People of ACM European Chapters - Kellie Morrissey

February 13, 2024

How did you initially become interested in health technologies?

I first became interested in health technologies during my undergraduate studies in Applied Psychology. At the time, the degree program brought together both topics in a really engaging and practical way. The focus on application made me realise that there was a way to apply theory to design, and for me the design of technology was a fascinating area to start. Similarly, health psychology is a great match for Human-Computer Interaction because it is often interested in improving people’s health and wellbeing through non-pharmaceutical means—the psychosocial component is very strong, which is happily the same in much HCI and health research. My PhD focused on the design of music technologies for people with dementia living in residential care. Engaging with the literature at the time and going to conferences and events (including ACM events) made me realise that there was a whole community of designers, developers, and researchers out there who were invested in improving people’s lives in a practical manner by engaging with topics such as lifespan development, mental health, and reproductive health. It’s easy to sustain interest and find a sense of community and purpose in this field.

In your area of research, what recent advance/emerging subfield will yield important advances in the years ahead?

At this point, I think it’s clear to see that AI is going to be dominant in the area of HCI in many ways over the coming years. In the field of health technologies, this brings along a lot of possible advantages, so I’m trying to remain (very) cautiously optimistic about it. I think that there is a very strong sense of ethics and responsibility within the HCI community that I hope will curtail at least some of the negative aspects of AI. In that way, I think that this ethical sensibility is also coming to the fore in HCI and continuing to evolve and deepen by drawing from other disciplines. I’m also a member of the SIGCHI Research Ethics Committee, so I see this firsthand—both in the way that authors are writing their papers, as well as the ways in which the conference and publication systems are demanding better ethical oversight and making space for authors to discuss this.

Will you tell us about us about some of the regular activities or upcoming plans for the Ireland ACM SIGCHI Chapter?

I think this is a really exciting time for the Irish Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) community. There is a real network of great HCI researchers in Ireland at the moment, with many areas of overlapping interest. Prime among them is healthcare HCI, so I’m very happy to be a part of this community. In terms of our events, I should first state that we recently had our annual Irish HCI symposium in Dundalk Institute of Technology hosted by Julie Doyle and Kieran Nolan, and it was a really wonderful event. It’s a one-day symposium that aims to showcase the range of HCI work being published by Irish researchers at the moment. We currently have an open call for institutions to host the 2024 Irish HCI, which is typically in November, so I’m really happy to hear from any Irish institutions who would be interested in talking about this with myself and the other officers.

This event really whetted our appetite for the upcoming ACM International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) in Cork in February. The conference theme is “On the Edge”, reflecting our location in Ireland. As the website states, this “sometimes results in a sense of disconnection but also of opportunity and openness.” We are putting together a very exciting programme and can’t wait to welcome attendees to a city that fairly rarely hosts ACM events. Speaking of location, we typically have a good contingent of Irish HCI researchers attending CHI, so I imagine that it may be the case this year as well, even though the event is quite far away from us. We managed to get a great group pic in Hamburg, so here’s hoping something similar will happen whether online or in Hawaii.

Beyond this, we try to organise some informal events in the community every year. This summer, Trinity College Dublin hosted a workshop on research methods in HCI, and we are already talking about doing something similar in 2024.

What advice would you offer a younger colleague just starting out in the computing field?

Although my PhD was very much in the field of HCI, I felt real discomfort when I moved to a School of Computing in 2016 for my postdoc. Most of that was a lack of confidence and unease with the limits of my own knowledge in the field. I think my advice to anyone who’s doing something similar—moving into a different field or working in an interdisciplinary way--would be to lean into the discomfort. I made really great friends during my postdoc, which was in Open Lab, Newcastle University, and I stayed there for a number of years and still work with them. My best collaborations were between people with different understandings of how the world works, how knowledge is produced, and how evaluation is done. I cherished the time that I got to spend with people outside of my discipline, whether they were software developers, industrial designers, or clinicians. It’s a balance—it helps you to quickly discard your ego in these situations, while also being very clear of your own capabilities, and in the same way, not underestimating them.

Kellie Morrissey is a Lecturer in Applied Psychology at University College Cork (Ireland) under the Collective Social Futures programme. Her research interests include design for women’s health and ageing, qualitative methodology in HCI, and the responsible design of social media platforms.

Morrissey is the Chair of the Ireland ACM SIGCHI Chapter.