Gloria Mark on service, multitasking, creativity and fun

Gloria Mark is a Professor in the Department of Informatics at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at University of California Irvine. Gloria talks about her experiences as chair of a major conference, not just the work but also the rewards. She talks about how she moved from a Fine Arts background, painting murals on buildings, to a PhD in cognitive science and now studying the relationship between media use, attention and stress, but still being able to be creative in work. She also reflects honestly on her own struggles to manage her screen time and stress but above all she reminds us of the importance of fun and fulfilment in work.

“There are opportunities all around us and very often we are blind to them. … You have to be willing to give up a particular path that you might think you are on.”

 “Email is a symbol of work… a reminder there is work there” 

“You can practice creativity in so many ways, in conversations, in writing, in just thinking of ideas.”

“It’s important to keep some kind of fun in what you do because otherwise it’s not worth doing and it’s very important to have fulfilment.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Organising a major conference as a tremendous amount of work but being fulfilling, and value of CHI stories for understanding who are the people behind the research

4:50 Taking on a big service role as conference chair, its fit to her ‘big picture thinking’ strengths, growing into the role and learning about people

8:40 Greatest moment seeing it come together walking around the exhibit hall

10:10 Everyone has a particular talent they can contribute, encouraging volunteers and matching skills/interests and what they can contribute

11:00 Career path starting with a fine arts degree, painting and drawing, painting building murals … but not being able to see a future painting in a studio

14:00 Decision to do something practical using her maths skills, but finding bio-statistics boring, needing to earn a living and applying for a research assistant position

17:20 Being asked: “Do you think you can do research on the discovery process of artists?” Of course! Loving reading on cognitive psychology and being yelled at at her first conference

20:00 Getting into cognitive psychology PhD in decision making

20:30 “One philosophy that guides my life - it’s what Einstein says, chance favours the prepared mind. I love that. There are opportunities all around us and very often we are blind to them. But if you are really aware and open, important to be open.” “You have to be willing to give up a particular path that you might think you are on and you have to be willing to change, to veer away from it or to change completely.  And of course … you have to do it intelligently and weigh the risks and the benefits of whatever choice you can make.”

“If it connects to something that is really a part of you that is worth the risk. Because you can’t do something that you feel is not who you are or is against your belief system.”

22:50 Themes from research studying issues around multi-tasking, stress etc. How this research strand started from a personal experience, moving in 2000 from Germany working in a research institute doing only research, to an assistant professor position in the US to do teaching, writing grants, committees, service work … “to what extent am I the only one [multi-tasking]?”

25:20 Patterns seen in studying multi-tasking – sped up and intensified through use of digital media, and the more people switch attention through different screens, the higher their stress because of limited capacity of attentional resources and not replenishing resources

29:30 Extra stress in re-orienting to a new context, every email involves some new topic - “Email is a symbol of work… a reminder there is work there”; online a lot, reading email at breakfast,

32:50 Measured average duration of attention for people on any computer screen is a little over 40 secs, a cost when switching so frequently

33:40 Knowing this from research but making a difference to personal patterns? More insight – as habits are hard to break

34:40 First habit to break? To be more aware of physical environment, going outside more, interacting with people more, shifting attention from screen; but hard to break away because there are rewards for being online –the Las Vegas phenomena and random reward hits

37:30 “Another reason it is hard to pull away is because we are all caught up in this web of interconnections” – have to solve the problem on a macro level, need to think about organizational policies eg batch email times

40:25 Study cutting off people’s email in the workplace for 5 days – stress down, screen attention duration longer … variety of individual responses but at the end of the 5 day period realised life went on. But Information is too seductive

42:40 Looking after herself, honouring the art piece of her? Discovered she can be creative in different mediums not just visual and art training good for science “because I learned how to do lateral thinking” – “you can practice creativity in so many ways, in conversations, in writing, in just thinking of ideas”

46:20 Not good at pulling away from work. Too stressed and manifest in sleep patterns. Take vacations but sometimes vacations can be stressful. Don’t do enough of trying to alleviate stress. One thing that helps – “try to take care of a task as soon as possible because delaying on a task makes stress worse”. ... “It’s like a treadmill”

50:00 Final thoughts? Important to do things that are fun and interesting.

52:43 End

Related Links

Gloria's home page: https://www.ics.uci.edu/~gmark/Home_page/Welcome.html

CHI2017 conference chaired by Gloria with Sue Fussell - https://chi2017.acm.org

Lone Malmborg on academic performance measures, benchmarking and strategies

Lone Malmborg is an Associate Professor and heads the Interaction Design Research Group and the People and Computational Things Section at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark. She talks about what is happening in Denmark and ITU around performance measures for academics. She reflects on the impacts of what gets counted and how counts get benchmarked and what this means for things like publication strategies and stress levels. She also shares strategies that she has tried out in her own section to turn individual counts into cooperative activities, as well as her personal strategies.

[On performance measures:] “We know that big ideas take a lot of failing but we can’t afford failing. If we’re stuck with performance measures, we have to get the foundation of the model right or fair so we’re not measuring ourselves against something completely impossible. What is giving people stress is not having given tasks, but always having tasks you can never fulfil.”

She talks about (times approximate) … 

01:30 Her early studies, then working, and making a decision to pursue a PhD opportunity that was offered to her; PhD on limitations of formalisations

06:35 What drives her now in her research – wanting to do things that makes a difference to people, working with seniors, having agendas with a political and social part around technologies

10:00 Getting funding resources for these sorts of societal challenges being easier than for basic research; Challenges with different value systems between funding agendas with expectations vs seeing seniors as resourceful people and quality of life – a fight to get this agenda on board

12:37 Not being able to get the big funding for these areas in the same way as other areas of science

13:48 What’s going on in Denmark now re benchmarking all research and measures at IT University (all faculty ‘have to’ spend 1 million DKK (Correction: should be 878,000 DKK) each year) but being difficult when you don’t need to spend money on expensive equipment

15:34 Impacts of benchmarking of funding on culture in the university; Measurements being about efficiency, and not trusting people to do their best – introduced in all sectors; and what makes an ‘efficient academic’

18:00 Started counting teaching, ‘student production’ and various bonuses eg if students graduate on time, and how this can lead to lower requirements at exams

19:30 Now counting publication - all publication channels grouped into levels and credits/points for publication channels, and numbers of authors; Measuring how much people teach, publish, how much external funding they attract.

21:23 Long process set up by Ministry of Science and Education; being a member of one of the groups setting up the publication channels/levels; implications for new publication venues; and difficulties arguing for HCI conferences.

24:44 Creates all kinds of strange publication strategies – rather than picking exactly the right journal in terms of the topic, you pick the publication venue that gives you the highest credit; Universities then having very different ways of handling this – ITU ‘harvest’ twice a year to see points for publications, but no points or visibility for publications rejected or proposals rejected – how much work that is not recognized

27:10 Very unhealthy in terms of allowing yourself to fail, risky to try out new ideas, and supports research strategy where you never fail, but good research requires a lot of failing – see the consequences of this is boring research

28:35 Strategies for helping people in her section to deal with the stress – moving to a collective model to give people the feeling of helping each other out; Series of workshops with all section faculty once/year to discuss funding strategies and having access to an external company that helps write the applications; value for junior faculty to learn the process

32:00 Retreat idea first invented as a paper writing retreat around a conference deadline – structured writing activities – coming with an idea and leaving with a draft paper; taking shared responsibility; value of support of external companies

35:44 strategies for helping people manage stress

39:40 Her strategies as head of section – writing retreat, creating new relationships between people as side benefit, changing the way people work together

41:37 Personal strategies for dealing with this – having something very tangible as an output that satisfies her in another way e.g., cooking, eating together, something you can see the immediate result of

43:50 Being quite seriously ill giving her a new perspective, to focus on what is important; liking her job, her colleagues, but work being never ending and able to work for 12hrs/day easily; so buying a country house after illness and being immersed in picking up the weeds or painting the house that keep her attention on other activities

48:30 Going into a new managerial position and trying to make some decisions about how to be a good manager and not put stress on her colleagues; one example is avoiding sending emails to people in the evenings, also leaving office at 4:30 then people shouldn’t feel bad if they leave at 4:30; People shouldn’t work for free but can’t see how performance measures can be done in 37 hr work week

51:08 Finding arguments for other ways of benchmarking our research, not against national average but other departments in our area; a way of compromising that if we have to have benchmarks, they need to be more realistic; No other area with this amount of quality control that we have – acceptance rates of conferences as a form of quality control so why do we need another one

53:33 “Everybody is doing it the best they can. We are so longing for the honour of being a good researcher. It’s what drives us, we want to be the best.”

54:07 We have so many ways of making sure that people are doing good work. We are just creating stress that prevents people from doing deep thoughts; We know that big ideas take a lot of failing but we can’t afford failing

55:00 If we’re stuck with performance measures, we have to get the foundation of the model right or fair so we’re not measuring ourselves against something completely impossible. “What is giving people stress is not having given tasks, but always having tasks you can never fulfil. … We have to take this feeling away one way or another. … It’s so unhealthy.”

57:29 End

Related Links

Lone's blog https://lonemalmborg.wordpress.com/

Give&Take Project http://givetake.eu

Mary Czerwinski on managing people, managing stress, and the work to do good work

Mary Czerwinski  is a principal researcher and research manager at Microsoft Research in Redmond, US. Mary shares some great experiences about her role as a manager and how she plays this out practically in enabling and protecting people, and establishing a culture in a group. She also talks about some of the key insights from her own research work on stress and how to manage stress, from email management strategies, to designing technology interventions as well as some very easy practical interventions that we could all try out. A theme throughout is the importance of getting to know yourself and your values, and of planning– this is the work to do good work.

“How you choose to look at stress...” “Honouring your calendar”

She talks about (times approximate) …

01:45 Her current work and background

04:20 Managing and leading a research group

07:15 Establishing a group culture, dealing with issues, conflict resolution, one-on-ones

11:10 Insights from research on stress, managing email, choosing how you look at stress

17:00 Knowing the rhythm of your day, your priorities, and planning

18:20 Personal interventions, the ‘tools in the toolkit’ e.g., deep breathing, mindfulness techniques, new work on DBT, Pop Therapy

25:05 Challenges now with escalating pace, needing to say no more often, importance of prioritizing based on knowing what are your values

28:50 Wish for the younger generation: prioristing the important things and still having time to accomplish what you want to in work, needing to make time for family and self

30:08 End

Final notes:

Pop Therapy - https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/pop-therapy/

Mindfulness – loads of resources https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness

http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm