Dr. David Kirk

Mixed Reality Lab, School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham

dakirk_@_microsoft.com (remove underscores)


MSc Project Ideas

This page lists some project suggestions (some more specific than others) for the academic year 2008/2009. If you're interested in any of the specific projects or have an idea that aligns with any of the more general areas I've listed below then send me an email and we can discuss your ideas. I'm currently in Cambridge so email is the best means of contact, although I will be visiting Nottingham before April 24th should you wish to discuss project ideas in person.


I am happy to supervise projects in any area with a strong user focus, using any of a variety of methodologies, quantitative or qualitative. So user interface experiments and lab studies are fine as are more situated, ethnographic and qualitative studies in broad aspects of HCI, CSCW and Ubicomp. In particular studies of photoware and practices surrounding digital photo (and video) creation, management and sharing would be interesting and any ideas you might have for studies in the area of technology heirlooms would be welcome.


Specific Projects

I do however have a few specific project ideas which I would be very keen on supervising – so my preference will be for students who are picking up some of the following projects:

1) The Bequeathing of Digital Data

I’m interested in having a student explore what happens when people inherit large amounts of digital data. This might be from someone deceased leaving digital data behind (old PCs etc) or from someone ‘down-sizing’ and re-organising their life and passing data on. This will be a qualitative study which will explore the issues that people are having to deal with in this newly emerging situation and will help to develop guidelines for the management of these kinds of processes and possibly point to new avenues for technology and service development in these areas.

2) Heirloom transitions

I’m looking for someone who might be interested in doing some fieldwork exploring how and why people give others heirlooms. What does it mean for an object to be an heirloom? From understanding how and why people pass on everyday sentimental artefacts this project will help to derive criteria for the design of inheritable digital technologies, suggesting ways in which we might design digital artefacts, to which people will have a richer emotional connection and which might push technology designers away from current ideals of planned obsolescence.

3) Online memorials

I’m looking for a student who would be interested in exploring (the admittedly somewhat depressing) world of online memorials. I’d like someone to unpack the practices surrounding creating on-line memorials and visiting them. And to develop an understanding of why people create them, how they feel about them and how they feel they should be managed. This would require an interview-based study (presumably mostly using online-interviewing methods) and requires a mature and tactful student who is interested in doing some serious research in a difficult but intriguing area of on-line social experience.

4) Experimental bias in user studies

Another possibility for a study is to explore the role of experimenter bias in usability evaluations. I’m interested in finding a student with an interest in social psychology and user studies who would be keen to design and conduct an experiment to explore whether standard usability evaluations (in which two or more versions of an interface or technology are compared by a user) are influenced by the users’ belief that the experimenter has invested more effort and time in one of the designs so as to examine the extent to which this influences users’ evaluations of the technology making them disregard genuine usability problems.

5) Digital storage practices

I would also be interested in supervising a study of digital storage practices, looking at the various ways in which people store their digital data, the devices they use, common back-up strategies, how experiences of data loss influence people’s practices and specifically how people compare on-line storage services with physical media storage devices, examining whether people have more faith in on-line storage and if so why, and discussing how this is affected by considerations of data security.


Last Modified: 4th March 2009