Monday, June 7, 2010

1st International UBI Summer School - The Aftermath

I haven't been writing anything for a while, and here comes the explanation. I was attending to the 1st Internation UBI Summer School, held here in Oulu by the UBI project (UrBan Interactions). Basically it took all of my time last week: seminar and workshops every day between 9:00 and 16:00, and social events in the evenings. Of course it was totally worth it - there were lots of interesting people from all around the globe, and the workshop I was in was cool and really relevant to my post-graduate studies.

I was in a workshop called Urban Social Networks Analysis, instructed by professor Vassilis Kostakos from the University of Madeira. Our task during three days was to gather bluetooth data from the city of Oulu, by scanning for bluetooth devices in various locations, and to use that data to analyze how people (carrying the devices) were moving around the city. My workgroup was trying to figure out groups from the data, and some flocking behavior. Sadly it turned out that two and half hours worth of scanning by five groups was not enough for finding any groups of devices that would appear together in more than one location, so we had to to just do some group analysis.

It also turned out that analyzing groups computationally was far from trivial, and turned out to be quite a challenging task to do in about two days of programming. More work needs to be done on the algorithm later on. But anyway, the really useful stuff I took home from the workshop was how can we utilize simple data that has just time stamp, location and identifier to derive quite impressive representations of how people move around. Figuring out this kind of information can be seen as essential when seeking to understand the flow of people in a physical space. It answers the question "where should we put interfaces?", which is a key question if thinking about the difference between typical HCI and HCI for interactive spaces.

On Friday we had the final presentations for all the workshops (six in total). I did have a lot of difficulty choosing the workshop to attend to beforehand, and after seeing the presentations I really wished I could've been in all of the workshops (except one, which was very technically oriented). The other topics included "Real World Context-Aware Applications", "Urban Informatics and Sustainable Cities", "Creating and Sharing Artistic Experiences with Ubiquitous Technology" and "Interactive Textures - Rethinking Materiality". Let's just say that the results for each workshop were pretty amazing, especially considering they were done in just three days.

If any of the guys I met are reading this, thanks again for being there - great times were had! For those who weren't there, I'll try to post some links later if they release any interesting aftermath material about the summer school.

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