Category Archives: Workshops

Internet of Things and Food: ITaaU/FSA programme outcomes

The Internet of Things offers great potential benefits for health and well-being in many areas, not least in how we manage the production, transportation and storage of the food that we eat. Understanding how we can and should benefit from the mix of technology and process requires that a number of key sectors share thoughts, knowledge and vision. We see this discussion as needing input from policy-makers, agencies, academics and industry. We welcome participants from such areas to learn about the work of our recently funded pilot projects and to contribute to the debate on future direction of this exciting field.

This event brings together researchers from the recent programme of pilot projects run by the Food Standards Agency and the RCUK-funded IT as a Utility Network+. Key outcomes including the benefits and potential for IoT in improving security across the food chain or network will be presented. The role of data, both open and closed, will figure strongly in these conclusions. The event is targeted at researchers and policy makers in the fields of IoT, food, food security, food transportation and storage, and also wider environmental issues.

The event has been structured to present detailed discussions on Monday with an overview and more strategic discussion on Tuesday. So that policy makers might wish to attend only day 2, and academics and other experts both days or even just day 1. (do let us know if only intersted in partial attendance.)

Event details for the 7-8 March, London – further information

Food Standards agency (FSA)/ITaaU IoT projects workshop, 18 January

This event is designed to welcome funded project members to the University of Southampton and introduce them to the ITaaU and FSA teams.

In addition, we will be preparing for the larger event that we are planning in London on the 7-8 March. This meeting, which will be held in Westminster, will act as a showcase for the programme and present the outcomes of the project to a wider audience of specialists, industry figures and policy-makers.

The programme for the day is as follows:

10:30 – 11:00 – registration and coffee

11:00 – 11:30 – welcome and intro to ITaaU and the FSA

11:30 – 12:30 – intro to the 4 projects

12:30 – 13:15 – sandwich lunch in the meeting room

13:15 – 14:30 – project plans, needs and opportunities

14:30 – 15:15 – planning for the London meeting – 7-8 March

15:15 – 15:30 – wrap-up

The changing face of official record keeping in UK, Ireland and the Netherlands

Further observations from the Threats to Openness in the Digital World conference, Newcastle 24-25 November, 2015

Extreme weather metaphors were flying around at Northumbria University in Newcastle this week where the Threats to Openness conference was looking at the future of the public record in the digital age. According to the speakers, we’re facing a digital deluge in the coming decade as a result of a perfect storm of technological, political, legal and economic changes.

The fate of government records were at the heart of the discussions due to two major developments that are hitting archivists simultaneously: over a 10 year transition period that began in 2013 and involves releasing two years of records each year, records now have to be transferred to the National Archive after 20 years rather than the previous 30, and, soon, those sets of records will also be the first to be predominately digital. So, in 2016/17, digital records from the early 1990s – not least those dealing with decisions about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – are due to be processed.


This presents challenges at all levels of the transfer process, as David Willcox, digital sensitivity review lead at the National Archives, outlined. Digital records bring increases in both volume and complexity.

“We do not have dockets and files any more. We have blizzards of emails stored on different computers – a morass of stuff. The best thing you can say about it is that it’s data,” explained Tim Gollins, of the National Records of Scotland.

Two thirds of government data is held on shared drives, confirmed David Willcox. Email accounts for 50-70% of content, with one government department revealing that it had an impressive 190TB of email data.

This makes appraisal – the appreciation of the value and historical relevance of a record – more difficult. Even more challenging is sensitivity review – the process by which records are checked for compliance with data protection laws and any risks to national security, damage to international or business relations, personal information and so on. This review determines whether a record is retained by the department, sent to the National Archives as a “closed” record or opened to the public. According to Arthur Lucas, member of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Council, 75% of the documents going into the National Archives are closed, although he pointed out that transferring a document closed is not a way to “bury” a record and it is preferable to it being retained as at least it is indexed and its status can change in the future. Sensitivity review is currently done by humans, page by page, and can be a lengthy process. And it presents a real conundrum in the digital age: the nature of sensitivity review is inherently tricky for computers but sheer volume means that bringing in technology may be the only option.

Technology can certainly assist: eDiscovery tools can be used to apply categorisation or clustering to unstructured information; software can help highlight themes, events and people (which may help with reducing duplication – there is around 40% duplication in government records); 75% of exemptions from leading government departments relate to personal information and this is a good starting point for technological solutions as it should be easier for software to highlight easily identifiable fields such as names and addresses.

Research into this is crucial, and it is underway. Michael Moss, professor of mathematics and information science at Northumbria, and Tim Gollins have been working on an IT as a Utility Network-funded project to look at methods and algorithms that will enable the creation of useful tools. The CIA is working with the University of Texas on tools for CIA records. There is interesting work ongoing at Colombia University (they are “approaching record keeping from a completely different perspective,” commented Moss. “They have reconceptualised the archive from ‘a whole collection of documents’ to ‘data you can analyse’.”)

Why does this matter? “Transparency and openness,” said Willcox. “Good governance,” said Sir Alex Allen, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Cabinet Office and author of the Records Review report into the readiness of government to move from the 30 year to 20 year rule. “Good record management is not just about preserving the historical record. It’s also important for the efficient running of the office.” When civil servants are asked for advice on a particular policy issue and they know that they looked at that same issue a few years ago, they need to be able to find the papers that relate to the discussions and decisions. It is also important for audit and accountability – how do you know if a private sector company contracted to do public sector work is fulfilling its contract if you can’t find the paperwork? – and for provision of evidence to public enquiries and legal proceedings.

A cautionary tale of what happens when it goes wrong was provided by Mary Daly, president of the Royal Irish Academy. She related the woeful story of how a key government decision was made during the Irish banking crisis in 2008. Or, rather, how we don’t know how that key decision was made because the records relating to it are “inadequate. In fact, non-existent. There was a complete lack of proper procedures.”

But the public record – and the huge changes it is undergoing in the digital age – is not restricted to government. According to Jeremy Frey, professor of physical chemistry at the University of Southampton, the scientific record, which is – or should be – also a public record when it is publicly funded, is also evolving.

“We are in a liminal period. Publication is a ritual we all go through but what we’re really about now is moving from paper publication paradigm to a digital one that will allow much more.”

However, there is currently a gap between the opportunities offered by digital and, in many cases, how they are being exploited – or not.

“Scientific papers have become a repository for the argument but most of the data is missing. In the past absolutely everything was in the paper, because it could be. Scale was not a problem. That has changed,” argued Frey. If researchers do not see and value the data then they cannot be sure that they can trust that value chain…and lack of trust in the data can destroy the scientific endeavour. As well as more intelligently accessible data (a scanned copy of data in the form of an image cannot be usefully searched) there needs to be more detail on methods and, to be disseminated effectively, it needs to have a narrative: “the story that you weave around the data that is as important as the data itself.”

For the humanities and social sciences, there is a challenge rearing from a different direction. David Erdos, lecturer in law and open society at the University of Cambridge, gave a rich rundown of the current state of the EU data protection landscape, how it is set to change and why it should concern humanities and social science scholars.

Currently, derogations within the directive allow some wriggle room for particular, special purposes, notably journalism, literature and the arts. The EU is now proposing that these are contained in a “middle area” covering knowledge facilitation more generally. One area of concern for researchers is that there would be no derogation from the proactive duty to provide privacy notices if the purpose of the data use changes. While biomedical research organisations have been busy lobbying about this, Erdos said that such activism needs to extend to the social sciences and humanities research community. “I have been trying to make them aware of it and their obligations around data protection,” he said. “The whole landscape is very confused around this and research ethics and policies. Seemingly, there is very little understanding of the implications of legislation. The community needs to fight for this – that’s what the press and journalists do.” It is likely that research will end up being an area for which a huge amount of discretion is passed to member states and, so, working on a national level will be as important as the European level.

Agnes Jonker, senior lecturer in Archives at the Archiefschool, (the Netherlands Institute for Archival Education and Research), University of Amsterdam, gave an insight into how the Dutch treat access to the public record, and how it compares to the UK. Most notably, the Netherlands’ first FOI law was drafted in 1980 (in the UK the FOI act is from 2005) and so there is, generally, a more relaxed air around the concept. Which is not to say that it is without its critics – a new FOI law was proposed in 2013 (though it will not be in force for a few years) to update legislation in the light of changes to the state: with the shrinking of government through increased privatisation, third parties are escaping FOI scrutiny. However, there is no reference in the proposed new law about the duty to document.

Coming a full circle back to public records and the humanities, Andrew Hoskins is a military historian who is concerned that current developments will render uncertain the record of warfare. He is particularly worried about the reduction from the 30 year rule to 20 years will result in more records being closed. “The buffer protects those potentially subject to embarrassment or danger. But buffering time is under pressure. From 2013 to 2023, two years of records will be processed every year without a doubling of resources. It’s punching holes in the records in demand by historians. It’s not a recipe for careful selection and preservation,” he said.

Hoskins, like Frey, thinks that the “story” is crucial – and risks being lost with the move to digital files. “It shifts away the context that comes from the handling of the physical file. Without the material context, the front and behind of each file, the information might be found but the story might be lost,” he said. “A history of warfare that depends on the official records of the British army has an uncertain future. Over the 2000s we’ve seen a perfect storm of technological, economic and political change at all points from collection to collation and archiving and assessment for declassification through to their being made public by the archives – and some of these pressures result from the culture of openness that has attached itself to current technological changes without adequate resources and understanding of the issues. It’s not a recipe for improved public access. Faster history is not necessarily better history,” he warned.

What’s the answer? The conference concluded by considering potential ways of moving forward and the actions, partnerships and collaborations required for that to happen. In the words of David Thomas of Northumbria University, the ideal is to “take the archival idea and reinvent it in a new context of record making and record keeping in a new social world.” Watch this space.

Written by Michelle Pauli



User Experience (UX) Design Boot Camp – a lean approach to mobile app development (1 of 3)

ITaaU/ustwo UX Bootcamp – 11th February 2015.

This is the second of three posts on the recent UX Boot Camp that ITaaU and ustwo organised on the 11 February, 2015 written by Alix King.

Part two

To experience the methodology and processes behind user centred design when developing new apps, the groups were given a task for the day; to design an app.

The design brief

The design brief was to develop a mobile app for a gym in East London. The gym would like to attract young people via a digital platform that would also benefit the company.

The day was set out into six sections:

  1. User Testing
  2. New Assumptions and Hypothesis
  3. Sketching
  4. Prototyping
  5. User Testing
  6. A pitch to others in the workshop.

First, the groups had to set out their vision: what was the vision, and what was the overarching goal of the product?


Ustwo introduced the group to the Persona technique – a tool to help understand users’ needs. They are fictitious characters, based on real data, to create a profile. This introduces to the developer an audience, and in more detail, a person that the app is to be created for, helping to keep users in mind during a project, focusing the developer on the ultimate target user.

Draw a box

The groups were then asked to ‘draw a fictitious box’; a box-shape with the goal of cementing the idea of what each groups’ service is. After the groups drew the box, they were to give it a name, image and tagline. The idea was then to create three benefits that the service would have for the consumer. One group described the benefits from downloading their gym app:

  • To be healthier
  • Getting/making more friends
  • To enable the user to switch off from work.

Merging ideas

The groups were then given 10 minutes to share their ‘fictitious box’ ideas and to merge each idea into one service/product that they liked the most.

Declare assumptions.

Then the groups had to ‘declare assumptions’. They were to write on post-it notes what the group thought to be true about the business and the user. The assumptions were differentiated by blue post-its for the business assumptions and yellow for the user. Examples were given as ‘We assume that the business has good connections with surrounding football clubs and other sports organisations’ and ‘we assume that the user would be interested in exercising along with people they don’t know’.

Prioritise assumptions

With these assumptions, the groups were then asked to set their priority based on their level of risk and how much faith they attached to the assumptions. These were plotted on a graph of high risk to low risk, known and unknown. This was to make the group members think about what would jeopardise the proposition if that assumption was wrong.

Develop hypothesis

The next step was Developing Hypothesis. In 10 minutes, the group was tasked to transform an assumption statement into a testable hypothesis. This was completed using the following template:

“We believe [doing/creating/providing] …. for [these people/personas] …. through [this feature] …. will [achieve this] …. we will know this is true when we see [this user feedback] ….”

This hypothesis was given as an example:

“We believe that offering the opportunity to connect with other people to exercise together for young people under 25 in Shoreditch through geo-location will increase the user base of our service. We will know this is true when during user interviews the majority of participants express a positive attitude towards this feature”

The next goal was to visualise the group’s chosen hypothesis. This was done using a screen sketch template, with the team sketching images of the app screens onto paper to show a simple screen design that will be shown to users.

User Testing

The groups were then given a user to test their screen design on. Georgios and Isabelle gave the groups directions on what to ask the user, such as not to direct them and therefore gain more subjective answers.

The points were:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Build rapport
  • Ask them to speak out loud
  • Don’t ask leading questions
  • Ask open questions
  • Ask what, why, when, where
  • Take notes
  • Playback learnings to the team.

The goal for user testing was to validate if it was a desirable proposition, and to gather the user’s subjective view of the proposed app. The groups were given two users, who were chosen from the staff at Ustwo, with no prior knowledge of the app development so far.

Test one

Groups were given 20 minutes to go through their screen landing page and vision for their app with no leading questions to gain the user’s opinion of the app. Did it seem easy to use? Did the app provide the user with everything they expected to gain from the vision that the groups were offering?

The groups were told to put down their findings, one by one on an individual post it note.

Updating assumptions

From the opinions that the groups ascertained from their users, Georgios and Isabelle instructed the groups to then update the assumptions that they had gathered previously, now that they had subjective opinions from the users.

Create and test a prototype

The groups were then asked to get creative – using an app (frequently used in the industry) called ‘Pop’, the task was to draw each screen of their app idea, to take pictures of each screen, and upload onto the Pop app. When uploaded, this digital tool allows the user to see the finished app idea, with pages on a digital platform. Groups were told to think about:

  • Navigation
  • Text/copy
  • Button placement

This was a great task, as the groups could visualise their ideas in the format of a useable application.

User test 2

The idea was to test the ‘useable app’ on three different people. These were now members of the other groups. One of each of the team would go to another to ‘test’ the app, while the remaining two would stay to run the test app on the visiting user. This was circulated so every member of the team experienced being the tester and the user.

This exercise showed completely different opinions than the first user test. The groups then made notes of changes and improvement ideas that they would implement before further advancement of their app idea.

To be continued…

User Experience (UX) Design Boot Camp – a lean approach to mobile app development

ITaaU/ustwo UX Bootcamp – 11th February 2015.

Part one

This is the first of three posts on the recent UX Boot Camp that ITaaU and ustwo organised on the 11 February, 2015 written by Alix King.

Taking place in Shoreditch at top digital product company ustwo, this one-day UX boot camp was aimed at people from all sectors with the aim of providing them with a unique insight into digital development. The accelerated workshop enabled attendees to experience the innovative approaches used by ustwo for User Centred Design when developing apps. These include a ‘lean’ approach, meaning one that ensures the best possible use of agile and start-up thinking with no coding involved as well as established paper prototyping techniques to speed up the initial development of mobile apps.

ustwo – the hosts

ustwo is a global digital product studio whose vision guides them in launching products, services and companies that make a measurable difference to the world. Recent successes have included: Monument Valley, Whale Trail and Blip Blup as well as cutting edge applications for some of the world’s leading brands. Ustwo has held previous successful workshops similar to this User Experience Design Boot Camp and has gained very positive feedback from attendees.

The day was run by two UX (User Experience) Designers at ustwo, Georgios and Isabelle. After the ‘meet and greet’ session for the attendees who came from a diverse range of backgrounds, Georgios and Isabelle asked everyone to attach a name badge with the words ‘My name is … and my favourite thing is …’. A great way to break the ice; favourite things ranged from wine, to films and great coffee.

Georgios explained that as a company, ustwo were involved in digital product design and has a diverse range of clients as well as a number of joint ventures, including one with Dice, ‘the smartest ticketing app on Earth’. The presenters explained how their work has evolved at ustwo and how the lean approach has become more dominant within this process.

Explaining the lean approach

Georgios, in explaining the background and motivation for this transition, said that over time, software development had become complex and required large teams of developers to capture requirements and business processes, produce documentation, project manage and test. This was an enormous financial investment for organisations and other stakeholders. With so many people involved, there was no guarantee that the app would be successful – many software applications came onto the market and were not successful at all. This meant that the expensive process was counterproductive and could be a huge waste of money and resources.

Lean manufacturing originally came from Japan with the realisation that whilst not able to compete in quantity, manufacturers could work in small batches and deliver competitive vehicles to meet a recognised demand. This in turn influenced Eric Ries, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, acknowledged as the principle initiator of the lean startup movement who said: ‘The goal of a startup is to figure out what people want in little time’.

Course presenter Isabelle Bargh, an expert on apps for the health sector, quotes Dr Claudia Pagliari from the Centre for Population Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

‘The process of using User Centred Design (UCD) when developing interactive systems is increasingly adopted. The emphasis on determining user needs and the context in which these users will interact with the systems is of great importance in order to deliver and designing a product from the bottom-up instead of the developers, organisations or the technicians’ viewpoint.’

ustwo have brought together all of these ideas and methodologies and used them to shape their own methodology. So for the next step are asked to capture ideas relating to the following:

  • Vision
  • Assumption
  • Hypothesis
  • Experiments
  • Insights

Georgios and Isabelle then split the workshop into smaller groups and presented them with their design brief for the day. The groups were asked to use these User Centred Design techniques to develop an idea for an app based on the brief.

So the work began.

UX Boot Camp – ITaaU workshop feedback


The UX Bootcamp run by the staff of USTWO delivered an extremely useful look into best practice for ‘user experience’ delivery in the world of digital media development; all from one of the leading players in todays digital world. Although fast paced and information packed the ever cheerful USTWO team ensured we all learned in an entertaining environment, and that no one was left behind. For any, and all, of us involved in the teaching of subjects within the digital sphere, whether we are from a technical, or design background, we, I feel sure, walked away from the workshop having learned new skills that cannot fail to benefit our own students experiences in our classrooms.

Brent Meheux

New Media Lecturer | BA (Hons) Graphic Design
Southampton Solent School Of Art & Design



Libraries of the Future: Community Engagement

Workshop – Libraries of the Future: Community Engagement

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 at 12:00 – Wednesday, 26 March 2014 at 13:00 (GMT), Aberdeen, United Kingdom

This event continues the series of workshops on the theme of Libraries of the Future with a focus this time on community engagement. We are very pleased to welcome you to the Sir Duncan Rice Library at the University of Aberdeen. This new library describes itself as a 21st century space for learning and research having been opened less than two years ago. We welcome all those with an interest in the theme of Libraries of the Future and especially those concerned with outreach and community activities and related knwoledge management.

The agenda for the two day event will be as follows:

  • 11:30 – 12:00 – registration
  • 12:00 – 13:00 – welcome and introduction to the IT as a Utility Network+ (light buffet lunch available)
  • 13:00 – 13:45 – talk: knowledge management for libraries + questions
  • 13:45 – 14:15 – Community engagement – key issues?
  • 14:15 – 15:00 – break out groups – discussion of community engagement key issues
  • 15:00 – 15:20 – coffee break
  • 15:20 – 15:50 -Report back from break out groups
  • 15:50 – 16:50 – Discussion on emerging ideas
  • 16:50 – 17:30 – Identification of possible follow on actions

Evening meal – to be arranged

  • 09:00 – 09:15 – welcome coffee and pastries
  • 09:15 – 09:30 – Recap from day one
  • 09:30 – 10:00 – talk: community engagement (from the Sir Duncan Rice Library library team)
  • 10:00 – 11:00 – library tour
  • 11:00 – 11:15 – coffee break
  • 11:15 – 12:30 – community engagement – discussion
  • 12:30 – 13:30 – working lunch – agreement on follow in actions and recommendations on community engagement.

Places are limited – please register if interested.
For further information on the workshop, please contact
Eventbrite - IT as a Utility - Libraries of the Future: Community Engagement

IT as a Utility – data analysis workshop

Friday, 7 March 2014 from 10:00 to 16:00 (GMT), Southampton, United Kingdom, University of Southampton Sports Ground

This workshop will focus on the anlytic aspects of data in the context of IT utilities in the digital economy. As such we welcome mathematicians and stataticians in addition to others who have an ongoing interest in our programme of workshops.

Professor Jeremy Frey adds, “the aim of the meeting is to take a look at some big data examples where in particular the linking between items of data/information is useful and important (i.e. the network graphs etc) as well as the detailed content of the data. We are interested in the confluence of statistical, mathematical and computer science techniques that are emerging to handle complex, heterogeneous and large data sets (so for example a large amount of small complex data as well as a great deal of simpler data).”

The structure of the workshop will be as follows:

  • 09:30 – 10:00 – registration (coffee and pastries available)
  • 10:00 – 10:20 – welcome and intro to ITaaU
  • 10:20 – 10:50 – Data anlaytics, IT utilities and th edigitsl economy – talk
  • 10:50 – 11:15 – Key issues for data analytics?
  • 11:15 – 11:30 – Coffee break
  • 11:30 – 12:30 – Break out groups – key issues discussed
  • 12:30 – 13:30 – Light buffett lunch
  • 13:30 – 14:00 – Report back from break out groups
  • 14:00 – 15:00 – Plenary discussion on ideas from break out groups
  • 15:00 – 15:15 – coffee
  • 15:15 – 16:00 – Agreement on follow-on actions

Places are limited – please register if interested.

For further information on the workshop, please contact

Eventbrite - IT as a Utility - data analysis workshop