Ubiquitous Computing Project Course 2007-08

The past two years, I have been a teacher at the Ubiquitous computing project course of the Interaction Design programme of the IT-University in Göteborg, Sweden. In 2007, I was hired as the course’s teaching assistant, technology and project supervisor (course responsible: Dr. Olof Torgersson). In 2008, I was made course responsible.

Although also taken by students from the highly technical Intelligent Systems Design programme, the “Ubicomp” course is part of the Interaction Design Programme and mainly focuses on design methods, user experience, and impact on society and everyday life in general of implementing the ubiquitous computing vision. It aims to give insights in the theory and philosophy of ubiquitous computing as well as practical skills in developing such systems. The course, which welcomes a variety of students from different academic and cultural backgrounds, consists of both theoretical and practical parts:

- The theoretical part presents the history and development of ubiquitous computing from research to applications. Lectures and literature seminars provide theoretical grounding and reflection, with in-depth discussion of classical ubiquitous computing projects, critical approaches to the field, and design methods. This part also includes a series of design exercises.

- The practical part of the course consists mainly of a large 5-weeks-long project. Students in small groups apply the prototyping skills acquired during the Physical Computing course to define and develop a working prototype of an embedded computer system with novel interface components using sensors and actuators, in combination with user studies. Applications developed during this phase are usually of playful nature and put an emphasis on enjoyment of interaction. Students also have to write a report (in 2008 also a conference short paper or a submission to a design competition), document their project on a website, present it publicly during an exhibition, and pass a home exam about topics of ubiquitous computing.

In 2007, my role in this course was to contribute with my theoretical, methodological and practical knowledge of the field, assist Dr. Olof Torgersson in structuring the course and deciding its theme, outline, content, and activities, as well as set up a literature list for the seminars, give lecture about locative media and sustainable design (theme of that year’s course), and compile a database of relevant information about “locative media and sustainable design” on a website specific to the course, in order to make it available to the students together with the powerpoint slides of my lecture [link]. I also contributed to the discussions during the literature seminars and supervised design exercises. My duties within the practical, project-based part of the course was to supervise and assist the student projects (design-wise, process-wise and technically), thereby helping the students get embodied understanding the field of ubiquitous computing and its technical and design issues. The projects (some of which received sponsorship from the industry and public service organs) were presented publicly during an exhibition at the university, which I helped setting up and advertize (see projects list here). The exhibition received press coverage from the biggest local newspaper and from national Swedish Radio. I also contributed to the evaluation of the project reports and presentations, and helped evaluate and grade the exams.

In 2008, as course responsible, my duties in the course included all those from the previous year but with a greater level of autonomy and responsibility, including administration aspects and all course content and communication. The theme of the 2008 course and final exhibition was “interactive furniture and ubiquitous domestic environments”. For one of the lectures, I invited Dr. Johan Redström (head of design at the Interactive Institute) to describe his institute’s research in the field. Student projects (some of which received industrial sponsorship this year as well) ranged from an augmented coffee-table that displays digital properties of everyday objects, to furniture that prevents you from over-using your computer, to various augmented everyday objects, home automation systems or ambiant displays of power consumption in the home (complete list of projects here – projects documentation currently in progress). I also tightened the continuity between the course and the Physical Computing course taking place earlier in the term and that is meant as a preparation for the Ubicomp course. Finally, I continued to develop collaborations between the programme and the C:Art:Media programme of the Valand School of Fine Arts and with the School of Design and Crafts (HDK) – collaborations which I had initiated earlier in the term and that has so far resulted in shared seminar, exhibition invitations, study visits, up-coming workshops in commun and hopefully future collaborations between the different students in their projects.

Course websites (including lists of student projects, teachers, etc):
- Ubiquitous Computing Course 2007 (more information on this webpage)
- Ubiquitous Computing Course 2008
- Spread about the 2007 student exhibition in Göteborgs Posten: [link]
- Interview about the course on the national Swedish Radio
- Articles about the 2008 student exhibition in Göteborgs Posten: [link]
- Interview about the same exhibition for the home decoration magazine Villa & Fritid