Rural HCI - Distributed Interaction on a Landscape Scale

Full day Workshop at OzCHI, 29 November 2011, Canberra Australia

Programme and list of accepted papers below, submissions can be downloaded in PDF format here.

Rural HCI is about distributed interaction and the notion of ubicomp stretched to a rural and landscape scale. The workshop’s aim is to investigate the implications of HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) on such a scale, and establish heuristics, insights and theoretical frameworks specific to this theme.

Bert Bongers (University of Technology Sydney, School of Design)
Jon Pearce (University of Melbourne, Department of Information Systems)
Stuart Smith (Neuroscience Research Australia)
Tarsha Finney (University of Technology Sydney, School of Architecture
Elise van den Hoven (Eindhoven University of Technology, NL, Department of Industrial Design)

Computer technology over the past decades has become increasingly small, and at the same time increasingly networked. Within the discipline of HCI, several fields are concerned with interaction with such a distributed computing environment, such as Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp), Pervasive Computing (IBM’s term) and Ambient Intelligence (Philips’ term), and the Disappearing Computer (EU Project).
Whereas most of the UbiComp research concentrates on the home and work environments in urban areas, more research is needed into the possibilities on the rural and landscape scale. Rural HCI is where the electronic ecology meets the natural ecology and human-made landscape. For instance, the ecological stance of permaculture is very much about distributed (rather than centralised) food production and consumption, and system design with shorter and more sustainable loops. The currently very relevant discussions around the de-centralised energy production follow this approach too.  These are examples of approaches that lead to more efficiency, less waste and generally contribute to the sustainability of practices. Rural HCI aims to bring together these important social, cultural, technical and conceptual approaches with a structured response from the field of interactive technologies, a tendency of the OzCHI conferences in general. In this case it is specifically about matching the distributed approach of UbiComp technology to the distributed approach to larger problems in society.
In rural and landscape scale HCI, a number of issues are similar as those researched in the field of Ubicomp, but it also brings its own problematics and specific issues related to scale.
Due to Australia’s geography and particular inhabitation rural HCI is particularly relevant. Although the majority of Australia’s population lives in urban areas, most of the country consists of rural areas and this is a defining element of the Australian culture. Applying design approaches of distributed interaction and ubicomp paradigms to rural situations can lead to many new insights and open up new solutions. Examples are agricultural applications, or bush fire detection (early warning) systems using distributed sensing on a large scale, water management systems etc.
The workshop aims to bring together researchers and practitioners in the field of rural-scale interaction, in order to establish what these issues are, and how to approach the problematics. The objective is to establish new guidelines and heuristics, practical knowledge, and theoretical frameworks. The intention is for the workshop outcomes to lead to a publication, for instance a special issue of an HCI journal.

Possible topics:
distributed energy generation
sub-urban scale interaction
landscape design and art
remote presence
distributed energy storage
sustainability, pollution
tele-health, remote rehabilitation,
social and cultural issues related to rural and outback
bushfire prevention
water management
remote sensing and actuating
multimodal interaction paradigms
social networking
energy harvesting
technical factors: long range wireless and mesh networks, NBN
geographic information systems (GIS)
navigation (incl GPS), mapping
information representation
indigenous cultures attitudes and knowledge relating to the land
artistic practices and responses to sustainability

9:00            Introduction of all participants, name and affiliation, key research and development areas, expectations and contributions.
9:30            Presentations of accepted papers – 10 minutes each + 5 minutes specific question time, and up to 10 minutes discussion time to encourage emergence of key issues. Workshop organisers and student volunteers gather notes and opinions.
10:30            Coffee and tea break
11:00            Continuation of presentations
12:30            Working lunch (informal)
14:00            Brainstorm – identify key issues, domain-specific problems and challenges, and areas of opportunity.
15:00            In smaller working groups discuss in further detail each of the issues – each group consisting of presenters and other participants, in a mix of academic, NGO, industry background (Coffee and tea available from 15:30-16:00)
16:00            presentation of findings, summarised in text, diagrams, scenarios, etc. of each group
17:00            Wrap up, consolidate, future plans,


• Participants are expected to submit a position paper and/or another contribution in the form of an installation, a manifesto, a demonstrator, or a prototype.

• Paper Proposals and Expressions of Interest of max. 4 pages can be submitted in any format and lay out (PDF files preferred) by the 7 October Deadline.

• Final submission format details for accepted contributions will be announced nearer the time.

• Prepare a 10-15 minute presentation for the Workshop.

14 October Paper proposals / position papers due
4 November Notification of acceptance
18 November Final papers due
Tuesday 29 November: workshop

A poster of the Workshop can be found here.

UTS University of Technology, Sydney - DAB Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building  


Bert Bongers,


Dr. Bert Bongers, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at UTS, where he leads the Interactivation Studio as a laboratory with a flexible infrastructure to support many activities in design and research in interactivating objects and spaces.  He combines insights and experiences gained from musical instrument design, interactive architecture, video performances, and interface development for multimedia systems to establish frameworks and an ecological approach to the design for the interaction between people and technology. His latest research project is on distributed interaction systems on a rural scale. He was co-chair of the NIME2010 Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, and several workshops.

Dr. Jon Pearce, Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Department of Information Systems. His research focuses on engagement and interactivity, in both educational and non-educational contexts. Commencing with explorations of how students learn physics using highly interactive computer-based technologies, his interests have extended to include the use of these technologies in broader domains, to engage people and support them in achieving positive outcomes in their activities. His current research interests weave together strands from interactivity, multimedia, engagement, learning and flow; domains of interest are education and sustainability, particularly in a social networking context. An overarching aspect of his research is to better understand how we can capture the interest of online users in order to focus their engagement on a task – the challenge being to obtain a balance between the attractive features of the media and the successful completion of the task. Jon is well known in the OzCHI community for his work on the Smart Garden Watering project.

Dr. Stuart Smith, Senior Research Scientist at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), formerly the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, in Sydney. His work is about using game and other forms of engaging feedback in therapies related to stroke rehabilitation, falls prevention, and assisted living for the elderly. Dr. Smith is involved in developing applications for the Australian National Broadband Network.

Tarsha Finney, Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at UTS. She has initiated several projects engaging rural and indigenous communities in design and architectural practices. Her research interests cross several areas: domesticity and the problem of multi-residential housing with specific knowledge of the cities of New York, Beijing and Sydney; architectural typology and notions of disciplinary specificity and autonomy; and the architectural urbanism of innovation in cities. In 2003, whilst completing a Masters degree in Housing and Urbanism at the Architectural Association London, Tarsha won the Michael Ventris Memorial Award which enabled her to conduct primary research in China looking at the Danwei Live work unit implemented by the Communist government following the 1949 revolution. In 2004 Tarsha commenced doctoral studies at the Architectural Association with the Thesis: Repetition and Transformation: The Housing Project and the constitution of the Urban Field. New York 1935-1971.

Dr. Elise van den Hoven, Assistant Professor at the User-Centered Engineering group, headed by Prof. Berry Eggen, at the Industrial Design department of the Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands. She studied Biology (MSc) at Utrecht University, with a focus on perception research. She continued working on perception while studying Human-Computer Interaction (MTD). Her final project coincided with her PhD project, which was centred around tangible interaction (giving physical form to digital data) for recollecting personal memories in the home. Her PhD-project took place at Philips Research Laboratories Eindhoven. Her organizational experience includes organising conferences (TEI08, TEI07 and Persuasive06 and others) and being on program or reviewing committees (a.o. PUC, IJHCS, HCI, CHI, TEI and Interact).

Workshop papers overview

Bert Bongers
Interactivation Studio, Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology Sydney
Rural HCI – Design and Distributed Interaction on a Landscape Scale

Jon Pearce
Interaction Design Group, Department of Information Systems, The University of Melbourne
SmartGardenWatering and Rural HCI

Francesca Veronesi
Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, University of Technology, Sydney
Living Streams, The Making of Sydney’s Georges River Augmented Reality

Marcus Foth, Christine Satchell and Greg Hearn
Urban Informatics Research Lab, and ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation, QUT
Urban Informatics for Rural Knowledge Economies

Morten Breinbjerg Rasmus Lunding, Tobias Ebsen & Morten S. Riis
Center of Digital Urban Living, University of Aarhus, Denmark
Interfacing CO?, the villain of climate change

Stuart Smith, Jamie Lennox, Thomas Davies
Neuroscience Research Australia
Interactive, NBN-enabled telehealth technology: delivering health services to regional, rural and remote Australia.

Jacqueline Gothe
Visual Communication Design, University of Technology Sydney
Communicating Fire Building Relationships & Creating Change
Reading Country

full papers in PDF here.