Author Archives: Åsa Cajander

About Åsa Cajander

Researcher in the area of Human Computer Interaction with research interest in eHealth, User Centred Design and HCI Education.

Lecturing about Gender in IT at a PhD Summers School on Virtual Characters & Computer Game Technologies

I have been invited as a teacher to a summer school on Virtual Characters & Computer Game Technologies organised by Animatas.  Animatas is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project that aims to give researchers the necessary skills and international experience for a successful career. Animatas stands for Advancing intuitive human-machine interaction with human-like social capabilities for education in schools. The summer school is organised by my colleague at the department Ginevra Castillano. 

My topic for the summer school is on gender equality in academia and the work environment, and I will talk about my experiences as a woman in computing and also some things from carreers in technology from the NordWit Centre of Excellence.

You can read more about the summer school here:

http://www.animatas.eu/

 

 

New Project – Methods for a Better Digital Work Environment

Marta Larusdottir and Åsa Cajander received funding from AFA for a project called Software Development for a Better Work Environment (the STRIA project). The project will run from May 2019 to May 2022.

Here is a text presenting the project. The text is a translation from an AFA article found here: https://www.afaforsakring.se/forskning/forskarportratt/asa-cajander/

IT systems in health and medical care cause both physical and psychosocial work environment problems, but this is rarely considered when developing computer systems. Åsa Cajander, researcher at Uppsala University, will study the digital work environment in healthcare and administration and further develop three methods for system development.

– Earlier research on how to work in IT projects shows that one rarely or never thinks of work environment consequences, says Åsa Cajander, professor of human-computer interaction at Uppsala University.

– We will map the digital work environment in health care and in administrative work and look at how the latest technology affects the working environment. We plan to look more closely at automation and artificial intelligence.

Åsa Cajander worked as an IT consultant before she began researching digitization and work environment issues in 2002. She has, among other things, participated in a research project on digitization and health in the state and has an ongoing project on nurses’ digital work environment. Now she is going to investigate how to get the work environment perspective already in the development of computer systems.

– There are methods within system development that consider usability. The three methods that are most popular today are one that is based on personas, one that is called think aloud and a so-called heuristic evaluation, where one evaluates interfaces based on certain rules of thumb, says Åsa Cajander.

– We have chosen to try to further develop these three methods together with system developers in workshops and with the help of interviews. The idea is that we should include work environment issues in the toolbox used when working with IT development.

Examination of digital work environment in healthcare

The next step in the project is to investigate the digital work environment in health care and in administrative professions. Åsa Cajander and her colleagues will study how employees within both healthcare and administration work with IT systems and how it affects their work environment.

– We plan to study the digital work environment in Region Uppsala, both in healthcare and in other parts of their business. We also have contacts in Uppsala municipality and in Region Stockholm and hope to do the same there. We may supplement this with studies of the working environment within the administration at a university in Iceland and Uppsala, where one of my colleagues has contacts.

What do you hope for from the project?

– This project has an unusual component and it is that we cooperate with Prevent. They will be involved during the project and then they will receive and manage the results, that is, the further developed methods and a training material we will develop on how to work with the methods.

– Prevent will use our results in their education. It will also be a web education material on their website. I hope for the idea that someone takes care of the research results and markets it, manages it and ensures that it is used. I hope that this can contribute to real change in the field of digital work environment.

What got you from the beginning interested in digital work environment?

– I worked as a consultant around the year 2000 at a large international IT company and saw the consequences of the IT systems out in the workplaces. I saw the users’ frustration, I saw the technostress and how it affected the work structure and work processes. And I really wanted to try to help solve that problem and try to make the digital work environment better, says Åsa Cajander.

 

Super Nice Surprise by the Equal Opportunities Team at the Department

I have been the Equal Opportunities Officer at the department for a few years. This role has included working with a team of people from administrative staff, technical staff and representatives from the five different divisions. The department has a strong focus on equal opportunities, and have a very ambitious yearly plan about the work. The team has been amazing in this work. We have had a very positive and creative atmosphere, and I have put quite a lot of effort into doing a good job.

A few weeks back I was honorary discharged of the role. I have been given the opportunity to work as deputy head of division, and I felt like it was two much keeping both roles.

The equal opportunities team surprised me early one Monday morning and handed over a painting that they had made. On the painting they had written encouraging and super nice things thanking me for my efforts. I must say that I was really very surprised and happy about this. We are not especially good at showing appreciation at the department, and this was indeed not expected.  Now I have the nice painting hanging on the wall in my office that reminds about equal opportunities and gender equality.

I will have the possibility to thank everyone on the equal opportunities team on an international celebration’s day that is organised by Virginia Grande Castro and others. Anyone is welcome to attend! You can read more here:

http://www.it.uu.se/about_us/equality/international_celebration

 

 

Participated in Panel about AI and Digitalisation and the Impact on Work and Working Life

Several people from my research group participated in a discussion about AI and digitalisation and the impact on work and working life. The picture is from See invitation below:

Inbjudan AI AW 5.4.19

One thing that I found interesting that one person on the panel talked about was that Amazon and Walmart nowadays has stores that eliminates the need for human cashiers, or cash payments. In the Amazon store cameras with computer vision and facial recognition technology in combination with automatic sensors, keep track of the items customers take from shelves. When you are ready to check out they automatically pay with a registered credit or debit card inside the Amazon Go mobile app. For more info see for example: https://www.chainstoreage.com/technology/tech-viewpoint-amazon-vs-walmart-the-battle-of-ai-based-future-store-strategies/

There are indeed success stories related to digitalisation, but another interesting discussion was related to why is so difficult to develop and implement new technology and all the major failures that we face in Sweden. One failure that was mentioned was Arbetsförmedlingen (The Government Organsiation responsibility for work) where 13000 emloyees had their education in the new system, and the plan to save 170 MSEK/year failed completely and ended up in a law suit. See here: https://www.svd.se/it-fiasko-for-arbetsformedlingen

 

Four problems when teaching HCI in IT programmes for computer scientists

I think it is super difficult to teach human computer interaction in core computing programmes. I have tried different approaches and have tried to understand the problems for almost 20 years now. It feels like I fly over a landskapet of problems that i don’t really know how to address. I fly slowly with little possibility to really affect where I am going, like with the parachute in the blog post picture. Here are four of the problems that I have seen.

1) My experience is that students of IT programmes often come with a value system and interest closely connected to technology and the core programming area. With this I mean that they are more interested in the technology in itself, such as the specifics of databases, efficient coding and machine learning. They are less interested in how people use technology, how to introduce technology in organisations, or how technology affects the work environment. In short: Many of them are not particularly interested in the area that I work in and in my teaching. Still they need to take classes of human computer interaction in their programme, and these are really another kind of courses.

2) The problems that they have encountered so far in their education are often of the kind that there are many possible solutions, but there is a definite way of saying what is right and wrong with different solutions. This is also the kind of problems that you address in many Science research projects. In my courses, where I teach about how to deal with the management of numerous IT systems in an organisation, such as in the Complex IT systems in Organisations course, there is no correct answer. The problems I teach about are so called wicked problems and they are not used to these. This results in them not understanding me when I explore and reflect on different approaches to solve the problem. They think that I don’t really know what I talk about since I don’t give a definite answer.

3) The kind of Human Computer Interaction problems that I teach are very closely connected to student’s development of professional competencies. A professional competency can be seen as consisting of three different parts 1) theoretical knowledge about the problem 2) skills to deal with the problem in practice and 3) attitude or disposition to see the problem as important and interesting. The professional competency that I want the students to develop is however not easy to incorporate into traditional teaching.

4) One of the problems connected to all the other problems is that when students meet me in the classroom I am not perceived as a computer scientist. This is due to a combination of all the other problems with the area that I teach. But it is also due to me being one of the very few women they meet as teachers. Sometimes I am the first one they encounter in their university education, and I teach something that they don’t find interesting, don’t have the same kinds of problems and is based in a wider view of what they need to learn (professional competencies).

If you are interested reading more about this I have written a paper about students and unexpected behaviour in teaching. The paper is called Unexpected Student Behaviour and learning opportunites.

Reflections on Learning and Supervision of PhD students

Sometimes I get the feeling that I should know everything about a research area when I supervise PhD students. For example: If I supervise someone who is in the “Design of the Moon Area”, I should be the expert of designing the moon. This idea of course also includes lots of imposter syndrome feelings, ie. I am a fake, I am not doing a good job, everyone will soon realize that I don’t know everying of the moon etc.

One of my post docs listened to me telling about this feeling – and he commented that if I would know everything it would instead be a great problem.

  • The first problem he pointed to is that if I would know everything there is to know no more research would be needed about the moon. Hmm. He has a point.
  • The second thing he pointed to was the core idea of independence and PhD work. As a PhD student you need to work independently of you supervisor. How would that be possible if the supervisor knew everything there is to know about the area?

Of course he has good points. I need to let go of the idea that I need to know everything because clearly I don’t. And it is not even a good idea to know everything due to the above.

However it is still a question how little you can know about an area and still be a good supervisor in that area?

Being the supervisor of PhD students is indeed a learning experience for me. All my PhD students move in different directions in the field of human computer interaction. At the same time the field is expanding enormously due to digitalization of every field of society. On some level my knowledge about methods, the writing process, publication processes and academia is still relevant. But I do not have the same time to reflect and think as they do. They spend a lot of time reading, going to seminars and reflecting. I feel like my calender is mostly full of meetings instead of reflections. Sigh.

Often I learn many interesting things through listening to their discussions and from reading what they write. I try to understand what they have learned, and often my role is to say: Explain more, tell me more, that is interesting – explore that a bit. But I still often have the feeling that me knowing more would be so much better. Hmmm.

To sum up: Dealing with imposture syndrom requires grit and perseverance. And also colleagues to discuss it with. And for me imposter syndrome never seems to end.

Collaboration with Region Uppsala Resulted in Students Presenting at Vitalis

This years’ IT in Society Class got the task from Region Uppsala to look into primary care. Students in this class come from Uppsala University and the highly prestigious Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Anne Peters, Mats Daniels and Åsa Cajander are teachers in Uppsala, and Cary Laxer is the teacher in Indiana. The Rose-Hulman students visit Uppsala twice during the semester and experience snowy Sweden (see picture).

By the end of the semester they submitted an abstract to the peer-reviewed industry conference VITALIS – and they were accepted! The Vitalis conference is the leading eHealth conferences in the Nordic countries with more than 5000 participants who now have the opportunity to meet our students. See you at Vitalis!

Below is the abstract: 

What could a digitalized primary healthcare look like in 2030? This was the question addressed by a group of around 25 computer science students from Uppsala University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the US. To examine this question, they collaborated with healthcare professionals in Region Uppsala. In their semester long project, they researched the current primary healthcare system in order to find digitally related improvements that can impact how healthcare could look like in 2030. The research conducted is human-centered and seeks to define modernization methods that would improve the working situation for the medical professionals, as well as the patients’ experience. To grasp the current workflow in Region Uppsala we conducted a holistic overview from two perspectives: the patient perspective and the healthcare professional’s perspective. We found that the current primary care system has areas of improvement in the fields of User experience and Graphical User interfaces for computer systems that patients and staff members use. We also found that digitized self-assessment and triage is an area that can reduce the workload of the staff and enhance the patient experience.

Our research has also highlighted the need to find new digital tools and adapt the existing digital solutions to provide a better working environment for workers in primary care. This would imply moving away from “pen and papper” analog systems towards a more digitally integrated, cohesive system.

The suggestions that we provide in this presentation are based on sound scientific studies previously conducted and on extensive field interviews with more than 20 involved specialists and data gathering on the current system. We have also conducted two surveys in order to understand how patients feel in regards to the current primary care system and participated in observations to see how primary care professionals operate on a daily basis.

Some of the solutions we propose are:

– the smart, easy to use design of graphical interfaces that also adapt and learn the user’s behaviour to provide ease of access

– adding more real time alternatives to get in touch with medical professionals such as live chat messaging

– using wearable devices to monitor frequent patients’ clinical measurements

– modernizing the analog areas of the current system with the help of new technologies.

Looking forward into the future, we have ideas of how a future system could look like in 2030. The areas of improvement are relying on the continuous development of artificial intelligence and machine learning, all integrated to reiterate our objective: an efficient, human-centered primary care. We hope that these improvements would lead to a better medical system and change society for the better.

Public Seminar about Digitalisation and the Work Environment

A few weeks ago I did a public seminar related to digitalisation and the work environment at Tierp library. I talked about the very techno positive culture that we have in Sweden, and that people seem to think that with digitalisation we solve all problems. We will be more efficient, human errors will disappear and work will be based on rational processes. Examples of very successful IT systems are for example Watson to support decisions in health care and robots for surgery.

However, there is also another very parallel story to this. A story about how seldom IT projects are successful, and how often large IT projects fail completely. And a story about how much money that costs every year (44 billion SEK in 2016 according to Unionen).

There is also a story about people in different organisations who feel frustrated over their jobs, who lose the feeling of satisfaction and joy from working and some even burn out. We need to digitalise with human beings in mind. Digitalisation of work needs to include ideas of how to create a good and motivating work situation.

I think that the small audience that listened were very interested and gave many good examples from their work situation.

Welcome to an International Summer School in User Centred Design and Health & Wellbeing in Finland

Welcome to an international course on interaction design!

I am co-organising a summer school together with a group of Nordic researchers.

This Nordplus funded class brings together practitioners, students, and teachers from Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, and Sweden to gain a higher level of digital literacy. The course provides the basic skills in user-centred, hands-on interaction design during two intensive weeks, including Google Design Sprint.

Experimental Interaction Design
29 July – 9 August, 2019
Aalto University, Finland (www.aalto.fi)

Applications deadline: 31 March
Acceptance notifications: 19 April
More information: https://blogs.aalto.fi/ixd19/

For questions, please contact:
Ilja Šmorgun, Lecturer of Interaction Design, Tallinn University ilja.smorgun@tlu.ee

Welcome!