Visiting Open Lab in Newcastle

By Franziska Tachtler
Monday, 9th July 2018
Filed under: ESRBlog

In June I visited Open Lab in Newcastle and presented my TEAM project to the research group. Open Lab is a cross-disciplinary research group in interaction design and ubiquitous computing. I met Janis Meissner and Reem Talhouk at prior conferences. As my research fits well with some of their projects, they suggested to visit them in Newcastle.

(Links highlighted in bold)

Picture: Newcastle

The evening before my lab visit, Janis Meissner from Open Lab showed me around Newcastle and we had dinner together. We took the chance to chat about her research. Janis is in her second year of her PhD. Her research focuses on the Maker Movement and how Making can become more inclusive and accessible. The Maker Movement describes the increasing number of people creating their technology with the help of 3D printers and mini-computers.

University of Newcastle
Picture: Newcastle University

The next day Reem Talhouk and Janis Meissner welcomed me and showed me Open Lab. The most prominent object in Open Lab is the corner by is a group of researchers who wants to increase awareness of feminist issues in HCI.

Fempower techMy first meeting at Open Lab was with Dan Jackson. Dan showed me the different sensors and systems he developed for varying research projects, for instance in the area of stroke detection, weight-loss, and counselling. He was involved in a lot of projects and we could not stop talking, but then it was time for my lab talk.

At my lab talk I presented the findings from my field study which focused on current support structures for unaccompanied migrant youth. The presentation went very well. Through the discussion with the Open Lab researchers, I gained a new perspective on my current concepts and how I could proceed with my studies.

Picture: corner

After lunch, my marathon of meetings started. Kellie Morrissey who has a background in psychology and computer science conducts and supervises very interesting projects in the area of elderly care, women’s health and communities. As we started to talk about my former projects, we ended up talking about my Master thesis project on fostering social interactions between elderly people receiving social care at home. One of the concepts I developed for my Master thesis was a so called PeerRadio programme for home care receivers from the same neighbourhood. The idea was the radio programme is partly produced by the elderly people. One of Kellie’s Master students, Arlind Reuter, currently collaborates with Elders Council of Newcastle who offers a radio programme. Thus, I was happy to answer Arlind’s question about my Master project.

Then Kyle Montague took time to meet me. He supervises several research projects in the area of healthcare technologies. He shared his gained insights from recent projects focusing on parental therapy and peers support. These insights are very useful for my studies. I might be even able to use some of their developed tools as everything Open Lab researchers develop is open access.

Reem Tahlouk, who conducts great research in the area of HCI and refugees, showed me her research on community resilience and gave me helpful suggestion for my research studies. We discussed overlaps of our research topics. One very important topic of our converCo-design booklet by Syrian refugee communitysation was the emotional well-being of researchers working in this field. The stories and situations by refugees can be very overwhelming. Reem and other researchers in the area of HCI and refugees describe this challenge in their recent article HCI and Refugees: Experiences and Reflections.

Picture:   Co-designed booklet by women of a Syrian refugee community living in the Bekaa region of Lebanon and Reem Tahlouk.

Last but not least, Sarah Armouch explained to me how her experiences and research studies relate to my research projects. She is also a PhD student and worked as a volunteer in the Lebanese Red Cross youth department. Sarah has a lot of experience in working with vulnerable and underprivileged youth.   

All these meetings and chats gave me food for thoughts and I am very grateful that Open Lab researchers welcomed me and took time to meet me. In the evening, I rounded off my lab visit by having dinner with a group of Open Lab researchers. The next day Janis was so kind and took me Tynemouth and St. Mary's Lighthouse. Walking along the coast was pure recovery.

TynemouthPicture: Tynemouth

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