I am Sergio Sayago. As of September 2019, I am a faculty member at Universitat de Lleida (UdL), based in its new (2018) Campus Universitari Igualada – UdL. I hold a PhD Cum Laude in Computer Science / Human-Computer Interaction by Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF, 2009). I hold two degrees in Software Engineering by UPF (2002, 2004). I have worked thus far at five universities: University of Barcelona (2016-19), UdL (2014-16; 2019 – now), UC3M (2012-14), University of Dundee (2010-12) and UPF (2004-10). I am a Computer Scientist with a strong interest in the human side of digital technologies.
RESEARCH: My principal research interests are in Human-Computer Interaction / Digital Technologies and Ageing from an Ethnographic approach. My vision of Computer Science is about what people (can) do with computers. In my view, computers are, in a broad sense, no longer only just for computation, and end-users are the key measure of the success or failure of most of those digital technologies designed to be used by humans. Hence my interest in Human-Computer Interaction. Despite the central role of people in Human-Computer Interaction, an ever-increasing ageing population, and the fact that all of us will eventually grow older, older people have largely been overlooked in Human-Computer Interaction research until relatively recently (2000s, approx). A key tenet of Human-Computer Interaction is to know your user/s, the task/s they carry out and the context/s where users interact with technologies. Ethnography, which is is widely seen as a research method – I see it more as a way of knowing and living – enables us to develop a profound understanding of these three key issues.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS: Within Human-Computer Interaction, we always strive, or should do, in my view, to have an impact on people – beyond citations. My research, which adopts an ethnographic approach, has contributed to improve some aspects of the lives of most of my participants. By teaching (in Barcelona, Dundee and Madrid thus far) older people interested in technologies how to use computers over extended periods of time, I have enabled them to feel (and be) more social and digitally included. By observing and talking to them while using digital technologies, my participants have shaped my research agenda, taking on a central role in my activities and contributions. My research has introduced a change of paradigm (from Human Factors to Social Actors) and a methodological approach (ethnography, which has become more mature over time and evolved into a ‘turn to community’) to Human-Computer Interaction research with older people. Much research in this field regards older adults as individuals with a set of declines in need of help, and has typically been conducted in laboratory conditions or by using surveys. After years of ethnographic research in adult educational centers and computer clubhouses with active and motivated older people with different cultural backgrounds, my research has introduced an alternative view of older adults in HCI. Older people, who do have a set of age-related declines in functional abilities, might aspire to be active, ordinary, social and independent computer users. These contributions are mostly theoretical or conceptual. Theory is very important in engineering and sciences, in general, and in HCI, in particular, since they enable us to frame the design and development of technologies, and understand technology use and surrounding issues. In more practical terms, these contributions have thus far paved the way for worth playing digital games, in which older people can both play and create their own games, and suggestions for improving guidelines and techniques for web accessibility. These contributions have also deepened current understanding of the relationship between computer programming and older people, and devise ways of making computer programming more appealing and meaningful to them.
RESEARCH PLAN: My long-term research goals are to understand and improve ageing (and living) with existing digital technologies, and to bring insights developed from ethnographic studies to help in the design of technological tools that will be a good fit for people who use them. I aim to keep pushing the boundaries of HCI research with (and for) older people. I am currently looking into (a) Conversational User Experience, mostly (embodied) voice assistants and chatbots; (b) Computer Programming for All, programming learning experiences; and (c) Human-AI interaction, exploring AI as a design material and trust. I am also very interested in Cultural HCI. I am looking into older people’s experiences of digital use from a cultural perspective, and the extent to which HCI has addressed culture thus far. I also aim to understand better the role of ethnography (in its different versions: sensory, online, …) to understand technology use by older people and make methodological contributions to HCI. To achieve this goal, it is my conviction that interdisciplinary research is of the utmost importance. I am very fortunate to be able to collaborate with colleagues from different areas, from Computer Science and Sociology to Psychology, Information, and Communication, at the universities of – I intend to keep this list growing – Abertay (Scotland), Monash (Australia), UPF, UOC & UB (Spain), College Dublin (Ireland). I am also open to collaborations and very willing to work with other user groups, as doing so can (and should) allow me to achieve my research objectives, and satisfy my scientific curiosity.
RESEARCH IMPACT: Since 2010, when I published my first journal paper (indexed in the Journal Citation Reports list), I have published 15 journal papers (12 Journal Citation Reports, 3 Scimago) in the Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index. I am the first or second author of 14 of them – 7 of them in the last 5 years (2015 – 2020). Since 2010, I have published 9 book chapters published by Springer (LNCS) and Routledge. I am the first or second author of all of them. In the last 5 years (2015-2020), I have edited 2 books – one of them as the main editor, with over 6K downloads since March 2019, published in Springer Human-Computer Interaction Series – and a special issue. I have co-supervised 3 PhDs to completion. I have over 8K reads in ResearchGate since 2014. The number of citations (in Google Scholar) is now 948 (h-index: 16, i10-index: 25), which is a modest number as compared to other much more established, and older, research areas. Yet, this number of citations is important in my area, I am among the top 40 researchers in the category ‘older people’ in Google Scholar. The number of citations is also important within the context of an interdisciplinary research, which is difficult to achieve (for example, with papers published in the journals of Games and Culture and CoDesign, and chapters in books published by Routledge). I have also published in ACM conferences, such as CHI, CHI PLAY, MobileHCI, W4A, and CUI. I have also published in Interacción (Spanish CHI conference). I have published all these papers while taking part in 10 EU projects, coordinating the work package of evaluation of 6 of them, and doing UX research in the other 4. I have managed to secure approximately 500K euros for my universities in competitive calls for funding (WorthPlay: 245K euros, digital games and older people; Life 2.0, 200K euros, independent living; AGORA 4.0, 50K euros, 3D printing and programming with vulnerable people at risk of social exclusion, funded by FGCSIC-la Caixa, UE, and Barcelona City Council. I have not coordinated any project because being the IP is very difficult (if not impossible) when you are a post-doc.
LECTURING: I have been lecturing over 15 years. I have lectured at 4 different universities in degrees of Computer Science. The total number of lecturing hours is over 1.500 (both theory and laboratories). I have coordinated 8 undergraduate courses (Data Structures, 3 courses; Object Oriented Programming, 1 course; Software Management and Quality, 2 courses; Interaction Engineering, 1 course; Databases, 3 courses; HCI, 1 course; User Experience, 1 course; Software Engineering, 1 course), most of them mandatory, and 1 post-graduate course (Design and Evaluation of Interactive Products, 1 course). Undergraduate lecturing is more extensive than postgraduate lecturing because I have been asked to lecture in those courses where my universities needed more help. The assessment of my lecturing activities by my students is very good – excellent. I care about them and take very seriously their comments and criticisms. I have supervised approximately 40 students’ dissertation projects on HCI / CS topics with several user groups (web, mobile apps; young and older adults, children, professionals…). I am the organizer of the annual workshop on learning technologies and methodologies at EPS-UdL (Igualada Campus). I have published 2 papers in CIDUI (International Conference on University Teaching and Innovation).
LECTURING PROJECT / PHILOSOPHY: Putting my students first is the hallmark of my teaching philosophy. My lecturing project for the next 5-10 years aims to explore the role of potentially more human technologies, namely smartphone-based voice assistants, which students wear in their pockets all the time, and methodological approaches with an active participation of the students, i.e.s peer teaching and assessment, in teaching Computer Science in the classrooms of universities of the 21st century. I have highlighted classrooms, either physical, virtual, or hybrid ones, because I consider that much of the value of higher education and universities lies in the interactions between faculty and students. The relevance of interaction (and therefore, communication) is particularly evident in times of social distancing (COVID-19). I believe that higher education is deeply intertwined with digital technologies, and the classroom of the future should make the most of them. Society changes and universities should change accordingly. We no longer live in the Industrial Revolution. Our students – at least, those in Computer Science – have grown up with digital technologies and expect to use them everywhere. I also consider that students should play a central role in their own education, because the courses / modules are for them, not for us (the lecturer). We – the lecturers – are not the owners of the modules we teach. This impacts on how I design the curricula of the modules and the activities I conduct as a lecturer. I ask myself what my students should do to learn and how I can facilitate it. I do so by providing them with frequent and constructive feedback, establishing an open relationship, and playing active roles, from sage on the stage to guide on their side, among other aspects. I also believe that ‘teaching is to learn twice‘. Hence, I introduce activities in my classes wherein students play a very active role, such as ‘teacher for a day’, or engage in activities within the context of the flipped classroom – to make the most of my interactions with my students.
CAREER: I have developed my academic career at 5 universities (4 in Spain, 1 in Scotland), with two competitive post-doctoral fellowships (Beatriu de Pinós, acceptance rate 25%; Alliance 4 Universities, best young doctors to four top Spanish universities – UC3M, UAM, UAB, UPF. I have also worked as a visiting lecturer (6 years) in 3 universities. The international mobility could have been wider without the teaching load associated with temporal contracts.
SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY AND OUTREACH: My contribution to the scientific community is growing – and I would like to contribute more in the future. I am Associate Editor of International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. I am PC member of ACM Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI) and ACM Conversational User Interfaces (CUI). I was member of the Organization Committee of ACM Mobile HCI 2018 and First Lego League Igualada 2019. I have also served as the external examiner of two PhDs (Portugal, Australia). I was member of the advisory board of the (EU) BRAID project, external reviewer of the FP7 Value Ageing project, and meta-reviewer of ACM-W4A 2012. I have reviewed papers for ACM-CHI and HCI journals. I contributed to set up, and review applications for, UPF-CIREP (ethics review board). I have also organized workshops on programming to introduce students in secondary education (in Spain, 14-16 years, approx) to aspects of Computer Science and Software Engineering. I set up the TIDIC Seminars (a research seminar for students, faculty members of the EPS, students in the Igualada Campus, and ICT companies) in September 2020 and I am currently its main organizer.
OTHER INFORMATION: I am accredited as Lecturer (Assistant Professor) and Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) by The Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (Agència per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari de Catalunya / AQU Catalunya) and ANECA (The National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation of Spain). I am also accredited as a Lecturer at Private Universities by ANECA. If you are not familiar with the Spanish university system, there are two main accreditation bodies (AQU – for Catalonia; ANECA – for Spain). I work hard to achieve an important professional objective for me: to get a more permanent position. The academic climate has in general become very disheartening and crazy – I don’t know how it was 20 years ago. I speak from 2010 onwards. I hope the future will provide me with an opportunity soon, because I have a passion for what I do and a strong appetite for learning and teaching.
Welcome to my blog!
In this blog, you can find up-to-date information about myself, my research and lecturing activities, and whereabouts. You can also find further information and material in the links below: