Computers or Humans? Afternoon seminar

When: Tuesday 29 May 2018, from 2pm to 5pm

Where: Taliesin Create: Mall Room (Singleton Bay campus)

Speakers: Matt Jones on human-centred mobile future visions, William Merrin on algorithmic warfare, Yan Wu on digital media and the sensory impaired – Details below

  • MATT JONES: Why California is such a problem

Mobile and ubiquitous computing researchers have long imagined future worlds for users in “developed” regions of the world. Such visions have steered innovation of devices and services and exploration of their value for individuals, groups and communities. But this kind of radical and long-term exploration is uncommon for what have been termed “emergent users”: those for whom advanced technologies are just within grasp. Instead, the assumption is, perhaps, that today’s high-end mobile technologies will “trickle down” to these user groups in due course.

For the past three years, our team of researchers and partner organisations have started to explore how to do future envisioning that includes emergent user communities. We have carried out intensive, coordinated innovation-prototyping-deployment yearly cycles, working with people from townships in South Africa and informal and slum districts in India and Kenya. Novel mobile devices and services have been developed that would not have emerged without the insights provided and integrated through working in these regions.

In this talk, I will explore what mobile technologies might be like if emergent users are directly involved in creating visions for the future 5–10 years from now; explain and reflect on our methods, highlighting the success and failures; detail some of the platforms and devices we’ve created; and also argue that this kind of innovation is vital to re-invigorate mobile design for “traditional users” (like me) in the rest of the world.

Bio: Matt Jones is the author of two books and many research articles that have helped shape the field of Mobile HCI and UX (Mobile Interaction Design – with Gary Marsden; There’s Not an App for That – with Simon Robinson and Gary Marsden). He has spoken at public events for both arts and science audiences (such as (such as the Hay Book Festival 2017, British Science Festival 2016, Cheltenham Science Festival 2018). He has worked both with academic research groups and industrial partners across the world. His work combines a passion for invention with a commitment to working alongside non-traditional users of mobile technology. He is a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder (for his work on interactions for resource constrained communities); was awarded an IBM Faculty Award (for work with the Spoken Web); and leads two major UK programmes focussed on human values and computational science (the Research Council UK funded Digital Economy CHERISH Centre; and the Welsh Government/ EU funded Computational Foundry). He has enjoyed being part of the HCI community: he co-chaired ACM CHI 2014; ACM Mobile HCI 2017; and is on the steering committee of both of these conference series. More at

  • Yan Wu: Digital Media Usage of Sensory Impaired Users in Wales

This presentation is a summary of the main statistical findings from a survey into digital media usage and attitudes among sensory impaired audiences in Wales. The survey ran from March to May 2017, and was part of a research project based at Swansea University, funded by Challenging Human Environments and Research Impact for a Sustainable and Healthy Digital Economy Centre (CHERISH-DE).

Studies show that the use of the internet and digital technologies has grown dramatically in recent years and benefited many aspects of social life. However, disabled people are disadvantaged in gaining access to the online world (Lunn and Lyons 2010). Scholarly research argues that when as the Internet matures, the digital divide has been intensified to reflect the offline social, economic and cultural inequalities (Chen and Wellman 2005; van Dijk, 2005; van Deursen and van Dijk 2013; Witte & Mannon 2010). Amongst disabled communities are people with sensory impairments. Recognising that digital exclusion could further disadvantage this community, we aim to gain a better understanding of the usage of digital media and communication technologies by sight impaired users, and investigate the possible solutions to their barriers to enjoying the benefit from using the internet and other digital services.

Overwhelmingly, respondents’ digital media ownership is low compared to the national average. The ownership of and access to digital devices varies but roughly in the range of 20% to 40%. A PC is owned by most of the respondents (38.5%) and smart phones have the least popularity (23.3%). Although a smart phone is the most personalised device, it is the least owned or used among sensory impaired users. The vast majority (59.4%) of the respondents do not use any kind of assistive technology. The most popular form of assistive technology is screen magnification (27.6% up-take rate), followed by voice recognition software and accessible keyboard (at 13.5% and 13% respectively). The rate of usage of other forms of assistive technology (specialist software, screen readers, hearing aid app, amplified hearing and compatible smartphones, etc.) is 10% or below.

In terms of online activities, using a search engine is the most frequent online activity with almost 2 in 5 (38.6%) of the respondents using a search engine when online. Roughly a third of respondents use email to send personal messages to family or friends and can find a website that has been used before. Less than a third of the respondents engage in online purchasing (28.3%). 13.9% go online to access public services.  12.6% show an awareness of online security and safety and are careful in making online comments and sharing personal information with others. 11.4% of the users use the internet to book appointments. Just over half (50.3%) said that they did not do any online activities.

The presentation will conclude with an analysis of factors that create barriers to digital inclusion and recommendations with regards to promoting digital inclusivity for sensory impaired users in Wales.

Bio: Yan Wu is Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication Studies. She has been researching in the area of digital media and sensory impaired users and has been working with Action on Hearing Loss and Royal National Institute of the Blind People since 2011.

  • WILLIAM MERRIN: Algorithmic War: The AI ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’

Recognizing the rapid advances in digital technology in the period following the Gulf War, in the 1990s the US military retheorized conflict to foreground issues around information, computing and communication. Their dream of an electronic battlefield with perfect information bringing military superiority dated back at least to Vietnam’s ‘Operation Igloo White’, but by 1998 it had found a new expression in Cebrowski and Garstka’s influential theory of ‘network-centric warfare’ (NCW). They argued that a smaller, lighter, decentralized networked force, with access to full battlefield information, would be able to outmanoeuvre and defeat larger conventional forces.

NCW was successfully deployed in the ‘War on Terror’, but the US military have since pressed further with their dreams of networking down to the unit or individual level. Hence their development of networked wearables and soldier-systems packed with sensors. These presage a coming ‘big data’ transformation in the military, linked with the ongoing deployment of AI machine-learning systems to analyse the increasing volume of battlefield sensor information and ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) produced by the military.

AI machine-learning is also behind the increasing movement towards autonomous UAV systems such as Taranis and many see it as aiding the development of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). The US military isn’t alone in this new interest in AI. On 20th July 2017 China published its ‘Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’ which designated AI as the transformative technology that will secure its future economic and military power. China predicts global AI-dominance by 2030.

The focus to date on ‘killer robots’, claims (such as Peter Singer’s) that robotics represents the next ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’ (RMA), and public campaigns against military robots may all be missing the point. The real RMA will be AI-based and it will transform data collection, analysis and decision-making around battlefield information. The real threat we face in the future won’t be robotic foot-soldiers, but AI commanders.

Bio: William Merrin is Associate Professor in Media Studies, specializing in digital warfare, digital media and media theory. He is the author of Digital War (forthcoming, August 2018), Media Studies 2.0 (Routledge, 2014), and Baudrillard and the Media (Polity, 2005), and co-editor of Trump’s War on the Media (2018) and Jean Baudrillard: Fatal Theories (Routledge, 2009). He is on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Baudrillard Studies and Media, War and Conflict.

Collecting Oral History of British Computing

CODAH lunchtime seminars in the Surf Room (Fulton House) on Tuesdays at 13:00 




  • March 23, 2016: Researching and Teaching with Digital Technologies

Callaghan Building, Callaghan Lecture Theatre, 12.30-16.00 – all welcome

This seminar concerns the use of digital technologies for research and teaching in the arts and humanities

Huw Bowen (Swansea), ‘The Cu@Swansea project – opportunities and possibilities’

Richard Turner (Swansea), ‘Mapping the Welsh Marcher Lordships: Developing a GIS to display multivariate data’.

Michael Goodman (Cardiff), ‘Things to Make and Do: Exploring the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive’.

Contact: / Cyswllt:  Chris Millington

Mae’r seminar hon yn ymwneud â’r defnydd o dechnolegau digidol er diben ymchwil a dysgu yn y celfyddydau a’r dyniaethau

Huw Bowen (Abertawe), ‘Prosiect Cu@Abertawe – cyfleoedd a phosibiliadau’.

Richard Tuner (Abertawe), ‘Mapio Arglwyddiaethau’r Gororau Cymreig: datblygu GIS i arddangos data amlamrywedd’.

Michael Goodman (Cerdydd), ‘Pethau i’w Cynhyrchu a’u Gwneud: Archwilio Archif Darluniol Fictorianaidd Shakespeare’.





  • March 8, 2016: Dr Rita Singer, Bangor University: ‘Putting Wales on the Map: Using GIS to Uncover European Travel Routes, 1750 – 2016’

This lunchtime seminar showcases the contents and functions of the database “Accounts of Travel: European Travel Literature about Wales”, which contains over 350 entries with summaries of travel writing about Wales by European visitors, together with interactive maps and metadata relating to the records. Travellers from Europe have been writing about their diverse impressions and perceptions of Wales in diaries, letters, travelogues and, more recently, blogs for centuries. Remarks on the nature of travelling in a foreign country, its people, the weather, town and country life, industrial enterprise, social endeavours or encounters with unfamiliar food are only a few of the topics in these texts. These diverse topics are featured extensively in the database, which is one of the main outputs of the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project “European Travellers to Wales, 1750-2010”. The project is a collaboration between Bangor University, the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies and the Department of Modern Languages at Swansea University.

Dr Rita Singer, Prifysgol Bangor: ‘Rhoi Cymru ar y Map: Defnyddio GIS i Ddatgelu Llwybrau Teithio Ewropeaidd, 1750-2016′

Fe fydd y seminar awr ginio hwn yn cyflwyno cynnwys a swyddogaethau’r gronfa ddata ‘Cofnodion Teithio: Llenyddiaeth Daith Ewropeaidd am Gymru’. Mae’r gronfa ddata yn cynnwys dros 350 o gofnodion gyda chrynodebau o destunau teithio am Gymru gan deithwyr Ewropeaidd, ynghyd â mapiau rhyngweithiol a metadata am y cofnodion. Ers canrifoedd mae teithwyr o Ewrop wedi cadw cofnod ysgrifenedig o’u hargraffiadau a’u syniadaeth am Gymru ar ffurf dyddiaduron, llythyron, taithlyfrau, ac yn fwy diweddar, blogiau. Mae sylwadau am y profiad o deithio mewn gwlad dramor, am ei phobl a’i thywydd, bywyd y wlad a’r dref, menter ddiwydiannol, ymdrechion cymdeithasol, neu ddarganfod bwyd anghyfarwydd, ond yn rhagflas o’r pynciau a drafodir yn y testunau hyn. Mae’r gronfa ddata, un o gynhyrchion pennaf y prosiect ‘Teithwyr Ewropeaidd i Gymru: 1750-2010’ a gyllidir gan Gyngor Ymchwil y Celfyddydau a’r Dyniaethau, yn rhoi sylw manwl i’r themau amrywiol hyn. Mae’r prosiect yn gynllun ar y cyd rhwng Prifysgol Bangor, Canolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd Prifysgol Cymru ac Adran Ieithoedd Modern Prifysgol Abertawe.


The new multidisciplinary research centre CHERISH-DE aims to bring about a sea-change in how the digital economy impacts on people, society and industry. We offer various funding opportunities for Swansea University researchers from all disciplines to develop innovations that help people benefit from technology, including the Digital Economy Crucible – a brilliant opportunity for ambitious Early Career Researchers.

Amcan y ganolfan ymchwil amlddisgyblaethol newydd CHERISH-DE yw gweddnewid sut mae’r economi ddigidol yn cael effaith ar bobl, cymdeithas a diwydiant. Cynigiwn gyfleoedd ariannu amrywiol i ymchwilwyr Prifysgol Abertawe o bob disgyblaeth i ddatblygu newyddbethau sy’n helpu pobl i elwa o dechnoleg, yn cynnwys Economi Ddigidol Crwsibl –  cyfle rhagorol i Ymchwilwyr uchelgeisiol ar Ddechrau eu Gyrfa.



  • January 12, 2016: Rick Turner (History), Chris Jones-Jenkins (freelance illustrator), and Chris Marshall (MintMotion, Cardiff)

Digitally reconstructing and animating Holt Castle, Denbighshire

Damaged in the English Civil War and then dismantled and quarried away in the 1680s, the remains of Holt Castle are a disappointment. However, pre-Civil War, documentary and pictorial evidence shows that it was one of the most innovative castles of Edward I’s reign. This presentation will show how the different strands of evidence were assessed and reconciled and then used to build a 3D digital model of the exterior and interior of the original castle, from which any view can be generated. To make this huge digital model accessible to all users of the internet, an animated fly through of Holt Castle was created, proving a challenge in its own right.


VocalEyes is a digital democracy tool developed in South Wales. It helps groups engage members to gather opinions & ideas, discuss, prioritise, and feed back on actions. It is used by schools, colleges, universities, housing associations, community networks, etc. Trainer Sarah Hoss presents case studies and the principles of digital democracy.

About VocalEyes     Blog




  • Stuart Griffin and Huw Bowen (History)

The Digital Futures of Copperopolis



  • December 1, 2015: Yan Wu (Media & Communications, Swansea University)  CHANGED VENUE: DIGITAL TECHNIUM Room 306 

Digital affordances and television

This paper examines the affordances of digital television technologies and the communication that results from using those technologies by ageing audiences suffering from sensory impairments. The aims of this paper are: a) to characterize how digital television technologies differ from analogue television service in terms of their communication affordances; b) to explain how these different affordances produce differences for the hard of hearing users in receiving and consuming the process, content and outcome of television communication.



  • November 17, 2015: Rhys Jones (Media & Communications, Swansea University) and and Dr Daniel Cunliffe (Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science, University of South Wales)

#DataMawr – Welsh political parties, elections, and reasonably big data

We outline our work in progress on the use of Twitter by the political parties who contested the 2014 European and 2015 UK general elections in Wales. We build on our existing work (Cunliffe, 2008, 2011) which examined the relative levels of Welsh-language provision on party websites during the 2007 Welsh Assembly and 2010 UK elections, and bring to it our previous research (Jones, Cunliffe and Honeycutt, 2013) on Twitter and the Welsh language.

However, this will mainly be a talk about the challenges of ‘data rhesymol fawr’, or, in English, ‘reasonably big data’. We now have a corpus of over 40,000 tweets from 12 political parties, and we will outline the challenges we face in analysis and discuss possible methodologies for constructing and discovering meaning in what we have collected.


  •  1-3 September, 2015: Annual Meeting of NISE (National movements & Intermediary Structures in Europe) on Digital Infrastructures for Digital Humanities

‘What are the odds?  Capturing and exploring data created by online political gambling markets

The project has gathered and analysed gambling market data concerning elections and referendums, the key means by which citizens influence policy in representative democracies. From an academic viewpoint, online political gambling markets provide unique data about the shifts that take place during election campaigns.  Such shifts are currently measured via polling data – however, polls are highly expensive, tend to be conducted at irregular intervals, and polling houses differ in sampling and weighting methodologies.  Online gambling markets provide free, minute-by-minute snapshots of outcome likelihoods during a campaign, all generated by the same mechanism.  However, gathering and organising such data is not straightforward, especially given the number of sites offering political betting markets – each site has a specific format and features which must be taken into account.  Furthermore these are ‘big’ – in terms of volume (for instance, the UK general election dataset size is estimated at 9.5 GB) and velocity (the speed at which markets can react to external events).  Storing and analysing such data requires bespoke tools and techniques.  For this reason, ‘What are the odds?’ is a collaboration between political scientists and computer scientists, whose key goal is to allow both the research team and other researchers to capture and analyse the data created by online political gambling markets.

The Impacts of Digital Dependency

Concerns about the level of digital dependency have grown over the last decade, and, recently, the American Psychiatric Association has suggested that the concept of an ‘internet addiction’ should be examined seriously.  The current talk will present evidence concerning whether heavy use of the internet and digital communications and media produces anything like an addiction, and will explore what the characteristics of such an addiction would be.  The types of individual who are susceptible to displaying problematic internet use, and the consequences of such problematic use in terms of physical and mental health will be explored.  The effect of digital media on people’s ability to hold social relationships and to conduct work will also be discussed.

The Craftsperson and the Scholar: the Role of Software Engineers in Humanities Research

David Beaven is Senior Research Associate, Faculty of Arts & Humanities, and Research Manager and Associate Director for Research for UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.  James Hetherington founded the UCL Research Software Development Team and is Honorary Lecturer, Dept of Computer Science. Raquel Alegre substituted for him for the Swansea presentation.

Digital Humanities (possibly because of those capital letters) is often perceived as a separate entity to the traditional humanities subjects: different, edgy, cool. ‘What is/are the Digital Humanities?’ has long distracted the field. The right question is ‘What can Digital Humanities do for you?’ IT development is not a commodity, just as interesting research questions don’t grow on trees.

At the heart of Digital Humanities is collaboration between humanities scholars and professional software engineers, in partnership. David Beavan will explore that collaboration, from the professional IT angle and from the humanities perspective. How can a successful Digital Humanities centre be established and sustained, and how can the collaborative work which underpins it be fostered?

A particular problem in research software, encountered first by physical scientists, and then by life scientists, and now in humanities research, is the question of “Software Sustainability”: how can researchers write and maintain software that can last, and that can be used by someone other than the PhD student that wrote it? Can software be a form of scholarly communication between researchers, as well for instructing computers? How can work on software be measured for academic credit alongside other forms of research output?

Dr Alegre will talk about how the team works alongside UCL academics and research staff to build readable, reliable and efficient research software.

Mapping the Welsh Marcher Lordships: Results of a Pilot Project

The Norman kings established the Welsh Marcher lordships as a buffer zone and frontier with the Welsh. We digitally mapped their boundaries and ownership history for south east Wales. The project combines computer vision, geographic information system, and geographic visualization research.

Rick Turner (Hanes) a Daniel Archambault (Cyfrifiadureg)

Mapio Arglwyddi’r Mers Cymru: canlyniadau prosiect peilot

Sefydlodd y brenhinoedd Normanaidd Arglwyddi’r Mers Cymru fel cylchfa ragod a ffin â’r Cymry. Fe wnaethom fapio eu ffiniau a hanes eu perchnogaeth yn ddigidol ar gyfer de-ddwyrain Cymru. Mae’r prosiect yn cyfuno golwg gyfrifiadurol, system gwybodaeth ddaearyddol ac ymchwil delweddu daearyddol.

Adventures in Information Visualization: An Interactive Talk

Our ability to collect and store data is unprecedented. Our ability to derive knowledge from it remains limited.  Data visualization exploits our most powerful sense, vision, in order to gain insight into large, multi-variate data-sets that describe complicated and often time-dependent events.  This talk presents a selection of unique applications in the area of data visualization, showcasing some of visualization’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals, including projects based on flow, foam, text, and animal tracking.

Anturiaethau mewn Delweddu Gwybodaeth: Sgwrs Ryngweithiol

Mae ein gallu i gasglu a storio data yn ddigynsail. Mae ein gallu i gael gwybodaeth ohono yn parhau’n gyfyngedig. Mae delweddu data yn manteisio ar ein synnwyr mwyaf pwerus, sef golwg, i gael mewnwelediad i setiau data mawr, aml-amrywedd sy’n disgrifio digwyddiadau cymhleth ac sy’n aml yn ddibynnol ar amser. Mae’r sgwrs hon yn cyflwyno detholiad o geisiadau unigryw ym maes delweddu data, gan arddangos rhai o gryfderau delweddu, gwendidau, a nodau, gan gynnwys prosiectau sy’n seiliedig ar lif, ewyn, testun, a thracio anifeiliaid.

Digging into Demons: The Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project Database 

In this presentation I will provide an overview of the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: Second Millennium BCE, centered at Swansea University, Wales.  Central to the project is the development of a relational database of liminal entities or demons.  At this pilot stage we are focussing on a limited range of objects from a limited time span: coffins, wands, headrests, figurines and manuscript (usually papyrus).  As with all archaeological databases, the core materials are often fragmentary, necessitating complex relationships with the data pertaining to the fragment, section, and objects, with each type having its own idiosyncratic challenges.
Midway through this 3-year project we have narrowed down the particular challenges we face and seek help with:
–  the development of the public facing site
–  creation of useful visualisations
–  efficient linking to existing databases
–  statistical analyses

  • 18 November 2014

Dr Tom Cheesman and Dr Bob Laramee presented their work on visualising variation in a collection of German translations of Shakespeare’s Othello. This work has excited interest from Brazil to South Africa, Israel to Spain. Prototype tools are at Slides here: VVVPresentationCODAH.

David Chung (Computer Science PhD): High Dimensional Glyph-Based Visualization and Interactive Techniques. A practice PhD Viva Talk.

  • 28 October 2014
Dr Max Wilson talked about his research on Human-Computer Interaction and ‘Search’; specifically, studies of Twitter users’ behaviour. Max used to work at Swansea and is now at Nottingham University.
  • 21 October 2014

Launch party sponsored by NCT Wales.