The recipient of the 2011 award for the best doctoral dissertation completed at a Canadian university in the field of Human-Computer Interaction is Dr. David Dearman.
His dissertation, Using Community-Authored Content to Identify Place-Specific Activities, demonstrates a novel set of techniques to gather social media content such as restaurant reviews and other sources and automatically extract from them a list of activities that people might engage in at specific places within a city. The initial design followed a diary study in which participants logged their information needs for over a month, from which a framework emerged for the types of mobile information people might want. The framework was then used to design a web-based service providing structured access to activity data in support of location-based mobile applications. The method was validated through studies of two applications that used the service and a user study that compared the algorithm’s list of activities with those described by participants. A design contest was conducted to identify types of applications that might benefit from the service as well as challenges for future research.
Dr. Dearman’s work builds upon a clever but simple idea by carefully characterizing the needs of actual users and then showing how a technical solution could be applied and exploited in practice. The dissertation showcases how both quantitative and qualitative research methods were employed at different stages of the research. It also describes a vocabulary-based algorithm for matching places with activities and an API to support application development. Portions of the research have been reported in four peer-reviewed conferences papers. As the external examiner notes, “The elegance of the work is in simplicity — the concept underlying the dissertation is both unique and exciting, and it was a pleasure to read the thesis.”
David completed his Bachelor of Computer Science in 2003 at Dalhousie University. He earned his Master of Computer Science in 2006 at Dalhousie University under the supervision of Dr. Kori Inkpen, and his Doctorate in Computer Science in 2011 at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Khai Truong. During his graduate work he was a research intern at IBM Research in Almaden, California, and Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington. David currently holds a position as a Senior Research Scientist at Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, California. He has published five papers in refereed journals and 20 papers and notes at peer-reviewed conferences.
Funding from an anonymous donor established this award in 2011 in honour of Bill Buxton, a Canadian researcher, designer, and musician who has done much to promote excellence in the field of Human-Computer Interaction, both within Canada and internationally. Bill challenges how academics and practitioners think, and he inspires them to do things differently. He is a true advocate for HCI.
The award is determined through a juried process by a selection committee consisting of accomplished researchers in Human-Computer Interaction. This year, the jury was Drs. Pourang Irani (University of Manitoba), Celine Latulipe (University of North Carolina at Charlotte), and Michael Terry (University of Waterloo).