What does your circadian rhythm say?

It’s always been clear that sleep is a big deal and more and more research is coming out to show the massive effect sleep can have in our lives. Especially at critical times of our development.

I have been tracking (quantifying) my sleeping solidly for about 3-5 years and its surprising to see the effect of the things like different alcohol drink, cheese, coffee, milk and chocolate. I also been to many events, with the last one being Cafe Sci: Myth and Science of Sleep. I generally track my dreams now, which is quite different from previously when I use to track them with a lot more detail.

Tracking sleep can seem a but of nonsense; I mean leaving your phone on your bed while you sleep or using a wristband device to collect data can seem poor for data collection. However with some calibration and a few months data, it becomes clear through the patterns whats good quality and bad quality sleep; oppose to the length of sleep. The key being the cycles of sleep… Light sleep into REM into deep sleep into light sleep and over again.

Sleep as Android data

Here is me sleeping in a hotel for 5hrs 49mins after drinking cocktails in London during the week of Mozfest. You can see the alcohol puts me into deep sleep quickly but it takes a while for my body to get back into its normal sleep pattern. I also had a done a lot of walking that day.

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This clearly shows although I had 7hrs 21mins of sleep when I woke up, I felt like crap. To be fair I had red wine, and was on cold meds to get rid of my long lingering cold. Once again I was in a hotel, this time in Sarajevo. No coffee this time.

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This is from todays sleep, even with a few scoops of ice cream and coffee, I slept extremely well and woke up feeling pretty fresh and ready to take on the world.

I use Sleep as Android with my Pebble watch. I do sync everything to Google Fit, Google Drive and Dropbox to make a personal back up for myself.

Ultimately I would clearly say I have learned so much by looking at the patterns, especially over a longer period of time.

Exploring the living room of the future in Sarajevo?

Yesterday I posted about being very busy over the next month or so and I mentioned going to Sarajevo unlimited. Some of you might be scratching your head, thinking why?

Well it starts with a better question than simply “Sarajevo? why?

If its possible to adapt, customise or even personalised media to a person and their context (we know it is – if you not been paying attention, check out object media and some of the perceptive media work); how does this work with a few to many people experiencing at the same media?

No more shared experience?

This is a question I get a lot on the road. I clearly remember when I first presented Visual Perceptive Media at This way up (conference about the future of digital cinema) in 2015. Most felt I was breaking the shared moment and therefore breaking the very idea of cinema.

Is this the shared experience you are talking about?

I always like to joke a little and remind people the shared experience was/is broken. You only have to look at on-demand, the huge amount of channels, ways to consume content and the ever growing diversity of sources. Honest media makers know you can watch the exact same thing and take away different things, due to your experience, background, culture, etc. But the question of the share experience is a fair point, especially as we drift further into our filter bubbles?

A different shared experience

So the question is, knowing all this, is there a different shared experience which can be enabled with the technology and research we have now? Something which people will have a hard time explaining and ultimately throw up their hands saying “…you had to be there!

Internet of thing - Perceptive Radio

I obviously say yes! I point at physical connected things as a potential way to bring people together and create new types of connected/shared experiences. This is why the Perceptive Radio was a big deal and what it stood for back in 2013, a whole year to half a year before the Amazon Alexa by the way!

Even before seeing things like the Good night lamp and BBC R&D’s dalek prototype. It was clear enchanted objects have the potential to connect people with the media in a bi-directional manor (media affecting the objects and objects affecting the media). With that in mind and the concept of the tiny theatre buzzing around my head from Jasmine and Vicky; it became clear that our living rooms are so packed full of connected objects could be ground zero with its diverse groups of people and contexts.

The living room of the future?

Very cool but what has this to do with Sarajevo?

It was during my talk at Future Fest when I met Caroline from the British Council. We briefly talked about the plan which I had already had support from FACT in Liverpool and the Nottingham Databox team. Then early  in 2017, we spent much more time talking through the project and its fruitful aims for research and user experience design; especially with the synergy of Object media and Databox which was demonstrated as homelab kitchen at Mozfest 2016.

Mozfest 2016

The British Council loved it and suggested a collaboration with their Western Balkans office as they have been monitoring some great creativity in the area. What better way to inject some much needed creativity into, on the face of it quite a technical project? Its pretty easy to forget its about the experience not the technology.

From my personal point of view, its great to have a more diversity outside the usual places. From my short time spent in Romanian and Estonia with Mozilla, I’m convinced this will be a collaboration with surprises and breathtaking results. Ultimately together we will explore what the living room of the future could be, when the media and connected objects (IOT) in the room talk to each other seamlessly but in data ethical way.

There is a blog post drafted for the BBC R&D blog with more details, but as the British Council have already started the process by advertising for 20 creatives to join our special workshop at Sarajevo unlimited. I thought I’d add some background to this incredible project… I’m very much looking forward to updating everyone as the project moves forward.

QS Metadating in Newcastle

Metadating

A few weeks ago I was accepted for Newcastle Culture Lab’s Metadating research trail.

The research was more about our attitudes to sharing personal data than dating. However they did invite singles and included a number of events which included speed dating. I guess also meta-dating would be factually correct as we were talking about dating while dating.

Metadating

There was homework which had to be done on the run up to the event. You were given a booklet which you could fill in as much as you were comfortable with. On top of that was some blank generic graphs which could be filled in with our own data. When I say our data, it could be any Quantified Self data, from how many coffee’s you had over the week to you’re more intimate data like you’re sleep cycle daily. Everything was up to you to declare, which gets around the problem of using Quantified Self data in research. But it also makes it difficult to compare. Luckily this wasn’t about the data metrics.

Once at the event (I rolled it into a wider visit to Newcastle’s Culture lab where I talked about ethics of data, a visit to Newcastle’s Makerspace and Campus North. Didn’t make it to the beach however). I was one of the  first to turn up as I was heading home to Manchester on the last train. It became clear the problems I had with thestarter, were pretty much reversed as very few women turned up. (this is a issue I’d love to spend some time sorting out one day)

The PhD students lead by Christopher had bought some nibbles (olives, cheese sticks, etc) and lots of Cava. By the time we done the icebreaker it was down to the group discussions about our data with a Cava in full swing.

Metadating

We were split into two groups and we started critiquing the anonymously data sheets. It was fascinating to hear other peoples views on data points, dread to think what people said about my sleep cycle and steps per day. It also became clear the data may have been fudged in parts by others. To be fair I did use real data but choose to leave off some of the measurements. Everything was recorded by camera and audio dictation, which I bet made for some very interesting insight into data sharing.

By the second half, the cava was certainly having a bit of an effect and peoples lips loosened. Just in time for the speed dating portion. Now to be fair Chris and the other students had never been speed dating, so it was a little odd but the imbalance in men, meant we had to do it in two parts. On the speed dating, we discussed each others data sheets and more (ooeerr!) We were given the opportunity to write something to each person later.

Metadating

Another eye opener for me was at the very end when we constructed the perfect and worst dating profile for set people from data we made up. The eye opener for me was building a dating profile for a women who was career driven. All the guys around me seemed to not like her, while I was asking if she was real and where can I meet her? (Cava had certainly kicked in by then)

The event ended about 8:45pm so quite a bit over time but as people started shifting to the local pub, I had enough time to quickly have a drink then head to Newcastle Station for my long train ride home.

The metadating event was fun and to be honest the culture lab students may have gained a ton of insight from the frank and slightly loose lipped participations on the night. I imagine the Cava was bought expecting the full board of people but with the smaller number and the stand ins, there was plenty to go around.

I am surprise I didn’t fall a sleep on the train. However to be honest it was so busy down to York, theres no way I could fall a sleep. I’ll save my journey for another day…

The metadating event was great fun and from a research point of view I’m very interested in what comes out of it. Its a shame a bunch of women didn’t turn up but the students did a good job thinking on their feet and making it work. I suggested to Chris and Bettina that if they did it in Manchester or London it would be packed out, and I would certainly support them in the research.

The spotlight effect in times of the #selfie?

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Having a great little conversation with Alexandra deschamps-sonsino about how she doesn’t like watching herself giving talks and presentations. I expect that applies to most of us (including myself), but I did say this could be the the spotlight effect in full effect?.

…we tend to overestimate how much our actions and appearance are noticed by others, something social psychologists call the “spotlight effect.”

Alex had a look at the wikipedia page about the effect and asked me how does this work with the craze for selfies?

I was totally stumped… I have no idea but some PhD research student needs to look into this… Seems like a fruitful area of research? I’m sure Sherry Turkle (again) would have lots to say about this.

Hiding in plain sight: Social Steganography

I know its quite old (all of a year) but I’m really intriguing…

Privacy in a public age

Carmen is engaging in social steganography. She’s hiding information in plain sight, creating a message that can be read in one way by those who aren’t in the know and read differently by those who are. She’s communicating to different audiences simultaneously, relying on specific cultural awareness to provide the right interpretive lens. While she’s focused primarily on separating her mother from her friends, her message is also meaningless to broader audiences who have no idea that she had just broken up with her boyfriend. As far as they’re concerned, Carmen just posted an interesting lyric.

Social steganography is one privacy tactic teens take when engaging in semi-public forums like Facebook. While adults have worked diligently to exclude people through privacy settings, many teenagers have been unable to exclude certain classes of adults – namely their parents – for quite some time. For this reason, they’ve had to develop new techniques to speak to their friends fully aware that their parents are overhearing. Social steganography is one of the most common techniques that teens employ. They do this because they care about privacy, they care about misinterpretation, they care about segmented communications strategies. And they know that technical tools for restricting access don’t trump parental demands to gain access. So they find new ways of getting around limitations. And, in doing so, reconstruct age-old practices.

I would also add the suggestion that deep down they also know that technical methods are seriously no good for privacy. So they deploy there own privacy by adding steganography to there imprint on the web. Its also not just teenagers…

What TV needs now…

Television

This is the kind of thing I think about a lot in my job at the BBC. I’m very lucky to be stationed with a fantastic group of like minded people and a hierarchy upwards which I do respect. (Not many people can say that).

So when I explain to people what I do, I tend to make some reference to researching trends and watching the hackers scratch there own itches. It doesn’t sound that exciting to the general public or potential dates but you all know how excited I get about it. Anyway the point of this un-scientific test is I’m hoping to do more stuff like this. In actual fact I actually threw this idea around as a project a while ago. Its great to know we’re not the only one thinking about this stuff.

During a panel at our TVnext summit yesterday, we showed a video with highlights from a recent experiment. For this experiment, we had invited several families to give up their cable and instead use a “connected TV” device for one week following last Christmas.

The results might sound surprising but to be honest, I could have guessed most of them from the time I’ve spent with the hackers.

Nicely Iiya broke it down the learning into some nice digestible pieces, something I certainly need to learn to do much better.

While our sample was by no means representative, the results of our experiment point us toward some real issues that one should consider when thinking about the future of the “connected TV” technologies.

One finding that is probably obvious in retrospect is that TV is invisible until it’s shut off. It’s a bit like walking: you are aware of the direction in which you are headed but you don’t really focus on the individual steps until you come across an unusual terrain. The exclusively on-demand nature of the devices we tested is just such an unusual terrain that makes you think not only about “where” but also about the specifics of “how”.

The devices demand a lean-forward involvement with what has been traditionally considered a lean-back medium, and this requirement proved disconcerting to many when it lasted longer than the usual bursts of involvement with their DVRs or video-on-demand channels.

The Paradox Of Choice

Constantly having to pick what to watch next was daunting not only because it interrupted the usual flow of TV-time activities in the house or required interacting with unfamiliar interfaces but also because of the cognitive load involved in considering all of the numerous content alternatives. “I don’t want to have to think about it” was one of the strongest sentiments we’ve captured in our interviews. As with “the paradox of choice” phenomenon that describes how broadening the range of options leads to a decrease in overall consumption, we saw how families gave up on watching TV altogether when they couldn’t decide what it is that they wanted to watch. This problem is serious enough for Netflix to award a million-dollar prize for a better way to tell people what they should watch next; it didn’t seem the problem was sufficiently addressed by any of the devices.

The paradox of choice gets stronger and stronger the more options there are. Even in my own behavior, I tend to end up watching films which are on TV although I got the HD version with Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound on my home server within 1 minutes reach.

In actual fact, i’m going to from now on make the choice to move over to my own version when I see a duplicate on TV which has me interested.

Expectations

People have well-formed expectations about how a TV should work, and the devices didn’t seem to confirm well to these mental models. Surfing TV channels is seamless; “tasting” unfamiliar on-demand shows includes picking them from different menu categories and waiting for them to buffer first (and often paying for them up-front). This latency is tolerated in exchange for high-consideration longer-form content but it becomes too much of a friction when all one wants is the “in-n-out” material.

Agreed, the interface on most of the on-demand devices are either hideous or non-intuitive. But there are those which take a risk and try new things. The world of hardware moves very slowly and so we won’t see much change from most of the set top makers. However there has been more development in the space. Some of the forward looking makers are buying or partnering with creative software developers who are creating the rich and intuitive interfaces using just software.

Usability

The lack of search spanning multiple video services on a single box was a usability flaw that stood out among other complaints that could be attributed to our users’ brief experience with unfamiliar technology. From the users’ perspective, there is no reason why they had to search the Netflix, Amazon On Demand and other services individually while looking for a particular piece of content on a single device.

Agreed, its all a bit of a mess at the moment. different guides and different structures. Even if there was a global search it would be one heck of a job trying to communicate the different options available to the audience.

Its a fantastic challenge and to be honest, one of the many reasons why I love my job.