Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Books - Christmas break reading

While travelling I came across two very different books. On one of the airports I came through I came across Superfreakonimics by Levitt and Dubner [1] I had also read their earlier book (Freakonomics) as well as The Undercover Economist from Tim Harford - so I got this one. It is funny to read and I enjoyed most of it. The Geo-Engineering statements in the book received quite some critism on the net. So don't by it for its discussion on climate ;-). Reading the books it seems one gets a good explanation of certain things in the world (and economics) - not sure if this is really true, but it is great fun to read nevertheless. I particular like the argument why emancipation leads to a lower quality of teaching in schools :-)

A very different book (also with regard to the price; its more on a library budget than a casual airport buy), but not less interesting, is "Awareness systems" by Panos Markopolous, Boris de Royter and Wendy Mackay [2]. So far I have had only a quick look at the book but this could be the basis for a seminar in a term to come.

[1] Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner. Superfreakonomics. 2009. ISBN 978-0-7139-9991-4

[2] Markopoulos, Panos; De Ruyter, Boris; Mackay, Wendy (Eds.). Awareness Systems. Advances in Theory, Methodology and Design. 2009, ISBN: 978-1-84882-476-8

PS: I came across another book that takes an extreme - but still to some extent interesting - perspective on the German society. The book is called "Die verblödete Republik" (the republic that went gaga). In some parts I was reminded of the movie "wag the dog" - but the book is much more serious about it - providing a lot of references...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

TPC meetings in Atlanta, Palo Alto and Boston

December was filled with travel - twice to the US and several trips in Europe - and for the first time in two years I did not really get around to write my blog...

I am still wondering what technology we require that could make physical meetings less important. Video conference is getting better and I use it a lot - but it still does not facilitate a discussion between 30 or more people well. Besides the work that is in reviewing I really emjoy that part of my job - I find it really exciting to see so much (somehow) novel work in a very short time.

Academics often complain about a lot of travel - but sometimes we need a reality check. Walking around Atlanta airport and seeing the large number of soldiers I felt that I should not complain about my travels… At the same time I asked myself what we will have first: "remote only" wars or "remote only" critical business meeting.

In the first two weeks of December I had the privilege to be the CHI, Pervasive and PerCom program committee meeting. Having seen more than 100 papers being discussed made the effort in reviewing worthwhile. The overview of the field one gets is amazing. And with the insight view I am looking forward to three very interesting conference programs to come in 2010. By the way Geraldine Fitzpatrick (this years paper co-chair at CHI) has move to the Vienna University of Technology.

Besides the PC meetings there was some time to visit labs. In Palo Alto at Nokia Research we were shown a communication appliance that is designed to facilitate remote interaction and communication around a book. Looks interesting and they promised there will be a paper about this soon.

In Boston I went to the new MediaLab building (and met Leah Buechley and Joe Paradiso) - really exciting - research between boxes. Seeing some a Leah's work motivated again to look more into wearables. If you are curious too, have a look at Lilypad Arduino [1] and at the 2008 CHI paper [2].

[1] Buechley, L. Lilypad Arduino | build something.

[2] Buechley, L., Eisenberg, M., Catchen, J., and Crockett, A. The Lilypad Arduino: using computational textiles to investigate engagement, aesthetics, and diversity in computer science education. In CHI '08: Proceedings of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (New York, NY, USA, 2008), ACM, pp. 423-432.