8.15.04 Words, words, coffee, words...

I haven't written a formal paper in over 2 years, and never one like this. But that's all that HCI grad students seem to do around here since much of what they do is theory. Writing this kind of paper is really hard.

Final DMP Report

8.2.04 Paper Brainstorm

So I've got a huge stack of books and papers on geovisualization and GIS, synchronous work environments, geography education, in addition to a large pile of ArcUser magazines to wade through. ArcUser is a magazine that's one big ad for ESRI's software, and in it they have a myriad of detailed applications of how their software has helped to make the GIS world go round. Very useful scenario examples though.

Also indulged myself with a few spatial cognition books from the psych section because it seems so relevant to computer-supported GIS. However, the spatial cognition-map bible that was recommended to me by Prof. Guoray Cai, "How Maps Work" by GeoVISTA's geocollaboration guru, Prof. Alan MacEachren, is out at the library, so I won't be able to get a copy in time to write this geocollaboration paper, but I've got plenty of papers Alan's written.

8.4.04 Model of a Scenario-based Paper

Mary Beth gave me a draft of a paper she's co-authoring on activity awareness, which she explains through a fire-fighting scenario. It's a still draft so I can't provide it here but here's a link to the general project: Activity Awareness.

When we discussed workflow systems last week, Mary Beth pointed out that activity awareness precludes the need for workflow structures, which many users find to be a straightjacket to creativity and in responding to the vicissitudes of reality in their work.

Obviously, Mary Beth isn't a firefighter, but the scenario is still a great story and really explains the importance of context cues, tacit knowledge, the importance of the dynamic activity in shaping what needs to be communicated and how inter-user control is at best an activity-based group task where multiple minds are thinking for each other.

But that's just my amateur understanding of it. To me, it's a lot like the concepts of anthropological ethnography mixed with HCI, although Mary Beth's background is psychology. HCI is such a diverse amalgam.

8.10.04 SIGGRAPH Day 4

Finally, some time to look at some of the art, animation and tools that all this technology and research produces. What's great about this conference is that it's also a showcase for cutting-edge computer graphics production as well as research.

The exhibit of student posters for the ACM research competition here is huge. It seems really hard to squeeze an entire research project into single poster, and I wished that the posters that really piqued my interest had had more detailed explanations and demos.

8.13.04 Back to PA, Wrapping Up

Lauren and I have decided to stay an extra week at Penn State. We had a hard time finding last-minute housing though, since the school's 40,000 students start trickling back in late August. One of Mary Beth and Jack's grad students, Gregorio, has offered us a place to stay and has been a great help. What's more, his Italian sensibility has instilled in us an awe of espresso stove-cooked in a Moka pot. The crema is thick and doppios are great for burning the midnight oil to finish our projects.

Mary Beth and Jack also invited us to a potluck at their house, so we made spring rolls (center photo).

Sadly though, most of the grad students are holed up in their bunkers furiously studying for their upcoming comprehensives. If one big 8 hour test and takehome can make the difference between continuing towards a doctorate or being kicked out with a masters then it must be pretty huge.

So it's been just us undergrads in the lab (far right photo, L to R: Lauren, Jayne, Mike). Jayne is a Penn Stater in Psychology researching game design who worked with Lauren early on in the summer, and Mike is a summer intern from the College of New Jersey working on porting parts of BRIDGE to mobile devices. (See Penn State Photos for larger images.)

8.5.04 Staying an extra week

This weekend Lauren and I will be at the SIGGRAPH conference which takes away from that critical last-few-weeks-of-the-internship time, so we have decided to stay an extra week in State College, PA, to try to beef up the projects we're working on.

Lauren is working on developing knowledge management tools for TeacherBridge, the details of which can be found at her DMP website. The log files are gargantuan, so it's fun to see her do a dance of joy when her scripts complete a massive parsing.

Mary Beth also introduced us to Prof. Magy Seif El-Nasr, who will also be at SIGGRAPH with her grad student Chinmay, presenting a poster on their Expressive Lighting Engine, so we can get tips from a SIGGRAPH regular. Magy's actually a super-popular professor everyone raves about because she does research into interactive narrative and immersive environment games like Warcraft.

8.20.04 Goodbye Penn State!

Back to the West coast for me. All in all, a terrific summer. Thanks DMP!

8.9.04 SIGGRAPH Days 2 and 3

The whole academic side of this conference is really inspiring, I'm being exposed to so many forefronts of computer science research. What's more is that this gathering gives me a feel for what a global community of computer scientists is about, and this is the first time I've ever felt this before. Just in the past 2 days, I've thought wow, I'd love to be doing what they're doing in 10 years, so many times.

Before I was only vaguely aware that research in augmented reality, info visualization and experimental interfaces probably existed somewhere, but now I know who the gurus are, what they're doing, their centers of research, and how the field is taking shape.

The Magic Book

Too many courses, too little time. The complete DVD they're making of the entire conference is enticing, but a couple hundred dollars for a DVD is a bit steep on a student budget.

More of my course notes:

Bio Interfaces notes
Color in Info Display notes
Augmented Reality Applications notes
Visualizing GeoSpatial Data notes

The last course is given by Prof. Alan MacEachren from Penn State's GeoVISTA Center, who is a leader in Geocollaboration, my summer research area, and will be really useful for my final project. He offered me his insight on a synchronous GIS question I had and mentioned a group from Japan here at the conference that are using Flash programming to create real-time multi-user interaction applications over the web (Bascule Inc.)

It's ironic to have come all the way to L.A. from central Pennsylvania to attend his course when their center is across the street from our lab.

8.8.04 SIGGRAPH Thunderdome

Walking towards the conference in step with computer graphics developers and researchers is pretty exciting. We got these mungo plastic bags filled with the conference fun pack: papers, art catalogue, giant detailed guide to everything that's going on including who's who, 3 DVD-roms of all their lecture notes, access cards to all the events... over 25,000 people will convene here and for professionals the conference can cost up to $1100 not including hotel prices in LA... this is like a 5-day computer graphics blowout - academic and professional.

Attended an all-day course on HCI with respect to multiple senses: 'Seeing, Hearing and Touching: Putting It All Together' taught by a group of HCI researchers from the University of British Columbia. Their stuff was so cool. Information Visualization is very exciting. Plus they had some neat examples of forays into aural, olfactory and haptic interfaces and applications of synaesthesia. Here are my rough notes of the lecture.

Also there where tons of cool exhibits on everything from Emerging Technologies to the latest available virtual reality rendering tools and electronic art. Check out my photo album from the conference.

8.7.04 State College ot Pittsburgh to Fort Worth to Long Beach to Little Tokyo, Downtown LA to SLEEP.

Traveling to the conference... Strange how more and more airports don't have free wireless. Would you pay $6 to be online for 10 minutes? Dallas souvenir shops are a hoot, we were enamoured with these intense magnets, but they were 10 clams each. Better to eat real clams and get a super dose of iron, words of female wisdom a la Lauren.