How interwoven are people with technologies? Over the next four years, five doctoral students will be investigating this question as part of the doctoral programme "doc.hci: Designing Meaningful Human-Technology Relations" funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF. As a joint undertaking of Paris Lodron University Salzburg and Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, this doctoral programme combines basic and applied research in the scientific discipline of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).
"I am very pleased that this cooperation between the university and the FH has succeeded, as our students can gain deep insights into both basic and applied research and benefit from it in many ways," says Professor Alexander Meschtscherjakov from the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Salzburg.
On five use cases (mobility, health, education, work, play), the students will investigate how humans and machines relate to each other, what it means to be or have an (artificial) intelligence in the process, and what these interactions and integrations might look like in the future. "This means that our doctoral students are looking at the use of technology, questioning it, reinterpreting it and ultimately designing it in order to gain insights into meaningful interactions," explains Meschtscherjakov.
How do people and technology influence each other?
As an example, he cites the "work" use case, which explores the challenges that arise when people work from home. What technologies then make up the workplace? What role does the environment play, including the one that is now missing? How are boundaries drawn between privacy and work? The design of new technologies or interactions is used to explore how technology and people influence each other. Another example is the use case "game". Here, the researchers want to find out what shared play in public space means. What influence does the environment, being in public, have? What new, hybrid qualities can be brought about through the sensible combination of digital and physical play?
However, there is a further significance to the examination of the respective topics. The growing awareness in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) that people and technology are inextricably intertwined also requires a reformulation of the theoretical and methodological foundations. The individual findings of the doctoral students are brought into relation with each other in order to draw conclusions for these foundations. Further cross-cutting issues arise from an ethical requirement, namely that of conducting a discourse on consequences and responsibilities in research and development. For the doctoral students, this means including questions of sustainability and diversity as an essential element in their research work.
Joint doctoral programme of university and university of applied sciences
"The first opportunity to train doctoral students together with the University of Salzburg is a confirmation of the great work we have already done with the joint master's programme in HCI. In addition to broadening the visibility of our research, the doctoral programme also enables our colleagues on the programme to accelerate their careers in the direction of a habilitation," says FH Prof. Dr. Hilmar Linder, head of the programme. "From a scientific point of view, this positive development contributes to the ability to conduct application-oriented basic research at universities of applied sciences and thus to the sustainable development of research expertise," adds the scientific director Dr. Bernhard Maurer, MSc.
The programme, which is funded by the FWF with about one million euros, also includes a specific training programme that is being established jointly by the university and the UAS. Summer schools, seminars, an international network - all this awaits the future students. For the cooperation between Paris Lodron University Salzburg and the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, the funding is another milestone: in addition to the Joint Master's Programme HCI, which was launched three years ago, the course has now also been set for the training of excellent doctoral students. This success demonstrates the importance that the field of Human-Computer Interaction has now attained at the Salzburg location.