Dream Fellowship: Engaging People, Stretching Minds, Meshing Creativity

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Computer Science


Our growing dependence on 'smart' technologies is arguably leading us to be poorer and less creative intellectually than we were. For example, Smartphones and Sat-Navs are beginning to take over more of our cognitive brain functions, replacing and augmenting parts of our memory, such as reading maps, storing numbers while telling us when to exercise, etc. - processes that once would have required considerable cognitive effort and social negotiation to accomplish are now navigated for us by computers and android devices. Soon it will be Smarthomes and Smartclothes telling us how to live and what to wear.

My vision, 20 years on, is quite different; one which views ubiquitous computing as engaging and exciting. Not relaxing but provocative and playful. And where people - not computers - are the proactive ones. This stretching of minds requires thinking about designing technologies differently; not always to be acting on our behalf or reducing the need for human effort - but that enables people to be more creative, imaginative and be able to solve increasingly complex problems. It involves thinking about how emergent technologies can profoundly change how we live - not only to monitor, guide or aid us but to empower, galvanize and augment.

My starting point will be to study ageing and cooking. At first blush, these two domains may seem quite disparate but by juxtaposing the challenges of one with the understandings of the other, I plan to move back and forth between my vision of proactive and engaged people and a targeted population, in terms of specific skills and activities. For example, it will involve traversing between the intense collaboration that happens in restaurants and canteens with the wisdom and maturity that come with growing older.

In sum, my dream is simple but profound: a vision of the future where all humans, augmented by novel combinations of embedded computers, can begin to think the unthinkable. In contrast to the prevailing motivation behind much of today's technology development - making our lives more comfortable - my mantra is making people more proactive.

Planned Impact



10 25 50

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Rogers Y (2014) Never too old

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Clear A (2013) Green food technology

Description Creativity is an aspiration many of us
have and want more of - whether it is
at work or in our dreams. But we can't
all be the next Pablo Picasso, Michel
Roux, Vaslav Nijinsky or Albert Einstein.
What will it take for us to be more
creative - especially for those who
have had it beaten out of them at
school and further stifled at work?
There are a plethora of manuals and selfhelp
books on creativity, expounding the
virtues of intuition, dedication, imagination
and daring to be different. They offer
advice on how to reach new heights and
ways to free up one's creative impulses,
through instilling a creative confidence
(Kelley and Kelley, 2013) or creative culture
(e.g. Maisel, 2000). The wisdom proffered
is in the form of can-do know how: start
by being deeper, more mindful, and
connecting with your inner and outer selves;
then be more ambitious and let your guard
down more often. In doing so, contravene
rules and norms, think the non-obvious and
dare to cross boundaries.
I take a different tack.
Instead of offering up more 'out of the
box' guidance, I explore the necessity of
marrying creativity with 'being out there'. By
this I mean understanding the importance
of having a diversity of relationships
with others through words, acts and
collaborations. Successful creativity arises
from sharing, constraining, narrating,
connecting and even sparring nascent ideas
with others, both in the flesh and through
the web of social media. The secrets behind
creative people manifest themselves often
in the way they play out their collaborations
in the context of their work.
Exploitation Route New ways of thinking about creativity and technology design and use in a variety of domains and contexts. A new way of rethinking ageing and technology design.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjcgAh0Eu94
Description The findings have been used to rethink ageing as wisdom and engage retired people in a variety of activities, including programming and electronics. I was invited to give a number of talks to non-academic audiences including U3A groups, while running workshops in Australia and South Africa.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal