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The People and Technology (PAT) research group is a collection of researchers interested in understanding, designing, and evaluating digital technologies through psychological and socio-scientific sensitivities. We contribute mainly to the disciplines of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Applied Psychology, and Computer-Supported Collaboration (CSCW and Social Computing).
The group is committed to experience-centred, participatory approaches to the design of digital technology, helping ensure that technological developments give people a chance for a richer life, include people who too often are excluded, and ensure everyone can express what matters to them.
PAT members have significant expertise in several areas:
Technology for health, wellbeing and social care
Ethics and responsibility in developing and deploying digital interactive tools and software systems
Misinformation, disinformation, deepfakes
Human cognition and the experience of digital tools and systems
Digital technologies for community engagement and grassroots practices
Games, play, serious games, and gamification
Computer-supported collaboration and work practices
The experience of participation and involvement of stakeholders in the co-design of technology
PAT members actively participate in international and national research initiatives, including Lero and ADVANCE CRT.
PAT faculty members are involved in teaching and supervising students, particularly as part of the BA in Psychology and Computing (in collaboration with the School of Computer Science & Information Technology) and of postgraduate research degrees.
Our project is interested in the experiences of women using online platforms as a means of extending care. While there are many opportunities to seek care through online platforms (i.e. social media, anonymous discussion forums), users are also vulnerable to bad actors, privacy concerns and unintended audiences when creating sensitive data online. This project aims to examine existing user experiences of enacting care online, and potential to embed care ethics and feminist approaches to the design of these online digital spaces, to create safer online sharing opportunities. Specifically, we are examining two distinct online contexts: Women disclosing pregnancy loss, and women engaging with health and fitness content. Each project will employ the following methods to examine this context: systematic literature review, online ethnography, participatory workshop and a citizen science appraisal.
Kellie Morrissey (University of Limerick, Ireland).
Doireann Peelo (University of Limerick, Ireland).
Lero, The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software
In recent years, there have been rapid developments in ‘deepfake’ software. Using AI, these programmes allow the creation of highly-realistic synthetic video and audio. While this has positive applications (e.g. allowing an individual to speak with their own voice if they have lost it through illness), there may also be extremely harmful effects on privacy (e.g., nonconsensual ‘designer porn’), democracy, and trust in institutions (via misinformation, and fake news). However, there is almost no research on the effects of deepfake materials. Thus, it is impossible to advise on how they can be responsibly created, shared, viewed and understood. Our project will be amongst the first to investigate the responsible use of deepfake technology – quantifying potential harms and developing strategies to limit negative impacts. The overall aim of the project is to assess the effects of deepfake software and develop guidelines for responsible use.
Mike Quayle (University of Limerick, Ireland).
Matthew Aylett (Cereproc Ltd).
Lero, The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software
Responsible Software Engineering
People live with Algorithms, AI, Big Data, Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing, and Decision-Support Systems. But we also live with news reports, direct experiences and concerns about scamming or phishing, about how our confidential/health records can be subject to cyber-attacks, and even about how our very on-line interactions may harm us (opening email attachments, neglecting a field in our on-line job application that automatically disqualifies us for the job). These sociotechnical systems play roles in how we live, search for information, organise, socialise, and work together. They have a strong presence in our lives, often without our knowledge, and they can impinge on how secure, trusting or comfortable we feel with the decisions we make and the (system-mediated) actions we take. This project focuses on Responsible Software Engineering, and the reflexive practices and values entailed in it, with a view to giving focussed attention to ‘representing and enriching lived experience, supported by software, and not bounded by it’. Civic education can play an important role in answering these questions and in preparing future citizens to continue to answer them. With these interests in mind, the RSE Project has been developed by Lero colleagues from a number of disciplinary backgrounds including: Software Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design, Applied Psychology, Sociotechnical Systems, Information Systems, and Public Engagement.
Jim Buckley (Lero, University of Limerick, Ireland).
Clare McInerney (Lero, University of Limerick, Ireland).
Lero, The Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software
Developing an Online Browser Game to Increase Critical Appraisal of Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracies are widespread on the internet and can be potentially harmful to internet users (e.g. they may be encouraged to ignore public health advice) or incite users to cause harm to others (e.g. Pizzagate, when a man armed with a rifle stormed a fast food restaurant believing it to be the site of child-trafficking ring). Past efforts to combat conspiracy beliefs have not been overly successful. Previous research has attempted to directly debunk conspiracies; however, this is an ineffective strategy and often results in a paradoxical strengthening of belief. Additionally, it is simply not viable for fact-checkers to provide a debunking for every conspiracy theory circulating in the world today. As an alternative, I propose that we should help individual internet users to develop critical thinking skills that will allow them to evaluate conspiracy theories more effectively and come to their own conclusions. This will support the development of a safer more trusted internet, as users will be equipped with the necessary skills to both resist and stop the spread of misinformation, improving the quality of internet discourse for all users. This project poses the question: Can a serious browser game be used as an effective means of encouraging critical evaluation of conspiracy theories?
Irish Research Council Enterprise Partnershop Scheme
Understanding Digitally-Mediated Hybrid Work Practices of IT Professionals (DigiHyPe)
This doctoral project jointly supervised by the School of Applied Psychology and the School of Computer Science & IT) examines the digitally-mediated experiences and practices of IT professionals tackling the “new normal” of hybrid work in IT organisations, particularly in relation to collaborative projects and teamwork. Collaboration and cooperation among colleagues are likely to emerge in novel ways, due to the novel configuration of knowledge and resources, mutual awareness, availability patterns, communication and coordination mechanisms, and of the digital tools being used for all of this. There is an urgent need to investigate “modern” remote working, characterized by large-scale, dynamic, and highly tailored configurations of how IT professionals collaborate. To that end, this project will identify new and emerging practices of collaborative digitally-mediated hybrid work in the high- tech/software sector, and their impact on both professionals and organisations. It will understand how digital tools and services are used as part of these practices to support collaboration, coordination and cooperation, and identify the requirements, opportunities, and challenges of future technologies that can improve support for collaborative hybrid work and the individuals and teams that perform it.
Klaas-Jan Stol (School of Computer Science & Information Technology, UCC)
Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research Training focused on Future Networks and the Internet of Things with applications in sustainable and independent living
User Centered Design For Improving Engagement With Online Clinical Trials Technology
Technology such as apps and wearables are often championed as a way to improve the patient experience in clinical trials. Such technologies present both opportunities and challenges to the clinical trial process and must be designed carefully to meet desired outcomes. An industry pain point we are looking to address is patient retention of enrolled patients in clinical trials. As patients’ technology expectancies evolve there is a need to better understand the complex interactions of successful patient retention strategies in clinical trials in order to provide an evidence base for contemporary technology design. My research intends to improve the process of designing tools to support the patient experience and for clinical trial technology. Specifically, we will look to improve patient engagement and retention and help the trial become more patient centric. The academic contribution lies in the creation of guidelines for designing technology regarding both: 1) User centred design methodologies for improved patient clinical trial technology, and 2) essential design features that those technologies should share.
Ciara Heavin (Cork University Business School, UCC)
Utilising psychobiological data to develop algorithms for use in personalised/preventative health care
This doctoral project is jointly supervised by the School of Applied Psychology and the Department of Computer Science at Munster Technological University and will develop and test a complex adaptive system that can package multiple streams of psychobiological data to develop algorithms for use in personalised health care. Wearable technologies can record human experience, including psychophysiological processes and behaviour. This data's potential is under-realised, in part as the complexity of the underlying data presents a challenge in enabling a holistic approach to be taken. A complex adaptive system would meet these needs, enabling automated processes and creating data repositories for predictive and explanatory human health modelling. There are relevant research integrity questions, burden, privacy, and clinical or research utility to be realised from artificial intelligence. The technical challenges associated with integrating data into a complex adaptive system for evaluating biopsychosocial processes represent a hurdle that prevents the maximal use of data collected via wearable technologies.
Grassroots Wavelengths is a EU H2020 ICT programme funded project that involves collaboration with academic, community and industry partners in Madeira, Edinburgh, Cork and the Black Sea region of Romania. The project involves pilot testing technology to support inexpensive, community owned and operated radio stations across Europe, in order to encourage citizen engagement, community deliberation, and the free flow of information within, into, and out of discrete geographic communities. Over three years, the project team will: 1) deploy and test a network of low- power community radio stations in Ireland, Portugal, and Romania; 2) work with community groups, journalists, and public good experts to develop a robust platform for expansion across Europe; 3) enhance use and accessibility of networked community radio through text-to-speech, community oriented programming applications, and other community-supported modes for contributing and managing content); and 4) work within the EU framework to establish a public support infrastructure for local ownership and revenue generation.
Prof. Chris Csíkszentmihály, Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute
An interconnected series of Irish Research Council funded PhD participative projects that used participatory action research, ethnography, and design-led enquiry with participants in a variety of dementia care community settings (e.g. home, residential care, community care) to understand together how design interventions can enrich community experience. These projects are ongoing and, to date, have resulted in a small number of technology prototypes that embody aspects of emergent understanding of care in these contexts, a better understanding of dialogical aspects of dementia care based in a growing appreciation of civic rights of people living with dementia, some progress on identifying approaches to engaging people living with dementia in these projects
Dr Kellie Morrissey, Open Lab, Newcastle University
Daniel Welsh, Open Lab, Newcastle University
eSUB is a project funded by the UCC Student Fees Forum, and carried out in collaboration with the Students Union, the School of Public Health, UCC and the Health Information Systems research centre, UCC. The project aims to design and develop an evidence-based harm reduction intervention for illicit drug use in student populations. This intervention will be a new digital tool with which universities can meaningfully engage with the increasing problem of illicit substance use, and thereby contribute to the wellbeing and health of students in a tangible, measurable, and effective way. By supporting discrete and flexible access to screening and advisory services, it overcomes core barriers to student engagement with health services. The project is ongoing, and is being developed in a user-centered manner, with It also provides a means through which hard-pressed university services can reach the broad student population using technology that is central to everyday student life.
This project examines how exposure to fabricated online news sources can distort memory, exploring who is most at risk and what steps online platforms can take to mitigate this risk for users. Recent studies have examined false memories for events such as Irish referendums on marriage equality and abortion and have involved collaborations with online news sources (TheJournal.ie). This project has received funding from the Royal Irish Academy and is conducted in collaboration with researchers in University College Dublin and University of California, Irvine.