Hackinars: tinkering with academic practice

Paper #165:  Marco Gillies, Mick Grierson and Atau Tanaka
Hackinars: tinkering with academic practice

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Please add comments and discuss this paper – the liveliness of the discussion will help us decide the most suitable papers to be presented at Alt-HCI in September.

Abstract:  This paper describes how hack days can serve as an interesting model for research group activity in HCI and computing, one that can help foster a more “hands on” ethos of collaboration than a traditional seminar series. We present the experience of Goldsmiths’ Embodied Audio-Visual Interaction research group and analyse the benefits and problems of holding hack days within an academic research group context.


5 thoughts on “Hackinars: tinkering with academic practice

  1. OK, sounds like a good idea if you are technically good enough.

    Posted by david benyon | July 17, 2012, 2:19 pm
  2. The downtime / bottleneck you experienced in the motion responsive audio hackinar could be alleviated by broadening the mission of the hack. In sicamps (http://sicamp.org/) teams also need to think about marketing and sustainability as parallel workstreams – these could be translated in to the academic context.

    You could build in the presentation skills by making a presentation video of the hack at the end.

    Posted by Dan McQuillan | July 26, 2012, 12:38 pm
  3. Thanks for the comments. I think they work well together as a critique and suggestion for improvement. To build something in a day you do need to be very familiar with the tools you are working with. In some cases this means both strong technical skills and strong specialist knowledge, but in others it could just mean familiarity with a development environment, which doesn’t have to require a lot of technical skills. Hack days are run for complete beginners using tools like app inventor, which might work for some types of research. The problem of skills also leads to the issue that Dan mentions, that in an interdisciplinary team like ours not everyone will have the skills needed for every hackinar. The parallel workstreams idea is interesting, but we would have to work out what they would be in an academic context. In academia we don’t call it marketing, but we do it nonetheless, I guess in this case it would involve documenting the work. Another important workstreams could be developing personas for possible users and working out use cases that could inform the development and testing. 

    Posted by Marco Gillies | August 1, 2012, 7:54 am
  4. I think it would be really interesting to collect a load of hack day reports and look at the various things that they describe happening – problems, unexpected bonuses, how it was planned, any changes along the way, advice for the future etc. Then you could compare that with your experiences and see if there were emergent themes in ways to run effective days.

    Posted by Michael Bernard Twidale | August 1, 2012, 10:40 pm


  1. Pingback: Alan’s blog » Alt-HCI open reviews – please join in - July 23, 2012

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