UbiComp 2013 Social Media ChairWelcome to “Episode IV” of our “Meet the Team” series 🙂 Today I interview Simon Mayer and Christian Remy, who run the Student Volunteers at UbiComp. Both started their PhD studies about three years ago – Simon in Friedemann Mattern’s group at ETH Zurich, Christian in Elaine Huang’s group at the University of Zurich.

Simon, Christian – thanks for being available for this call. Could you tell us what “running the Student Volunteers” means?

SV Co-ChairSimon: Well, anything related to student volunteers, really. This is a lot of work, so we split this up among the two of us. I’m responsible for communications, which started with drafting the call, collecting applications, selecting students and inviting them. We also prepare the SV shirts, so that participants can quickly identify who is able to help them. Oh, and I also get to organize the SV party, which is probably the most fun part of the job (laughs).

SV Co-ChairChristian: My role is operations, which includes defining the individual tasks, planning the daily work schedules, and finally – with Simon’s help – overseeing the work during the 5 conference days.

What were the biggest challenges so far?

SV Co-ChairSimon: For me the selection process. We received over 100 applications for our SV call, and many students put a lot of effort into their application. We wanted to make sure that our selection process paid justice to these efforts, so it took us a lot of time to review each application. We also wanted to make sure that the student volunteers would represent the full breadth of the UbiComp community – in terms of background, demographics, and experience. It was a long way!

SV Co-ChairChristian: My biggest challenge right now is the elicitation of tasks. Identifying all the little things that need to be done isn’t straightforward, but we need to make sure that none of the crucial jobs that keep the conference running get forgotten! Though I fear the most difficult challenges are still ahead of us: as the conference approaches, properly balancing those jobs between our 40 student volunteers and putting everything into one big work schedule; and at the conference, making sure that everything runs as smoothly as we hope it will.

SV Co-ChairSimon: We very much want the SVs to enjoy their experience at UbiComp, because a happy student volunteer makes for happy conference attendees!

Sounds quite complex. How did you prepare for this? Have you volunteered yourself before?

SV Co-ChairChristian: I read a good book (laughs)! No, seriously, I have indeed volunteered at other conferences before (ITS 2009, CHI 2013) and helped organizing some smaller workshops (LUXS 2011, Greenhackathon at ICT4S 2013). In particular the CHI SV experience helps a lot in terms of preparation. My goal is to copy ideas that worked well but improve things that caused frustration for SVs in previous conferences. Fingers crossed!

SV Co-ChairSimon: I never SVd before, but have been to the last few iterations of UbiComp and Pervasive and certainly picked up some good ideas there. Plus, Juliane (Wessalowski) and Gabriela (Marcu), the SV Chairs of MUM 2012 and UbiComp 2012, offered some great hints that helped me get started in the beginning.

This sure will keep you very busy in the upcoming weeks. What would you usually do if you wouldn’t spend all your time on this?

SV Co-ChairChristian: My PhD research focuses on Sustainable HCI, and within that domain I’m particularly interested in issues around consumer electronics. I believe that UbiComp can help to counter the rapid turnover cycle by encouraging longer ownership and use of electronics devices. I’m looking into means how the design of consumer electronics can foster attachment between device and its owner and encourage longer use.

SV Co-ChairSimon: I’m working on ways to facilitate the interaction with smart things, both for other smart things and for human users. It looks like using Web technologies for smart things can be of great help here –the domain that I’m working in is actually called the “Web of Things”. It’s all about using the Web as an application layer for smart things interaction. I also run the “WoT 2013” workshop at UbiComp this year (www.webofthings.org/wot), on Monday the 9th. Otherwise you can also find me at the poster session on Thursday where I will present two posters 🙂

Many thanks for sharing this with us Simon & Christian!