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For four decades, Susanne has been shaping the digital everyday life of Danes

4 October 2023

For four decades, Susanne has been shaping the digital everyday life of Danes

Susanne Bødker’s research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) has had a profound influence for decades on how we interact with technology in our daily lives and work. In September, she celebrated her 40th anniversary at Aarhus University.

Photo: Morten Koldby

IT solutions should be designed by humans for humans; digital tools should make a difference in everyday life and function like an extended arm, seamlessly integrated without us having to consciously think about it.

The research field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) plays a central role in the technology that surrounds us daily, and in the way the job market is evolving, ensuring that new IT solutions effectively support human use.

One of Denmark’s leading researchers in the HCI field is Susanne Bødker, a computer science professor at Aarhus University, honored multiple times for her research results in human-machine interaction.

Since the 1980s, this researcher from Aarhus has been involved in designing the  digital everyday life and work of the Danes, ensuring that technology develops in a constructive way and critically addresses challenges and opportunities.

Currently, she is particularly focused on how hybrid work challenges companies and employees, and how it fundamentally alters the interaction and relationship between people in a workplace, for better or worse.

– Hybrid work is only becoming more prevalent, so we need to critically consider the possibilities and limitations of technology, as well as the way we organise and lead. When a workplace with several hundred employees, for example, decides that all activities should be hybrid going forward, it imposes new demands on personnel management. It changes the very nature of work and meetings when employees must always be able to participate remotely. This affects what can be shared, when and how – it essentially changes everything participants see, hear, and experience because on the screen, we are still only ‘flat people,’ says Susanne Bødker.

Examine your organisation critically and inquisitively

When advising organisations on how to adapt to being a modern hybrid workplace, this entails considering technology, physical environments, and the managerial aspects of hybrid work.

– Companies face vastly different challenges, and the technology must be integrated into the specific context. Are you a software company with employees all over the world, struggling with the issue that people are reluctant to move to Aarhus? Are you a bank looking to replace physical customer meetings with online ones? Do you simply want people to have the freedom to work from home and only physically come into the office a few days a week? In that case, it is necessary to organise differently so people come into the office on the same days. Every company needs to address its own reality and current challenges.

Her extensive research in user interfaces and user experiences has led to new methods and theories that have gained international attention. In 2017, she received an ERC Advanced Grant of over 2 million euros from the European Research Council for research in user interfaces for complex human use of computers and the research project “Common Interactive Objects.” The goal was to explore the possibility of building open and shareable platforms and communities based on the user’s – not the computer systems’ – terms.

Most recently, she is participating in the REWORK project, funded by the Digital Research Centre Denmark. REWORK is a multidisciplinary research project where researchers, various companies, and three recognised artists explore the future of the hybrid workplace particularly focusing on new technologies that support aspects such as human needs, relational and articulation work, as well as embodiment and presence.

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News

Exhibition gave a twisted glimpse into the future workplace

3 October 2023

Exhibition gave a twisted glimpse into the future workplace

The interdisciplinary research project, REWORK, explores the future of hybrid work technologies and experiences. Three Copenhagen-based artists presented their interpretation of how technology in the near future could transform our work lives – directly and indirectly.

Photo: Thinkalike

It was a thought-provoking glimpse into the future when three Copenhagen-based artists recently presented their visions of what our work lives could look like in the future.

 

Read more (in Danish)

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News

Researchers and artists are designing the future hybrid workplace

3 October 2023

Researchers and artists are designing the future hybrid workplace  

The research project called ‘REWORK’ aims at developing the digital meeting room to make human interaction feel more authentic and personal, much like in a physical meeting.

Photo: Kulturværftet/Thinkalike

The digital meeting room has quickly become a common part of everyday life in many workplaces – a fast, easy, and convenient way to meet, regardless of one’s location.

However, the hybrid workplace has its limitations, and therefore DIREC has decided to fund a research project involving researchers from Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen, IT University of Copenhagen, and Roskilde University to work on developing the future of digital meeting solutions.

Participating in the project are also several large and small companies, and, as something new, three artists have been invited to contribute ideas and visions for the future hybrid workplace. These artists come from the Copenhagen art scene and each offer their perspective on how the digital meeting space can support the relationships and interactions between people, which are limited in today’s meeting solutions.

Seeing the world differently

Kellie Dunn is a PhD in Computer Science at Copenhagen University and has a background in the theater environment. Last autumn, she moved from the USA to Denmark, where she works full time on the DIREC project, titled ‘REWORK – The Future of Hybrid Work.’

“The artists selected for the project already work with the virtual space and, for example, virtual reality. They bring different perspectives on the challenges. How can the future hybrid workplace, for example, account for all the invisible things that happen between people – body language, shared imagery – all the unspoken elements that are part of the physical meeting between people. That is one of the themes that concern the artists,” explains Kellie Dunn.

When more people work remotely, it challenges traditional working methods in companies. For example, nuances are easily lost when we are not physically present together and cannot read each other.

“It’s a significant thing missing in hybrid work compared to the physical workplace, where it is easier for us to read each other’s body language, feel empathy, and see a situation from others’ perspectives,” says Kellie Dunn.

The project illustrates why it is essential to incorporate different perspectives in the development of digital solutions. Typically, developers design solutions that will be widely used, and often developers are men. To ensure that future solutions fit a broad majority of users, it is necessary to challenge the design process, according to Kellie Dunn.

“Collaborating with artists is not very common in research within computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), whereas within human-computer interaction, similar collaborations have been successful in the past. It is still not common in work-related research, and that’s a shame because it provides entirely new perspectives on the world.

Artists come without a lot of preconceived rules about how things should be, and they are exceptionally good at imagining the future, whereas if you, for example, ask employees in a workplace – they will typically be limited by a practical focus on how their everyday life looks right now.”

The goal is to establish more collaborations across the (tech) industry and the art world to create better products and more productive work systems, she says.

Now we have the opportunity to create the future we want, instead of passively watching as we continue to do things the way we always have.
Kellie Dunn, PhD in Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen

About the REWORK project

Home and hybrid work is here to stay, but what should these work methods look like in the future? Should we simply try to improve what we already have, or can we take a bolder approach and design a different kind of future in the workplace? In collaboration with several companies, this project seeks a future vision that integrates experiences around hybrid work.

The project includes:

Aarhus University
University of Copenhagen
IT University of Copenhagen
RUC
Alexandra Institute
Culture Yard
LTI
EventSPACE
Khora
Unlikly
KeyLoop
Lead
Bankdata
Arla

Read more about the project

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Previous events

ReWork Artistic Exploratory: Research and Art Exhibition

ReWork artistic exploratory:

Research and Art Exhibition

Come and join us when we are presenting art prototypes and research exploring the future of work.

ReWork is a multidisciplinary research project exploring the future of hybrid work technologies and experiences. ReWork collaborators include academic researchers at Danish universities in partnership with artists, cultural institutions, and companies in several industries.

Join artists Stine Deja, Jakob La Cour, Line Finderup Jensen, and Lea Porsager, along with researchers from the ReWork research project, for this multidisciplinary art event, research exhibit, and reception.

About the collaborators:

Stine Deja explores the uncanny and sometimes absurd futures of our landscapes, lives, bodies, and environments, with media including sculpture, 3D animation, sound, and immersive installations.

Jakob La Cour creates extended reality experiences and performance art that draws on ancient and traditional rituals and practices in combination and contrast with cutting edge modern technologies.

Line Finderup Jensen examines past and future human experiences and the nature of reality through videos, VR, interactive 3D animated games, and paintings.

Lea Porsager engages with physics, feminism, politics, and culture through a variety of artistic practices including tangible and intangible media such as land art and sculpture, film, text, and animation.

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News

Companies and researchers will develop digital artefacts to support the future hybrid workplace

1 December 2021

Companies and researchers will develop digital artefacts to support the future hybrid workplace

What should the next generation of Zoom and Teams look like? This question will be expored by researchers and companies in a new DIREC project led by Associate Professor Eve Hoggan. The project will gather researchers from universities all over Denmark, as well as several industrial collaborators. Hoggan will lead the project REWORK, which will re-think and develop the future of hybrid work forms.

Photo by Søren Kjeldgaard

There are a multitude of reasons to embrace remote and hybrid work. Climate concerns are increasing, borders are difficult to cross, work/life balance may be easier to attain, power distributions in society could potentially be redressed, to name a few. This means that the demand for systems that support hybrid work will increase significantly.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic, and the attendant lockdown, demonstrated the potential benefits and possibilities of remote work practices, as well as the glaring deficiencies such practices bring. Zoom fatigue, resulting from high cognitive loads and intense amounts of eye contact, is just the tip of an uncomfortable iceberg where the problem of embodied presence remains a stubborn limitation.

The research project REWORK: The Futures of Hybrid Work, led by associate professor Eve Hoggan, aims to enrich digital technologies for hybrid work. The goal is to design and develop artefacts and processes to support organizations in exploring and preparing for successful collaboration in the future.

Remote and hybrid work will certainly be part of the future of most work practices, but what should these future work practices look like?

“I think we need to aim higher than merely fixing the systems we already have,” says associate professor Eve Hoggan, and continues; “We need to be bolder and consider a different future for our workplace if we want to secure successful collaboration. And that is what REWORK is all about. We will, in particular, focus on representation of embodiment and physical surroundings in a digital/analog setting, as this is one of the most important obstacles for successful hybrid work.”

Bankdata is a company which needs such tools. To them it is crucial to be able to attract and retain the best employees. According to Peter Bering, Head of Digitalization at Bankdata, the workplace must be flexible with good opportunities for socializing, and in this regard the company’s digital products play an important role.

“The hybrid workplace is more than just a good video connection. It should also be characterized by a high level of commitment, creativity and cohesion, which is not easy to achieve with the technology we use today. But we are ambitious in this area, and therefore we have decided to engage in – and not least contribute to – the latest research in the field through a collaboration with DIREC,” says Peter Bering.

Lene Bach Graversen, Head of Facility at Arla, hopes that in the project will provide more digital tools that can support the agile collaboration at a distance.

“Like many other companies, we do not know exactly what will happen in the future. We hope that the feedback and knowledge we gain can direct our focus towards what tools are needed by the employees to optimize their online meetings, which have become a regular part of our work. Many of our employees work both at home and at the office, and we see that it offers advantages as well as disadvantages. We need to look at other available tools and how to develop them so that we can continue to support our employees. The strength of collaborating is that you learn from each other.”

Mads Troelsgaard, CEO and co-founder of SynergyXR, participates in the project to knowledge-share with the universities, but also because they want to make their AR/VR and Mixed Reality platform available for the project. For the past ten years, SynergyXR has developed AR/VR and Mixed Reality applications for some of the largest companies in the world.

On their platform, you can meet colleagues in Hololens, with VR glasses or in a room on a PC, and in this way explain complicated knowledge on a completely different level than is possible on Zoom or Teams. The companies may also upload videos, photos, pdf files or other, and in this way establish their own AR/VR setup. They build ‘the corporate metaverse’, where companies can build their own metaverse.

A lot of things appeal to us in this collaboration. We have a platform that is easy to access, and which provides the opportunity to meet in a completely new way, and which changes the way companies collaborate at a distance. In addition, we would like to contribute with our many years of experience as tech specialists within XR technology. In return, we hope to gain a lot of new knowledge both about what’s happening out there, but also to get feedback on our platform. We can also help train future employees to better understand the potential of XR technology which is another advantage. In this way, we see a lot of ‘wins’ from the collaboration”.

About DIREC – Digital Research Centre Denmark

The purpose of the national research centre DIREC is to bring Denmark at the forefront of the latest digital technologies through world-class digital research. To meet the great demand for highly educated IT specialists, DIREC also works to expand the capacity within both research and education of computer scientists. The centre has a total budget of DKK 275 million and is supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark with DKK 100 million. The partnership consists of a unique collaboration across the computer science departments at Denmark’s eight universities and the Alexandra Institute.

The activities in DIREC are based on societal needs, where research is continuously translated into value-creating solutions in collaboration with the business community and the public sector. The projects operate across industries with focus on artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, algorithms and cybersecurity among others.

Read more at direc.dk

REWORK

In ReWork, the following parties will participate as collaborators:

  • Aarhus University
  • Copenhagen University
  • IT University of Copenhagen
  • RUC
  • Alexandra Institute
  • Catch (Center for Art, Design, and Technology)
  • Microsoft Research, Cambridge UK
  • L&T InfoTech
  • Khora
  • Zimulate
  • KeyLoop
  • Studio Koh
  • Synergy XR
  • Lead
  • BEC
  • Cadpeople
  • Bankdata
  • Arla

Contact: 
Eve Hoggan
Department of Computer Science
Aarhus University
M: +45 93 50 85 56
eve.hoggan@cs.au.dk

Follow the project on cs.au.dk/rework or on Twitter @ReWork_Direc