Tell us a bit of your background, how did you know about HCI and where did you start?
I have done my bachelor's in Information Technology in 2001 and did not know much about HCI or if there is such a field. However, I had a strong interest in designing technologies for humans. Soon after my degree, I lived in Japan for some time, and then my strong sense for technology grew much broader into pervasive computing, mobile computing, and embedded technologies in entertainment, healthcare, and transportation. I started reading more research papers in such fields and came across the term HCI in a book by Prof. Alan Dix. Since then I read many journals and conference papers to understand where does it leads and I was fascinated by how it intersects with multidisciplinary areas.
Once I return to Sri Lanka (2010), I was searching for opportunities to do HCI studies and research, but could not find any institution in Sri Lanka offering such courses or interested in offering such a field as research. Luckily, in 2011- 2012 time, I found Stanford University-USA offered an online free HCI course via the Coursera platform by Prof. Scott Klemmer. Soon as I completed the course, I found many such related courses I could learn and expand my HCI knowledge. I kept reading much research and closely followed many HCI prominent researchers on their web and social media. In 2015, I found an open invitation for researchers in the world for a Crowd Research project by a prominent HCI professor (Michael Berstein) at Stanford University and a postdoc (Rajan Vaish) who lead the project. Luckily I got selected and involved in the project for 3+ years. It was my kindergarten that I learned A-Z of how HCI research is conducted, analyzed, reported in scientific venues such as ACM SIGCHI conferences. Also, I gathered comprehensive training on what and how top tier SIGCHI conferences review scientific scholarships and who is currently leading in the field of HCI and related disciplines. Apart from virtual weekly meetings, I was able to visit the campus at least once a year and interact with the researchers on the campus, sometimes, work on other projects I was interested in relating to my Ph.D.
Overall, while taking part in the Crowd Research project, I could continue my Ph.D. at Univesity of Moratuwa with an interest in education technology and HCI. The 3+ years of closely working with Stanford Crow Research collective gave me much strong background knowledge to HCI and the ability to work with brilliant students from top tier universities in the world such as CMU-USA, MIT-USA, Stanford- USA, and IIT’s in India. I continue the same interest in the subject and since then my journey began to reach direction in getting involved in HCI as a scholarship.
Can you share some of your research work?
At the Crowd research project, I was able to co-author several key scientific contributions on designing a novel Micro Tasks crowd platform. Most of the papers relating to the design and development with the entire project spec is available in Dr. Rajan’s portfolio.
Apart from the advisors from the University of Moratuwa- Dr.Shantha Fernando and Dr. Indika Perera for my Ph.D. research, I collaborated and received valuable advice by Prof. Michael Bernstein, Dr. Mark Whiting, Dr. Thomas Stoubizts using the OpenSAP platform in designing community theories for learning at scale, one of the theoretical concepts of Communities of Practice(CoP) being articulated to platform development and organizational structure in an online learning platform. Most papers relating to that are currently under review, but other research works in relating Peer Review Algorithms, Quality Assessment, Behavioral Analysis in learning at scale platforms can be viewed at the research published in few venues — access the Google Scholar for more details.
What motivates you to be in the field of HCI?
I think the most attraction for me is that I am a people person, I believe in technology that could enhance the human ability and quality of living. To design and develop tools and technologies, understanding human behavior is crucial.
Another factor is that I love the community of HCI researchers, especially the ACM SIGCHI community, which provide more opportunities to grow as a researcher, empowers and value diverse opinions while supporting to build the theories that would enhance the value of humanity.
If any student would be interested in HCI in Sri Lanka, what is your advice for them to navigate their path?
It is extremely important to read many scholarships as possible. The trick worked for me — I narrow down 20–30 prominent researchers who conduct research in the area of my interest. I constantly follow their research publications, projects, and what their Ph.D. students / Postdocs are doing. It made easy to navigate specific research work and to be deeply involved in the areas that you care mostly.
Other than that, keeping close contact with the SIGCHI and chapters, getting memberships of these professional bodies gave many opportunities to meet and expand my network.
How would anyone reach to collaborate on research projects?
I love collaboration and most welcome to do research as teams. My interests are in HCI — Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), Social Computing, Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), Dis/Misinformation, Platform developments, Crowdsourcing.
@Dilrukshi_LK in twitter