Hola! / Hi! / Woof!

Hola! Hi! Woof! Welcome to my blog / online CV, wherein you will find up-to-date information about my research and lecturing activities, and about myself too. This blog is constantly under construction.  I am Sergio Sayago. I was born in Barcelona (Spain) in 1981. I am a son, dog (and, in general, animal) lover, occasional runner, and team player. I like reading, writing, thinking, driving, and strolling along the beach and in parks (specially in autumn). I do not like either noisy environments or crowded places. I love cooking, buying food from local farmers, good wine and tea, and Scottish whisky. My mother tongues are Spanish and Catalan. I have a Certificate in Proficiency in English, which was not an easy thing to achieve, and I am very proud of having learned some Scottish – apologies if the following words are misspelled (dreich, wabbit, fit like? Nae bad the noo, peh, jings, crivens, help ma’ boab!, geeza break!). I lived in Dundee (Scotland) between 2010-2012; in Leganés (Madrid), between 2012-2014; in Lleida (Catalonia), between 2014-2016. I am a HCI scholar, and have a passion for what I do: research and teach.

I am a Lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction / Computer Science at University of Lleida (Spain) since April 2021. I hold a PhD Cum Laude in CS / HCI by Universitat Pompeu Fabra (2009). I was a post-doctoral research fellow (Beatriu de Pinós) in the School of Computing at the University of Dundee (2010-12) and in the Computer Science Department at UC3M (Alliance 4 Universities, 2012-14). I was a visiting lecturer (and researcher) in the Department of Computer Science and Industrial Engineering at University of Lleida (2014-16) and in the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics at Universitat de Barcelona (2016-2019). I am now based in the Igualada Campus of the University of Lleida, and a faculty member of the Department of Computer Science and Industrial Engineering and Polytechnic School of the same university.

My PhD advisor, to whom I owe a lot, used to tell me that I was a rare (in a positive sense) computer scientist. I am a weirdo, OMG! I am Computer Scientist with a strong interest in the human side of digital technologies. In particular, I am very interested in the older people side. My vision of Computer Science is about what people (can) do with computers. In my view, computers, in a broad sense, are no longer only just for computation. You can look at what people do with computers nowadays to see some examples. People are the key measure of the success or failure of most of those computer-enabled technologies which are designed to be used by human beings. However, and despite a growing ageing population, and the fact that all of us will eventually (I hope) grow older, the relationship between older people and digital technologies digital is little understood. To make matters worse, this relationship is full of stereotyped (mostly negative) views and prejudices. To explore, and try to improve, this relationship, I adopt a qualitative, mostly ethnographic, approach in my research, as it allows me to examine, understand, and describe the wild side of technologies, i.e., social and cultural experiences of digital technologies use by (older) people from their own perspective over time. I have conducted and supervised long-term, face-to-face, ethnographic studies of digital technologies use (by older people) in several European cities. My HCI research career spans the period from 2009 to now. In terms of publications, I prefer quality to quantity, despite the current ‘publish or perish’ hysteria. My research is increasingly interdisciplinary, for highly stimulating and useful (and difficult) research is conducted at the margin of several branches of knowledge.

Putting my students first in the hallmark of my teaching philosophy and approach. Over time, I have learned that thinking about what my students should do to learn is the most important aspect of lecturing. Whether the lecturer is young or old, or whether s/he speaks slowly or fast, or plays different roles (e.g. guide on your side) … are far less important aspects than if the module is designed to enable students to learn. My lecturing career spans the period from 2004 to now. For me, lecturing is about engineering an inclusive and participatory learning environment, rather than drilling knowledge into students’ heads. I think knowledge is constructed, not received. For me, learning is a huge responsibility, and, to some extent, an honor and a privilege, since I feel I am helping to shape, slightly tough, future generations. I don’t see lecturing as a ‘load’, although I understand when colleagues use the expression ‘teaching load’ to refer to the invisible and huge amount of work that lecturing implies and nobody appreciates. I have lectured at four universities (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Universidad Carlos II de Madrid, Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat de Lleida) in degrees of Computer Science. I have played different roles, from teaching assistant to module coordinator. I have lectured in Databases, Object-Oriented Programming, Data Structures, Software Engineering, and Human-Computer Interaction. I have organized several editions of the Workshop on Learning Technologies and Active Teaching Methodologies in the Igualada Campus (EPS). I have supervised slightly more than 35 honor projects during my lecturing career.

I am currently accepting PhD students. If you are interested in doing your PhD under my supervision, please feel free to keep in touch. Students must have their own funding / grant – I am happy to work with you to get the money you need to pursue your PhD.

Further information about my previous, current, and future research and teaching, and about myself, can be found in the sections (see menu at the top of this page) of this blog. I hope you find what you are looking for, or you come across something interesting or useful. Should you want to keep in touch, you can reach me at the following e-mail address: sergio <dot> sayago <at> udl <dot> cat

Fare braw!

Promoted to Lecturer!

I am very happy to say that in April 2021 I was promoted to Lecturer (in Interactive Systems and Languages, which I think is a mix of HCI and CS in the Spanish university system). I share with you in this post the presentation and the report – Proyecto Docente Investigador – (both in Spanish) I used for the job interview.

COVID-19, face-to-face education, and learning: some personal reflections and actions

There is no denying that we are in the midst of a crisis in education. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned upside down face-to-face education and learning. A key element has (almost) disappeared: face-to-face interaction. We want to get back to normal. I desperately want to get back to normal. Yet, over the past few months I have been reflecting on whether we could (and perhaps, should) make the most of this unpleasant situation to create the type of normal we want to get back to post COVID-19. “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity(1).

In this post, I share some of the lessons I have learned from teaching at university in the ‘new normal’. I draw on them to outline my vision of the ‘normal’ I plan to create in my lecturing activities after this nightmare.

1) Before the coronavirus pandemic, I did not record videos of my face-to-face plenary or laboratory sessions. I thought this was not needed at all. However, these videos have turned out to be one of the best aspects of learning in times of COVID-19 for my students. The videos complement the course notes. They can watch the videos to prepare their exams, to work on their lab assignments, or to understand better something they did not understand at class. Recording videos of my face-to-face plenary and laboratories sessions – noted.  

2) How do my students learn? Students are somehow expected to make appointments with their teachers during their office hours. During the pandemic, I have done otherwise. I set up meetings with each and every one of my students to check on their progress and know how they are coping in this difficult situation. These meetings helped me identify their learning strategies. Some of them did not practice at home. Others read the course notes just once before the exams. Others did not do well in exams because they need a lot of time to think… I was not aware of all of this! These comments reveal learning strategies that, in light of their marks, are not effective enough, and encouraged me to share with them those who work for me. Having regular meetings with my students to check on their learning strategies and ‘how they are getting on’ – noted.

3) During the pandemic, I have learned a lot from the functionalities of the virtual campus(2) we use at my current university. I have used tools I had never used before or I did not know they even existed. I am grateful to those people who have made the transition to online teaching at my university possible. I owe them a lot. However, I would have also liked to learn more about pedagogy. A strong focus on technology without good pedagogy is futile. COVID-19 has shown me that I do not know enough about how to effectively provide my students with an effective, motivating and welcoming learning environment in online and blended scenarios. Another task to be added to my ‘to-do’ list.

(1) https://www.azquotes.com/quote/894807

(2) https://cv.udl.cat/portal

Accepted paper in IJHCS! Older people and computer programming

Sayago, S., Bergantiños, A. (2021). Exploring the first experiences of computer programming of older people with low levels of formal education: a participant observational case study. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (Authors’ Accepted Version) (Institutional Access)

Abstract: Computer programming is widely regarded as a key skill in the 21st century. Yet, and despite a growing ageing population and interest in promoting computer programming for all, research on this topic with older people (60+) is scant in the Human-Computer Interaction literature. This paper presents a qualitative case study aimed to explore the first experiences of computer programming of a group of older active computer users with low levels of educational attainment (i.e., primary school / K-12). Over a 6-month period, we provided a hands-on introduction to several textual and visual programming languages and environments to (N=29) older and adult people in three courses in an adult educational center. We reveal and explain relevant factors that shape, and help us understand, the participants’ computer programming learning experiences, including their motivations, difficulties, and identity, along with strategies that hindered and fostered empowerment. Implications for research and design are discussed.


  • Non-English speaking older adults with basic education learning computer programming
  • Older people in HCI: from consumers of digital content to programmers
  • Learning to read and write programs but not to think in abstract terms
  • Empowered by programming when connecting coding with their lives and their identity

New publication! Apple Siri (input) + Voice Over (output) = a de facto marriage

Abstract: People who are blind or have severe low vision (BLVP) often rely on synthesized voice (output) to interact with computers. Thanks to Voice Assistants (VAs), BLVP can now use voice commands to interact (input) with a range of devices. Yet, very little is known about how they use VAs. This exploratory paper reports on semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with (N=10) legally blind adults, including typhlotechnicians, who teach other BLVP to use digital technologies and may themselves be blind people. Whilst the current impact of VAs on our everyday lives focuses on aiding in the completion of simple day-to-day activities, the results show that the ‘couple’ Apple Siri and Voice Over has a strong, positive impact on the everyday lives of our participants. They reported using VAs mostly as a tool, not as a social actor, and that productivity was more important for them than privacy in their everyday use of Siri. Implications for design and research are outlined

Reference: Sergio Sayago, Mireia Ribera. 2020. Apple Siri (input) + Voice Over (output) = a de facto marriage: an exploratory case study with blind people. In DSAI’20: 9th International Conference on Software Development and Technologies for Enhancing Accessibility and Fighting Info-exclusion, December 02-04, 2020, virtual, ACM, New York, NY, USA, 8 pages

Authors’ Accepted Version (PDF)

Interacció amb la intel·ligència artificial centrada en l’ésser humà

Seminari TIDIC 25.11.2020

Human-Centered Artificial Interaction 3.0 (Interacció amb la Intel·ligència Artificial (IA) centrada en l’ésser humà) serà el tema d’aquest SEMINARI-TIDIC. Desenvolupaments i tendències tecnològiques, com els assistents de veu, els robots socials, recommenders, i els cotxes intel·ligents, entre altres, indiquen que ens estem movent cap a una d’interacció entre Persones i Intel·ligència Artificial (IA). Aquesta interacció planteja un canvi de paradigma en el disseny de les TIC i de la #UX: Com es dissenya una tecnologia que evoluciona, que és imprevisible? El nou ordinador, i material de disseny, és la IA. Com es prototipa aquesta interacció? Són les eines actuals suficient? Necessitem noves? També s’estan desenvolupament directrius o principis de disseny que ajudin als professionals a dissenyar tecnologies intel·ligents centrades en l’ésser humà, perquè l’actual coneixement de disseny (web, mòbil…) no resulta suficient. En aquest SEMINARI TIDIC presentarem investigacions que s’estan realitzant en aquest camp a nivell internacional i també discutirem sobre la seva relació amb un col·lectiu cada cop més nombrós, però majoritàriament oblidat, i molt estereotipat, al món de les TIC: les persones grans (60/65+).

Link to the presentation [PDF]

Special issue!

Special Issue “Design for Older Adults: The COVID-19 Pandemic and Human-AI Interaction”

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue addresses technology design for older people (65+) in two timely and important design scenarios: the COVID-19 pandemic and Human–Artificial Intelligence (AI) interaction.

The COVID-19 pandemic has focused increased attention on social isolation and loneliness for all ages, particularly older people as the most vulnerable, at-risk segment of the population. Many of the traditional strategies for engaging older adults have become obsolete in the new normal. Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen evidence of openly ageist discourses (e.g., #BoomerRemover), which complicates the experiences of living through COVID-19 for older people. How can digital technologies be designed to improve connectivity in a time of recommended and required physical distancing for older people (and all of us)? What lessons can we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to design better technologies for a growing ageing population?

We are moving toward an era of Human–AI interaction, as autonomous and intelligent systems, from voice assistants and product recommenders to smart-home devices, smart cars, and social robots, are becoming increasingly common in our lives. This has led to claims for examining AI as the new design material, exploring ways of prototyping Human–AI, and putting forward new design guidelines, as the best user experience no longer comes only from usability but from trustworthy, personalized, and ethical machine intelligence. At the same time, population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society. How do we design Human–AI interaction for, and with, older people?

This interdisciplinary Special Issue aims to bring together a selection of high-quality papers (e.g., case studies, insightful reviews, theoretical and critical perspectives, and viewpoint articles) that contribute to technology design for older people by addressing topics including, but not limited to:  

  • Older people, COVID-19, social isolation, loneliness, and ICTs;
  • Designing digital technologies for a growing ageing population post-COVID 19;
  • COVID-19 and digital ageism;
  • Artificial Intelligence as a design material and older people;
  • Ways of prototyping Human–AI interaction and older people;
  • Guidelines for Human–AI interaction and older people;
  • Ethically designed Human–AI interactions and older people.

Dr. Sergio Sayago
Dr. Paula Forbes
Guest Editors


Accepted paper in ACM CHI PLAY 2020!

Abstract: This paper presents work in progress that informs current understanding of intersectional themes (age, gender, and digital games) that are important, but under-studied, in the player- computer interaction community. This paper draws on a 4-month participant observational study of game play and interest among active older women (aged 63-83, N=14). The results show how gender and age shape digital game interest and play among the participants. For them, being an older woman now means keeping up with the times, being active and helping others. They disregarded digital games that clashed with this identity. When the digital games projected it, their play was fun and productive, recommending the games to others. Current and future work research activities are outlined

Authors’ Accepted Version

Reviews scores: AC = 30/34. R1 = 33/34. R2 = 29/34. Acceptance rate: 60%.

Accepted paper in ACM Mobile HCI 2020 – Late breaking results!!

Title: Voice Assistants as Learning Companions: An Initial Exploration With Computer Science Students

Abstract: With the hands-free and mobile interaction capabilities, and conversational potential, Voice Assistants (VA) like Apple Siri and Google Assistant can become ubiquitous learning companions that students wear in their pockets. Yet, studies addressing the potential and challenges of using VA in education are scant in Human-Computer Interaction. To begin filling this gap, this paper is an initial, qualitative exploration of how smartphone-based VA like Apple Siri and Google Assistant play the role of learning companions of Computer Science (CS) students. Without having been designed for this purpose, there is room for thinking that neither Apple Siri nor Google Assistant can play this role. Yet, the results of a participant observational study conducted over a semester in two modules, show that Apple Siri played the role of a convenient and motivating collaborator, who also clashed with, and changed, students’ perceived use of VA. Open-ended questions prompted by this study are raised.

Author’s accepted version: available MobileHCI2020-SIGCHIEA-AAV

Please note that some changes will be made in the final version to incorporate reviewers’ comments and suggestions.

Special Track @ DSAI 2020

Submissions are open for this Special Track! EXTENDED DEADLINES

Conference: International Conference on Software Development and Technologies for Enhancing Accessibility and Fighting Info-exclusion (DSAI 2020). DSAI 2020 will be virtual this year.

Special Track: Ageing, ICT, Accessibility, and Inclusion: Past, Present, and Future

(Accepted papers will be archived in the ACM digital library)

Organizer: Sergio Sayago (sergio.sayago@udl.cat)

Overview: Population ageing—the increasing share of older people in the population—is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society. Population ageing is occurring in a context in which digital technologies are having a profound influence on the world. Successful use of technology by older people is a complex mix of design, socio-cultural, psychological, and physiological factors that are highly dynamic in nature. Stereotyped views of older people, and questionable assumptions of what they need, want, and should be given, threaten a future where technology has the potential to enrich later life. There is also a pressure to develop and design new technology that does more, and in new ways, making it harder to focus on delivering inclusive solutions that provide a quality user experience for ‘extraordinary’ users. The aim of this special track is to reflect on the past and present of ICT & Ageing, and provide new perspectives on this exciting field, by exchanging ideas, experiences, best practices, and software projects intended to create a more inclusive, ageing society.

Paper submission: Please send the paper directly to me via e-mail (PDF)  – via the DSAI conference system – by Sept 4 2020 –  September 15, 2020. You can send your paper before this deadline. Information regarding the length and format of the submissions (up to 8 pages, English, ACM) can be found online

Peer review: Authors will be asked to review one or two papers. I believe that peer reviewing is very important to achieve high quality publications. I estimate that you will have approximately 40 days to review the paper/s I assign to you. The review period will be from Sept 5 to Sept 25September 15 to Oct 25.

Notification of acceptance: September 30, 2020October 30, 2020. The special track organizer will make the final selection of papers for the session, based on the reviews of the papers.

Registration: All authors accepted for the special track are required to register and provide full payment by the conference registration deadline. See the Registration Page at the conference’s website.

Camera ready papers and registration: November 15, 2020

Conference dates: December 02-04, 2020

I look forward to reading your paper, talking to and working with you in this special track!

Further details about the DSAI conference can be found online.

I will keep this page updated with the list of accepted papers, authors, discussion, etc.

Reimagining Communication with Conversational User Interfaces

Abstract: Conversational user interfaces (CUIs) like Amazon Echo and Apple Siri are revolutionizing the way we interact with a range of applications by enabling us to “talk” to them. This chapter discusses two important open issues, anthropomorphism and conversational user experience, in the CUIs community. Although current voice assistants look nothing like a person, we are prone to anthropomorphize them. How does anthropomorphism – implemented in anthropomorphic design – facilitate our interaction with them? We no longer need to click on or tap any element on a computer screen to send emails, set the alarm clock or listen to a song. When the interaction metaphor is natural human conversation, how do we design conversational user experiences? In this chapter, the authors review seminal and recent studies, and present their ongoing research aimed at addressing anthropomorphism and conversational user experience. CUI is a fascinating growing field, one in which its members have much to contribute to reimagining communication at the beginning of the 21st century

Reference: Sayago, S., Blat, J. 2020. Reimagining Communication with Conversational User Interfaces: Anthropomorphic Design and Conversational User Experience. In Michael Filimowicz, Veronica Tzankova (Eds). Reimagining Communication: Mediation. Routledge: London, 287-302. ISBN: 978-1-351-01543-1

Available at Amazon and Routledge

Authors’ accepted version available upon request.