I must confess I have no Irish roots. Before coming to Ireland 8 years ago, I knew very little about Ireland. But now I feel a bit Irish. Irishness grew on me. I know I’ll always be a blow-in, but I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. This is my home, and I have no plans to move anytime soon.
I remember landing into Shannon in February 2005, having left Luxembourg at 5am with -14 degrees C. It was +14 degrees C in Shannon and there were blooming daffodils everywhere. I needed a work permit and a visa to move here, and that meant that I had to spend 3 months eating into my little savings between when I was offered the job in February and the moment when I could actually fly back in.
This morning I realised this was one of the few times I got to spend St.Patrick’s Day at home in Limerick.
In 2006 I met my daughter in Vienna for a brief holiday. We dressed in green and we went to Carl Corcoran’s RTE Lyric Breakfast that was broadcasted from ORF Kultur Cafe Vienna on that day.
In 2008 I was out on O’Connel St. in Limerick watching the parade – it was freezing cold, but I enjoyed immensely to be part of it all.
In 2009 I had to fly to Romania to renew my ID card.
In 2010 I was in Brussels for a Marie Curie ITN evaluation session. I brought Butlers chocolates with me and shared them with all my colleagues there.
In 2011 we organised an IDC outing at Lough Gur – about 10 of us having a picnic by the lake and freezing to the bone.
In 2012 I attended the Local & Mobile conference in Raleigh, NC. They had 22 degrees C, everybody was dressed in green and the students from the area were partying hard.
So I enjoyed very much being out on the streets of Limerick again watching the parade. I brought two Erasmus students into town to see the parade as well. It’s amazing to see how many nationalities are living here, and how they all want to be part of the celebrations. On my left, I had a Mongolian family, while on my right, a couple of African origin were waving at their daughter, who was part of the parade. Fond memories came back to mind from my early childhood, when both my parents had to be in the parade and there was nowhere they could leave me, so I got up very early and passed in front the tribunes once on my father’s shoulders with his mates from the factory, and then later on I was passed to my mother who had a tiny white coat for me so that I could mingle seamlessly with the other nurses and doctors from the hospital she was working for, while passing in front of the tribune a second time. Anyhow, enough about the past!
Here is a snippet of video, to give you an idea of the atmosphere. My photos are here.
I was a bit puzzled to see that some companies chose to take part in the parade driving a company van only. It didn’t make much sense to me, and it wasn’t entertaining. At least the Limerick Cupcakes people were giving away free cupcakes! And then there was a group protesting against the household charge! Is this part of the celebration?!
It was surprising to see groups advertising shows and festivals – an innovative use of the parade. I found out that one of my former students will sing in Oklahoma, and that we will have a Sarsfield Day in August. But this was interesting at least!
Oh, and my favourite contraption was a giant insect brought in by Macnas, a performance group from Galway!
As a child, I grew up in an apartment block. But my father had green fingers and he got an allotment somewhere on the edge of the city, about 1 km from the end of the bus line. As a child, I enjoyed having my own tiny garden that I was completely in charge of.
Since then, I had balcony gardens, indoors tiny herb gardens and at a point in my life, a big garden (too much work involved for the little time I had!).
When I moved to Ireland almost 8 years ago, I chose an apartment with a balcony. I had herbs, beans and morning glories growing on my balcony, but I longed for more. At some point, I remember having a plan to sow climbing beans in the bushes by the canal and riverbank, where I was cycling every day on the way to and back from the university. I wouldn’t have minded if my harvest would have been eaten by the birds – just the pleasure of seeing stuff grow and doing things with my own hands is enough for me.
In the summer of 2011 I finally found a house with a garden for rental. I had visited many places before that – most of them had a great garden, but the house wasn’t exactly a good place to live. I had to come to grips with the idea that the garden was a hobby and I actually needed a place to live in.
Since we moved in, I put in two vegetable beds, a tiny pond, a greenhouse, a rose bush, a lilac tree, several soft tree bushes ( blackcurrant, red currant, raspberry).
I have great plans for this year. We planted a Kilkenny Pearmain apple tree bought from the Irish Seedsavers two weeks ago and cleaned some of the overgrow. And today was all about gardening – farm manure got added to the vegetable boxes, the front garden got a make-up and everything is now smiling in the sun. I’m happy, but wrecked! I love working with my hands – gardening, knitting, giving massage – I feel like I’m filling up with energy instead of getting tired! I guess this is what Csikszentmihalyi was referring to!
At the beginning of last year, I started working on the idea of a Limerick Tweasure Hunt – a treasure hunt using Twitter. The initial idea was to send the participants out for a walk in the city and help them discover things they ignored during their daily rush through the streets. Their tweets were going to expose those places to all their Twitter contacts and generate awareness. I also intended to draw attention to the Open Plaques project – a fantastic initiative to build a crowdsourced database of historical plaques from all around the world.
It was part of my ongoing “Connected Limerick” pet project – trying to connect the digital and the physical layers of the city in a playful way. You can read more about the background of this idea here and get the gist about what went on by watching this video.
Together with Sharon and Tara, we ran the event for the first time on the 1st of April, as part of the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival. We included an April Fools joke – unfortunately the first team who got there bagged the fake plaque as a trophy and that was that. The date coincided with the launch of the Limerick City centre Tidy Town initiative – so one of the missions that participants had was to meet the volunteers, talk to them and take a picture.
Following the invitation of the Limerick Local Heroes, we ran a second Tweasure Hunt as part of the 4th of July celebrations in Limerick. By using the same hashtag for all the activities going on on that Sunday (#4thJulyLimerick) we managed to get the public attention by trending in Ireland that morning.
The next one is planned for Sunday the 24th of March 2013. Sharon and myself went for an exploratory walk today, to check historical plaques, odd corners and timing. We were accompanied by Laura Maye, my PhD student working on the meSch project. She is looking into possible technologies that could support museum and cultural heritage curators to make use of digital artifacts in the actual locations.
As usual here, within an hour we had all four seasons: it rained, it got cold and windy, and then the sun came out and it got really warm. And the story was repeated a couple of times. After a nice cup of tea, we continued with a walk in English Town together with one of my final year students, John Slattery, who is at the moment testing a mobile app. But more about this in another post!
Teaching is not an easy job, but it comes with huge satisfactions (and, of course, frustrations).
Every year, a new cohort of graduates that I get to know well leave the university. Actually two cohorts: the undergrads, who spend four years with us taking Digital Media Design and finishing with a BSc, and the master students in Interactive Media Design, who spend only 12 months with us, who graduate with an MA or an MSc, depending on their final project contribution.
Working with master students can be challenging – they have a thirst for learning new things and perfecting skills in the 12 months they spend with us! But it is also a wonderful opportunity for learning: they are learning from each other, as everyone comes in with a different background and skills, and I get to learn from them! One of the components of my module “Principles of Interactive Media Design” is a group seminar prepared and run by groups of students. They get full responsibility for those two hours, that include presentations, debates and class activities on a topic of their group’s choice.
Most of the times, I take part in the suggested class activities as well. As an observer at first (I get to grade these activities after all!), but sometimes I get fully immersed and almost forget I’m not there to play.
Here are two samples from this semester. The first one is from a seminar on lifelogging, where after building a collective class timeline by sharing events from our lives, the organisers suggested that we actively get involved in creating a memory for the future by creating an outfit using newspapers with visible headlines.
The second one is today’s attempt to draw a tree with my lips. We were looking at the role of the body in interacting with computers and at various modalities of interaction. What if we weren’t able to use our hands at all?!
One of the joys of academic life is that we get (a lot of) requests to review papers sent to journals and conferences.
Internally, my university recognises this type of activity as “research service”, and it is accounted for when we fill out our “academic workload model/sheet” every year. What I found out in the last two years by filling out this document was that I spend way too much time reviewing other people’s work compared to writing up and publishing my own work.
As an academic, you send your own work to conferences and journals that organise the peer-review process. So, of course, you have to oblige when asked to do the same thing for others.
Reviewing papers in your field of expertise can be a rewarding activity: you get to see new theories being developed, to read about interesting field work and the design of new services and products before anyone else. But it is a time consuming and difficult exercise. It’s a bit like gardening: after pulling out the weeds, you start working with the papers that have a chance to make it in. For some conferences, a 2 phase review process led to a lot of candidate papers blooming after a first round of reviews. And it is really rewarding to see how your advice helped improve a paper!
Having worked in various research areas over the years (from IT Evaluation, Knowledge Management and Software Engineering to Learning Technologies, Social Media and ICT for Communities), I get a lot of requests to review papers for all kind of venues. After having spent days and nights in agony reviewing papers that I couldn’t resonate with, I learnt to be more selective and actually decline to do reviews.
But the last period was particularly busy from this point of view. I accumulated 13 reviews (for CHASE, ICWSM and ECSCW) to do over a 3 weeks period. Which, on top of all my other commitments, is a lot. Especially because I also attended a 4-days very intense project meeting in Sheffield during this period – it was the kickoff of the meSch project.
I went to sleep finishing a paper review and I got up early in the morning starting another one. It is interesting and challenging, but also exhausting. And I’m here writing this blog post because I reached a block – I have to finish the last reviews by tomorrow, and then go back to working on my own submissions, due one in two days and one in seven days.
Among my favourite blogs talking about academic life, I count FemaleScienceProfessor. She has an excellent older post on doing manuscript reviews that goes into more detail on the whys and the hows here.
Limerick has an annual Lifelong Learning Festival. I remember the first time I came across this information, it was in relation to a gardening demonstration and it was back in 2011. I read the whole program and I realised how many interesting events I had missed because I was unaware of the festival’s existence.
I have the strange reputation of reading any notice, poster or flyer that falls under my eyes. To me, everything is interesting. I’d like to try everything and go everywhere. A friend called me a “culture vulture” one evening when I was leaving early from an exhibition opening to attend a dance performance in a close by location.
So last year I decided that miLKlabs, the Limerick hackerspace, had to get involved in this Lifelong Learning Festival, and somehow I managed to convince the others. We had three events over a week, and everybody -organisers and attendees – seemed to enjoy them. For the first time, we attracted people who weren’t on any mailing lists or subscribed to Facebook pages – people who read about us in the Festival brochure or heard about the events on the radio.
Looking at the Festival brochure, I’m really upset that there are so many great events I will have to miss, because they’re running in parallel with the ones I’m involved in. The Festival is a celebration of the really impressive amount of skills people of Limerick have and are willing to share. I know “there’s a recession on the radio” (Irish joke, don’t be upset if you don’t get it!), but this shows clearly how rich we are, and the kind of things we can do together!
Now please excuse me, I have to put on my various other hats and blog about these events on their own websites;)
I have been planning to return to blogging since the beginning of this year, if not earlier. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my friend Elmine Wijnia, who committed to a 66 days blogging “diet” back in 2009. She told us it was tough, but I still wanted to try!
But I put it off day after day. I am too busy to afford doing anything for myself.
It is one of the busiest periods until now this year: I have tons of reviews pending, paper deadlines, project work, exam papers to grade and so on – all on top of my teaching. But it’s now or never! I’ll have something to look forward to every day:) Or not.
I love blogging. I think about myself as a blogger. I got most of my current and many of the past students to at least try blogging. Many surpassed their master, and made me very proud. Their blogs, combining portfolio pieces with learning diaries, brought them outstanding jobs all over the world. Just like this blog mattered maybe more than the job interview when I got my first job in Limerick almost 8 years ago.
And I actually never stopped blogging: I just neglected my own blog.
I initiated a project we titled Connected Limerick, looking at the interplay between the physical city and its digital replica. And not only looking, but also engaging in it.
Then last summer I participated in an exciting project that was part of the Interactivos? workshop during the Hack the City exhibition at the Science Gallery in Dublin. And guess what? I volunteered to be the project’s voice.
At the moment, we are in the process of collating all the information we have on meetup.com on an independent website. Alan Ryan, who is doing an internship at the Interaction Design Centre at the moment, joined me as event co-organiser for this first event.
I would like to renew my invitation for the members who would like to get involved in the organisation of this local chapter of the IxDA to step forward. We’re looking for new ideas, new activities, new people to run theLimerick chapter of IxDA. We’re looking for more practitioners to join our ranks and lead the conversation.
The meetup on Wednesday opened this year’s series and was scheduled as part of the Design Week.
As the speaker we had in mind couldn’t make it for Design Week, we decided to take the opportunity to present our own work in progress:
Urban Social Technologies are information and communication technologies applied in an urban setting and with a social purpose (Pedersen and Vallgarda, 2004). Emerging at the intersection of Social Media with Ubiquitous Computing and enabled by the wide scale adoption of smartphones, Urban Social Technologies are increasingly pervading our lives. The effects are multifold and invite to reflection. A presentation by a team of researchers and students from the Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick will provide the material meant to trigger a conversation on the participants’ practices and opinions related to location-based practices, with a special focus on the Limerick urban space.
We couldn’t have wished for a better group of attendees on the night! We had a very interesting mix of people from various backgrounds, although current and former IMedia students formed the majority. The big map of Limerick we borrowed from Limerick Smarter Travel was excellent for triggering memories related to places and supporting the conversation.
The rain stopped about 10 min before the walk started, and it started again when we finished – so I guess we were really lucky! It’s been years since I walked on the Island, it was good to see how much things have changed for the better there! Over €1300 were raised this morning for the Cancer Foundation through the donations people made when registering for the walk.
Well done to Kevin Haugh, the organiser of the event, and to all the other people involved: stewards, walk leaders and especially to the walkers.
Everybody knows by now about the attraction Social Media exerts on me. I am “Social Media-curious”, and I love trying new things!
I started blogging back in 2002, hard coding a project website where I was sharing frequent updates. I started Coniecto back in 2004 and I was involved in starting and maintaining at least another dozen of blogs. I got a Twitter account in the winter of 2007, but I didn’t “get it” until I started following Leisa Reichelt, whom I met two months later at reboot 9.0. I must confess that foursquare intrigued me from the beginning and I got an account when my friends started talking about it. But without a smartphone it was kind of impossible to “get it”!
In 2010, I bought my first Android phone and started “playing”. It’s been 2 years now, and I am still struggling “to get” it. I’ve read everything that fell in my Google Reader, I’ve listened to conference presentations (the Local & Mobile Conference in Raleigh had a whole session dedicated to location-based social networks), I’ve checked in 476 times, but I am not hooked yet. Just curious!
I can’t deny having my moments of delight. I remember going to Dingle back in 2010 for a bicycle tour. I had my sandwich under an annoying drizzle out in the Marina, and checked in. I discovered that Bernie Goldbach was the mayor of the place. Next day, while waiting for the bus back to Limerick, I had the inspiration to check in again. Guess what? I ousted Bernie:) Checking in to Philly Airport on the way to a conference and getting a swarm badge was fun as well…
Ok, you’re checking in and you discover that a friend is (or was there). Or you get a free coffee after 5 checkins. You tell your friends you’re at a show everybody wanted to go to, but didn’t make it. But is there anything more to it?
When my friends are sharing their foursquare statuses on Facebook or Twitter – most of the time it makes me dream about how these places look like. Sometimes there’s a photo: foursquare is a very nice vehicle if you want to post a photo on other social networks with one click! Reading status updates from my friends is great most of the times: I know where they are, I know they are well and going about their lives. I know when there’s something exciting happening in their lives and they want to tell the world! There’s that ambient intimacy Leisa Reichelt was talking about.
Every now and again, I hear about new places in Limerick – like in the case of Canteen. A few others are extremely popular among foursquare users: LaCucina, where the food is to die for, the Absolute Hotel – my favourite place for business meetings in town, the Milk Market that got a new life and sees things happening 3 days a week now…
Adoption of Social Media applications, foursquare included, is influenced by a whole series of factors. Practices are shaped by culture, by the availability and reliability of underlying technologies, by the example of peers, and so on.
I really hope to find the time to do a foursquare study this year!