and interoperability), user needs (trust in systems and understanding of data use), industry goals (encouraging and supporting data sharing amongst industry stakeholders and enabling entrepreneurship) and policy (taking a systems approach to transport system financial and regulatory frameworks).

Industry Partners: Transport Systems Catapult
Student: Gregor Engelmann
Back to list

4. Introducing a social perspective to future digital identity products

The theme focuses on understanding of the social aspects of Digital Identity with a view to informing future Digital Identity products. Today’s digital identity products focus on a relatively narrow range of applications, mostly around personal finances and credit histories. However, future products may have a far wider scope and draw on a far more diverse set of personal data. This theme will explore the social aspects of digital identity and especially how our personal digital identities are reflected in and shaped by social media, with a view to informing the development of future digital identity products but also the social, policy and regulatory frameworks within which they should operate.

Industry Partner: Experian
Student: Sam Doehren
Back to list

5. The contextual footprint at work

Whilst we work we produce and use data. These data might be about how we perform a task, which systems we use, who we communicate with, or might even reflect how we feel or cope. One context in which the extent to which we understand worker performance is both potentially valuable (in its potential to inform changes to workplace design or tasks) but also challenging (through questions around privacy, ethics and data management) is in a hospital. In hospitals, many different workers interact with each other, technologies, patients, relatives and carers. Technologies give us the potential to track people’s movements, record their physiological responses and log their interactions. If we start to use these technologies in a context such as a hospital, research is needed in how to technically achieve such data collection and storage and ethically and responsibly implement such tools. This project could be explored using a range of different disciplinary perspectives, from computer science or geospatial science to human factors, psychology or sociology. The project will be supported by Nottingham University Hospitals, including senior clinicians (Dr. Dominick Shaw) and data management specialists.

Partner: Nottingham University Hospitals Trust
Academic liaison: Sarah Sharples (institutional pathway)
Student: Kate Arnold
Back to list

6. Augmenting fast-moving consumer goods in the home to support sustainable living and wellbeing

From washing machines to toothbrushes, smart appliances that contain embedded sensor and display technologies are able to provide feedback about their usage so as to promote more sustainable use or personal wellbeing. Emerging Internet of Things technologies may see this capability extend to the many fast-moving consumer goods that pass through our homes and that we use with such appliances, from washing powders to toothpaste. How can we design these to sense usage and provide appropriate feedback at key touch-points during the user-experience? What novel datasets will they produce, how might we usefully interpret these, and how can they be managed in an acceptable way in a complex social environment of the home?

Industry Partner: Unilever
Student: Obrien Sim
Back to list

7. The Internet of Things at home

From washing machines to toothbrushes, smart appliances that contain embedded sensor and display technologies are already able to provide feedback about their usage so as to promote more sustainable use or personal wellbeing. Emerging Internet of Things technologies may see this capability extend to the many fast-moving consumer goods – the stuff that we out in these appliances – that pass through our homes from washing powders to toothpaste. How can we design these to sense usage and provide appropriate feedback at key touch-points during the user-experience? What novel datasets will they produce, how might we usefully interpret these, and how can they be managed in an acceptable way in a complex social environment of the home?

Industry Partner: Unilever
Student: Yitong Huang
Back to list

8. Using Personal Data to Encourage Wellbeing.

The design of radical new online health services, from deeply personalised health journeys on the one hand, to being able to combine data from many individuals to build a picture of health issues across communities and populations on the other. At the same time, it raises important issues of trust and transparency that must also be addressed if this potential is to be realized. The use of personal data to encourage wellbeing, creating digital identities that define the interface between individuals and health services, and exploring the opportunities and challenges of individuals donating their personal data to support wider medical research.

Partner: Nottingham University Hospitals Trust
Student: Pepita Stringer
Back to list

9. Personal data and privacy in context

The question of who has rights to our personal data lies at the core of how we will maintain and use our digital identities in all walks of life. It is also a question that is exercising policy makers, lawmakers, regulators and increasingly the wider public through media coverage and debate. This PhD will explore the question of people’s ownership of and rights to their personal data across varied contexts – for example from healthcare to transportation – through a series of case studies of our CDT projects, exploring people’s attitudes towards the use of their personal data as well as the wider regulatory framework within which it will be managed.

Partner: The Open Rights Group
Academic Liaison: Steve Benford (Institutional Pathway)

Student: Matt Voigts
Back to list

10. Personal movement profiles for more sustainable buildings.

The emergence of indoor positioning systems opens up the possibility for creating personal movement profiles that captures how individuals make use of buildings. However, at the moment there is no single compelling solution to the indoor positioning problem.  This project will investigate novel approaches to indoor positioning combined with navigation between buildings using GNSS.  These systems, and personal movement profiles, could potentially be used to optimize and manage energy use at an aggregate or potentially even at an individual level. However, this will require that people are comfortable sharing their data and perceive clear benefits from doing so.

Industry Partner: The Satellite Applications Catapult
Student: Shadab Mashuk
Back to list

11. Adult social care represents an especially challenging domain for digital identity services

Clients are often vulnerable, may be digitally disenfranchised, and can lead complicated lives. They then find themselves negotiating a complex landscape of public and increasingly third-sector and private service providers in order to access social care. In partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council, the student will explore how we can understand the complex digital identities of those engaging with social care and how we might develop new digital identity services to support them in the future and help them manage sensitive personal data across different providers.

Partner: Nottinghamshire County Council
Student: Alex Young
Back to list

2015 Cohort

The 2015 cohort are working closely with external partners over the 4 years of their PhD on the following research themes:

1. Using live brain data to create, affect and communicate in artistic and therapeutic ways.

Commercially available EEG devices allow us to draw data that provide insights into inner selves, and allow for the development of implicit control methods. This project will take cues from neuroscience research, dream, memory and various measurable states of mind to inform artistic and therapeutic experiences. Through a series of publicly exhibited installations, interactive films and systems the project will create work that disrupt our understanding of consciousness lived experience. This research will investigate methods of improving communications between people and computers and people and people, to build a cinematic platform/ development kit that can be adopted by other filmmakers and to find new ways of alleviating anxiety and pain.

Partners: FACT, B3 Media
Student: Richard Ramchurn
Back to list

2. Using personal data in TV content.

The BBC wishes to explore the creation of new broadcast content and experiences in which people contribute their own personal data, for example data from wearable biosensors that might give individual or collective insights into sports, fitness, and wellbeing as part of a wide range of formats. The research would explore the potential of such data to create innovative broadcast content, how this delivers new insights and learning experiences to viewers, and how this personal data can be managed in a trusted way as part of a BBC digital identity.

Industry partner: the BBC
Student: Neelima Sailaja
Back to list

3. The effects of brain tumour treatment on digital identities and experiences.

Brain tumours are the leading cause of cancer deaths in children and adults under the age of 40. As with any cancer diagnosis, those affected by the disease are faced with a new reality that is dominated by decisions about treatment and dealing with the outcomes of those decisions. Online communities of patients and families can empower those affected by the disease by providing a platform for sharing experiences and giving and receiving advice. However, brain tumour treatment is likely to affect the very vehicle that people use to construct their identities online and interact with the relevant discourse communities: language. This project takes a longitudinal view of how patients construct online identities, and how these change over time as they undergo treatment for their brain tumours. It seeks to further our understanding of the interrelationship between language and identity in digital contexts in populations whose ability to express and perform that identity may be impaired.

Partner: The Brain Tumour Charity
Student: Wendy Olphert
Back to list

4. A day in the life of your language.

The way we communicate with others on a day to day basis is changing rapidly as a direct result of the increase in digital domains of discourse that now tend to be an integral part of our experience of language production and reception. We perform our individual and group identities largely through language, and the blurring of digital and physical communication has led to a host of challenges in how we navigate and negotiate those identities at any one time. For the language learner, this presents an additional challenge, as a large number of digital communication practices and discourse communities are inextricably linked to cultural patterns of expression. This PhD research project will explore the notion of identity in discourse throughout the course of a day of a language learner. Key areas for exploration will include how we may use technology to track the language perception and production of language learners throughout a day and across different types of context; how we may analyse the vocabulary requirements to express and understand nuanced speaker and audience identities; and how this may inform a more evidence-based and adaptive approach to language learning and teaching.

Partner: Cambridge University Press
Student: Andrew Moffat
Back to list

5. Data, Psychology and Consumer Understanding

Boots PLC has a long history of engaging with its customer to produce products and services that meet their needs via consumer analysis. However, there is still much scope for further development. This project will examine the interface between psychology, computer science and consumer analysis to generate better understandings of customers goals by combining analysis of their motivations as well as data streams. There are many factors that affect our everyday purchasing behaviours: our  motivations, our preferences and our values. Psychological theory suggests that people are, to a certain extent, stable in their decisions from one situation to another – we call these stable propensities `traits’.  For example, some might enjoy impulse buys, while others carefully planning is key. By researching these traits and how they are expressed, and then examining how they are reflected in data streams of consumer behaviour, it will possible to better explain why a customer buys what they buy and then better adapt existing products and services to their needs.

Partner: Boots PLC
Student: Rosa Lavelle-Hill.
Back to list

6. Developing dynamic and inclusive ecosystems for the visually impaired community. 

Research Themes – ‘Inclusive Ecosystems’ and ‘Segmentation and profiling work’. With an ageing population, increase in chronic disease and evidence of a rise in sight loss in babies and young children, there is a projected increase in the number of people in the UK with sight loss to 2.5mill by 2020 and nearly four million by 2050. Within the visually impaired (VI) and blind community there are additional challenges whereby the population has higher incidences of physical and cognitive disabilities and reduced mental health and wellbeing. Historically this community have sometimes been marginalised, however recent developments in digital and mobile technologies have provided products and services which are inclusive of their needs. This research will investigate the prospects for inclusive ecosystems in bringing the needs of the VI community into the mainstream and in the development of dynamic ecosystems to ensure inclusivity over time. The project will utilise data driven techniques to understand the opportunities associated with segmentation and user profiling and explore the use of explicit and implicit techniques to understand the needs and changing requirements of users at different scales; individuals, family units, small groups and the community as a whole. We envisage the project will include significant elicitation of user needs together with trialling of prototype systems.

Partner: Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
Student: Ziyad Yehia
Back to list

7. Surveying Personal Data

This theme will explore the value of mining personal data to inform mapping from local to national scale, answering questions such as: What can aggregations of personal data tell us about specific locations? What privacy and security issues should be considered when performing such aggregations? How can information architectures and visualisations be design to facilitate the mapping of dynamic and personal data sets?

Partner: Ordnance Survey
Student: Judit Varga
Back to list

8. Digital identity for travellers

Industry contact, Huw Gibson and Nick Wilson. Integrating data from different sources, including journey planners and transport operators, provides new opportunities to provide travellers with planning and real-time journey information when using public transport. There are, however, a number of technical, operational and ethical challenges associated with combining different data sets in a way that allows passengers to move with confidence around the country, trusting in the data with which they are presented, and understanding the extent to which they control how their data is used by others. The goal of the project, which will be particularly appropriate for a student with a human factors, psychology or interaction design background, is to understand the challenges associated with traveller identity curation for frequent and occasional travellers. The project has the potential to also consider issues associated with transport accessibility, and the applicability of these concepts to the international rail community. This project is co-sponsored by a consortium of rail-related organisations, including Rail Safety and Standards Board and Network Rail, and lead by ATOC (The Association of Train Operating Companies). ATOC was set up after privatisation in 1993 and brings together all train companies to preserve and enhance the benefits for passengers of Britain’s national rail network.

Industry Partner: RSSB/Network Rail/ATOC consortium
Academic Liaison: Sarah Sharples
Student: Shalaka Kurup
Back to list

9. Datamining and visualisation for Big Data

The world of Big data poses many new research challenges, in particular when looking for more personalised results. To address this, the long-term research vision is to create an integrated framework of problem understanding, modelling, analysis and visualisation techniques, based on an inter-disciplinary perspective of their closely-coupled nature. This will lead to breakthrough advances in addressing challenging real-world problems, such as in the medical domain. Key to this is working closely with the problem owner, providing user-centric data analysis and personalised (or stratified) results.

Partner: Shenzhen University
Student: Bo Wang
Back to list

10. Intelligent Transportation Systems

Information and communication technologies and advancing at a rapid rate at the moment. More and more information becomes available digitally every year, while the connectivity between transportation systems and data sources, especially from mobile devices is simultaneously increasing. These advances offer huge opportunities for improving transportation systems as well as for offering additional facilities to the users of those systems. Intelligent transportation systems seek to provide their users with more, useful information, in appropriate formats and representations to facilitate its use. For example, the ability of self-positioning in indoor environments has become increasingly important for various applications. Travelers can therefore make more informed decisions, for more efficient, coordinate and safer travel.

Partner: Shenzhen University
Student: Qing Li
Back to list

2016 Cohort

The 2016 cohort are working closely with external partners over the 4 years of their PhD on the following research themes:

1. Using personal data to configure navigation support for blind and partially sighted people.

Location-based services have great potential to support blind and partially sighted people. This research will investigate the potential blend of available location technologies on low-cost devices and will explore how the services might be enhanced by the capture and analysis of personal data to build a profile of an individual’s personal needs and history whilst maintaining security of the personal and location data.  Furthermore the project will investigate how the data might be appropriately shared with, and added to, by the various different environments that the user visits over time.

Partners: Satellite Applications Catapult, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
Student: Ahmed Al-Talabany
Back to list

2. Analytics for Enhanced Personal Medical Identities

Healthcare is awash with data of varying types, structure, quality and resolution of detail. At one extreme there is information from a patients DNA that is completely unique to them. The other extreme is where there are population based statistics that only have a loose association to the patient at best. The challenge for the medical professionals is how to apply the population statistics to the need of the individual patient. Conversely (and rather ironically) the challenge for the data analysts is to find groups of similar patients that display similar characteristics, behaviours or responses to treatment in order to produce population statistics. There are also increasing opportunities for integration of other key personal and population data, such as that available from social networking, personal app data, and similar, raising new possibilities of additional complex data to be processed, and associated complex questions around ownership, permissions and ethical uses of such data. This demonstrates a need for both analytical methods and medical decision supports systems to be capable of utilising data of different levels of detail within their respective processes. From an analytical perspective this could conceptually be the ability to include the population statistics in order to introduce the necessary contextual information within the analytics to inform the processes as to what is expected and/or what has been observed before. Are the patients within this study following what would be the predicted path based on the population statistics – is there a group that consistently opposes the population behaviour and what are the consequences. Therefore we are seeking someone to explore these challenges and to seek mechanisms that could unleash the potential within the datasets to improve the care given to patients.

Industry Partner: Nottingham University Hospitals Trust
Student: Fraz Chaudhry
Back to list

3. Artistic Explorations of Personal Data and Digital Identity

Personal data and digital identity provide artists with a rich palette for creating engaging and powerful interactive experiences. In turn, these experiences can provoke participants to reflect on the wider nature and uses of their personal data and to explore the boundaries their own digital identities.  Blast Theory are an award winning artists group who have been working at the forefront of digital performance for over fifteen years, during which they have collaborated extensively with Horizon researchers to produce a portfolio of unusual and provocative touring performances alongside a series of published academic studies and reflections that have drawn research agendas and design principles from these. Their latest work – Karen – is an exploration of personal profiling and digital identity. This PhD will work with Blast Theory to develop and study new artistic works, alongside the student’s own works, in order to answer questions such as: how can digital art engage with personal data and digital identity? How do artists treat the boundary between fiction and reality in such works? How do they manage to creative experiences that offer participants choice and yet also lead them along predefined narrative arcs? And what are the political and ethical dimensions of their work?

Industry Partner: Blast Theory
Student: Michelle Coleman
Back to list

4. User Privacy Choices

Users often seem to make privacy choices that are contrary to their best interests – whether through ignorance, indifference, habit, or combinations of factors. Work on similar decision cycles in areas such as diet, smoking, and exercise suggests that effective, sustainable behavioural change is best achieved by influencing the values users place on the associated outcomes. Some research has already been done on the malleability of users’ privacy choices (e.g. Adjerid, Acquisti & Loewenstein –  2014), but the practicalities of such an approach remain to be tested. This PhD will aim to examine models for user privacy decision cycles, and to consider whether different styles of intervention are most effective at different points in the cycle. The goal is to produce guidance for multiple stakeholders (users, service providers, application designers/developers, privacy advocates, etc.) to increase the chances of a virtuous cycle of privacy habit-forming, as opposed to the largely vicious cycle one can observe currently.

Industry Partner: The Internet Society
Student: Joseph Doherty-Bailey
Back to list

5. Impact of new data and technology on human and system performance

  • What is the relationship between new forms of data, and data handling (including automation and autonomous systems) on workload and vigilance,
  • How do we manage the transition to new technologies (including resistance to technology)?
  • How do skills degrade or change due to use of new technologies and data?
  • How can we use humans, data and technologies together to make systems more resilient?

Industry Partner: Rail Industry
Student: Abi Fowler
Back to list

6. Map design for navigation applications in future highly automated vehicles

Highly automated vehicles are being developed in which the “driver” will not need to actively control the vehicle for the majority of time. In this level of automation there is no need for the driver to permanently monitor the system while it is active, but they may still be requested to resume manual control within a predefined time-frame. This fundamental shift in the role of a driver generates many interesting research topics, for instance concerning the management of transition periods/warnings, and how to provide shared situation awareness for vehicle/driver. In addition, there is considerable scope for novel design associated with non-automated driving functionality, given the freedom for radically different vehicle interiors and the potential for new tasks to be permissible in a vehicle. This PhD would aim to design and evaluate new forms of navigation user-interfaces for vehicles that exploit the opportunities afforded by automation. In particular, the work would use the University of Nottingham driving simulator to investigate novel HMIs, such as augmented reality head-up displays that provide map information in a manner that might enhance a user’s overall situation awareness but in a way that adapts to their level of engagement with the operation of the vehicle.

Industry Partner: Ordnance Survey
Student: Chloé Jackson
Back to list

7. Smart Ticketing

What is the business relationship that travellers and operators (and other 3rd parties) can expect in the future?  Explore the boundaries of certain business models and the expectations of traveller anonymity versus new revenue streams, such as targeted advertising.  How to engage the ‘last 10%’ of travellers who will resist the leap to smart tickets, so the machines can be retired as quickly as possible.  What new approaches to revenue protection will be required?  How far can dynamic pricing be used to better match demand with available capacity, without damaging the ‘journey transaction’ that customers expect.  Lots of business and economics possibilities here and not just rail – can be multi-modal too.

Industry Partner: Thales
Student: Christian Tamakloe
Back to list

8. People-centric smart cities

The smart cities narrative is dominated by accounts of large system deployments that are often centralised, monolithic, and techno-centric. What would be the implication of reframing the vision around a notion that people are the smartest part of a smart city?What sort of systems would emerge to support the individual experience of the city rather than the needs of a centralised administration?

Industry Partner: Open Data Institute
Student: Roza Vasileva
Back to list

9.Optimization of interventions of social-technical systems
Monitoring, Analysis and optimization of socio-technical systems to deliver coordinated intervention and support the engagements of individuals and services. Exploring the constraints and effects of governing policies and importance of ethical issues. How can digital technologies be used to optimise delivery logistics? Areas of impact could include delivery of aid to disaster zones such as refugee camps, first-response to everyday emergencies such as cardiac-arrest and optimization of the safest routes of travel for refugee journeys.

Industry Partner: Humanitarian Open Street Map Team
Student: Maddy Ellis
Back to list

10. Reflections on Personality and Identity through Analysis of Facial Expression Dynamics

Who am I? One’s identity is a puzzling thing, and is something that we only learn about slowly throughout our life. ‘Know thyself!’ is a  commandment common in many cultures. What exactly constitutes one’s identity is perhaps not entirely known, but we do know that part of it is one’s personality, and that personality, in turn, manifests itself in the dynamics of expressive behaviour. In this research theme, the goal is to make use of and extend the latest state of the art in facial expression analysis. The state of the art to adopt is Deep Learning, as well as existing knowledge about what works for expression analysis (e.g. adoption of feature dynamics as well as modelling dynamics in machine learning hypothesis, fusing geometry and appearance, etc.). Where significant extensions need to be made are for example the challenge of how to economically create systems that can do explicit prediction of expression dynamics in terms of its constituent temporal phases – something that is known to be hard due to the excessive costs of annotating these concepts. Cooperative and active learning may well offer solutions in this area. Similarly, solutions need to be found to personalise analysis systems. But perhaps the biggest open questions that need to be addressed in this work is how to utilise the machine analysis into a usable self-reflection tool – a mirror of one’s identity.

Industry Partner: Shenzhen University
Student: Siyang Song
Back to list

11.Interventions to rediscover the digital 

While the argument of “if you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide” is used as a crutch to counter-argue privacy advocates, there remains millions of digital inhabitants unconscious of the fundamental (and invisible) processes that affords disembodied and distributed information communications.
While advertisements are an annoyance to users, there hides a digital economy collecting, processing and selling user data that individuals might not be aware is being shared. For someone living with a complex chronic health condition, whereby they might rely on medical innovations for the rest of their lives, their data exhaust (and so their data profile) may become extremely valuable to pharmaceutical companies and health insurance agencies. Facebook ‘likes’ and Google searches, both that may feel ‘private’ to a user from the comfort of their homes, may suddenly be significant contributors of information for these third party stakeholders. Ubiquitous technologies are enabling digital intimacy, where the human and the digital are co-dependent and blending into one greater ecosystem. This complex relationship with the digital makes it difficult to separate our understanding of the user from the human: one example being the detachment of what feels private, as an individual interacting with a technology, and what is private, as considered by the digital economy.
This PhD will explore using non-linear and embodied interventions to safely move individuals from a position of misperceived privacy to a position of agency, where they can better negotiate the digital to suit their needs. This theme will deliver new insights into how individuals navigate through different learning pathways to understand the impacts of their digital footprints in the short and medium term. It will also explore how individuals can better negotiate their digital identity through meaningful behavioural change.

Industry Partner: Newcastle University Digital Civics CDT
Student: Kate Green
Back to list

2017 Cohort

1.User-centred design of interactive personalised prosthetics

The emergence of additive manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing raises    the possibility of producing personalized wearable limbs that are tailored to fit the     bodies of individuals. In parallel, the spread of lightweight cameras and computer     vision techniques together with other ubiquitous sensors and ever-smaller wifi-     enabled computing platforms suggest that future prosthetics could behave more smartly, for example adapting their gripping mechanisms to specific objects that they can see. This PhD will adopt a user-centred approach to the design of future prosthetics, seeking to understand how users actually engage with the everyday world, especially the many everyday challenges that they must overcome, and    then reflecting these in the design of new prosthetics that combine additive manufacturing, computer vision and possibly other technologies.

External Partner: Additive Manufacturing CDT

Student: Feng Zhou

Back to list

2.Visual Interface Design for Feedback of Everyday Data

The project aims to explore the use of computational methods for personal data visualization.  Unilever is a producer of fast-moving consumer goods.  As digital sensing becomes increasingly commonplace in consumer products, for example with wearable devices and smart appliances, being able to show the user the data that relates to their own everyday activities with products offers interesting research challenges.  Developing effective visualisation methods for this class of data including structuring the interaction with the user is a highly relevant scientific requirement when linked to digital sensing opportunities.  The work relates to two Research Areas: (i) Human-Computer Interaction, in the development of novel data interfaces, and for personal data domains, the consideration of social, ethical and human aspects. (ii) Graphics and Visualisation, for visualisation of information and manipulation of visual content.

External Partner: Unilever

Student: Gustavo Berumen

Back to list

3.Enabling environmental citizenship

Environmental monitoring by public agencies faces significant challenges: reduced public funding; increasing maintenance costs, and inherently low spatial and temporal resolution. These reduce our capacity to tackle complex problems like urban air quality, flood risk and pollution. At the same time, falling consumer technology costs (smartphones, Raspberry Pi, low cost sensors) are increasing       the number of people with technology that can capture and report useful    measurements dramatically. Coupling citizens’ measurements with traditional monitoring systems could significantly extend our environmental monitoring capacity without increasing costs. It has the bonus of engaging citizens in        monitoring and raising awareness of the environmental problems facing society.   Thus, citizen science projects are starting to generate large datasets to complement public data, calibrate models and enhance decision making. But technological and sociological questions must be answered if these volunteered data are to be calibrated and validated to standards applied to traditional data   sources. What motivates participants? Which population groups participate and why? Does this influence data quality? You will work with researchers trying to answer these questions and develop the use of citizen data in monitoring flooding, pollution and other environmental applications. See, for example,     http://www.orchid.ac.uk/ and https://cobwebproject.eu/about.

External Partner: British Geological Survey

Student: Clifford Richardson

Back to list

4.  Asthma and the Digital Ecosystem

Asthma inhalers and treatment devices are increasingly incorporating the capability to ‘track’ the way they are used as part of our ‘digital ecosystem’. This tracking can include information about the number, size and frequency of doses per day, as well as data associated with the individual using the device, such as their location, health state or environmental conditions (e.g. air quality). The potential of this data for clinicians, clinical researchers and developers, patients and their families is large, but the management and use of this data presents ethical and data analytical challenges. This PhD could explore questions such as ‘how should data be presented to encourage patients adhere to treatment regimes?, ‘how can clinicians responsibly gain value from multiple data sets containing personal patient data?’ or ‘how can clinical development use inhaler use data to inform the development of future treatments and delivery devices?’. This project will build on previous work conducted in partnership with colleagues at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, and work in partnership with Glaxo Smith Kline

External Partner: Glaxo Smith Kline

Student: Vanja Ljevar

Back to list

5.Healthy conversations with agents

This PhD will explore the challenges and opportunities of employing conversational agents to deliver mental healthcare. The combination of behaviour analysis (computer vision/speech recognition), dialogue management, and behaviour generation (speech generation and interactive graphics) – underpinned by personal data – enables conversational agents. Such interfaces could try to engage users in natural conversations, which could be used to monitor one’s mental health or to deliver simple computer-based treatments. These conversational agents may range from text-chat bots, to speech interfaces and even fully-fledged humanoid-like avatars. One aspect that should be studied is to what extend the brain reacts in a similar way when conversing with a virtual agent compared to a real person. To do that, you will have the ability to run an fMRI brain scanning study in collaboration with our BRC partners.

External Partner: The Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre

Student: Keerthy Kusumam

Back to list

6. Embedding digital interventions into everyday life

Most mental health problems persist over long periods of time, so any self-help tools should also be used regularly and for a long time. This PhD will explore the challenges and opportunities of using ubiquitous technologies to more richly interleave mental health interventions with the patterns of daily life to naturally achieve this. The spread of first mobile and now ubiquitous computing as well as the Internet of Things into daily life is drastically reshaping when and where we encounter digital technologies. This might have profound consequences for how we deliver mental healthcare interventions, for example in which digital technologies engage us frequently, regularly and at opportune moments. Cues to determine when and how interactions with a person should occur could be learned from personal data, and incremental learning could be used to adapt to each user over time.

External Partner: The Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre

Student: Marie Dilworth

Back to list

7. Intelligent Mobility

Individuals travel in different ways and at different times throughout their lives, and increasingly data about these travel patterns are captured through use of personal devices and interaction with online travel systems. This data has a number of possible types of value, from telling personal stories about travel experiences, to delivering discounted travel for frequent journeys. This project will run in collaboration with the Ordnance Survey to explore how personal histories and patterns of travel can be used to inform ‘intelligent mobility’ – the more efficient movement of people and goods in space and time. The project could take a number of different approaches, from building applications to exploring user models of their own mobility patterns, and would be expected to link geographical data sets (in collaboration with Ordnance Survey collaborators) and personal data (through Horizon supervisors).

External Partner: Ordnance Survey

Student: Dominic Reedman-Flint

Back to list

8. Digital Identity and Interactive Musical Performance

This PhD will explore creative relationships between digital identity, personal data and music. How might, for example, the combination of digital music technologies and personal data enable new approaches to musical composition and performance? And how might these respond to or express musicians’ digital identities? The research will follow a practice-led approach, developing new music technologies, working with musicians to compose and perform new works, and studying this to establish wider principles. It will suit candidates with a background in digital music technologies and live performance. This PhD will be associated with the FAST project, a major UK research initiative to establish the next generation of interactive music technologies: http://www.semanticaudio.ac.uk/

External Partner from FAST project

Student: Laurence Cliffe

Back to list

9.Future Experience Technologies (FXT)

The theme concerns the relationship of a broadcaster with its audiences and how and why changing technologies and capabilities will enrich or distort this relationship.

External Partner: BBC

Student: Joe Strickland

Back to list

10.Exploring personal contributions to the National Videogame Arcade

The National Videogame Arcade is a major collection and museum of video games, based in Nottingham. The nature of video games is that many visitors to the museum may also be able to contribute to its collection, for example memories, software and perhaps even hardware. This PhD will explore how gamers can become involved in contributing to the museum’s collection and how their personal data and recollections can be used to enable deep personal interpretation as part of new kinds of social visiting experience. The PhD will suit an “in the wild” approach in which digital technologies are developed, deployed in the museum and studied in order to explore underlying research challenges.

External Partner: National Videogame Arcade

Student: Alexa Spors

Back to list

11.Fitbit for the Brain

We are only a step away from being able to track data about our daily mental activity in the same way that we track physical activity. We do not know what it means to look at our mental lives in data – what goals do we set? what, in our day, creates high and low mental workload? and what do we learn about ourselves by reflecting on that data. This project will investigate the design of a Fitbit for the Brain, working with fNIRS as a formal measure, and investigating solutions with more commercially adoptable technology.

External Partner: Brain+

Student: Serena Midha

Back to list

12. theme tbc

External Partner: Digital Catapult

Student: Symeon Dionysis

Back to list