#swarm and @DroptheIBot

One of the major national news stories this summer has been the reportedly large numbers of migrants attempting to gain access to the UK via Channel crossings from Calais. Many media outlets continue to use language that suggests that the migrant people at the centre of this story –irrespective of their situation and background – are undeserving of our support, understanding or empathy, moreover that their entry to the UK will have a detrimental effect on everyone else’s lives. This othering of migrants, whether deliberate or otherwise, is not new, nor is it perhaps always limited to the media; David Cameron’s visceral description of “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean” was criticised as dehumanising by stand-up comedians and social media audiences alike. The CuRAtOR project’s challenge is to generate an understanding of how the deliberate design, and deployment, of digital and social media, and online interactive experiences more broadly, can influence and oppose cultures of fear and result in cultures of empathy that could reduce or eliminate mistrust and negative consequences of Othering. One example of related work appeared this week in which Patrick Hogan and Jorge Rivas built a bot that corrects people who say ‘illegal immigrant’ on Twitter, part of a wider movement in the USA to drop the use of the word “illegal” when discussing migrant people. The bot quickly fell foul of Twitter’s spam rules but the historic tweets that mention the account reveal a really interesting and varied set of reactions from people who the bot tried to correct. It would be […]


The 2015 British HCI Conference (#BritishHCI2015) was held in Lincoln from 13th-17th July and was organised by the University of Lincoln’s Social Computing (LiSC) research centre in conjunction with Open Lab at Newcastle University – both of whom are of course partners on CuRAtOR.  Shaun was general co-chair of the conference which attracted in excess of 250 people from 20 different counties from around the globe. We had a number of CuRAtOR researchers and investigators taking part in the conference: for instance, Tom F from Lincoln (pictured) presented some ongoing work from the project around Twitter discussion and #BenefitsStreet, that was based on the paper from CHI earlier this year, whilst Karen took part in the conference’s panel on HCI, Politics and Activism. John also chaired the paper session on Digital Civics. The theme for the conference was the role interactive technology plays in mediating our civic lives and the aim was to engage the HCI community with the issues  surrounding how interactive digital technology constantly shapes our lives and our relationships with each other, as well as those in authority. The technical program proceedings are available now in the ACM DL.

Elephant & Castle

The Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, Central London, has been popularly depicted by the media as a haven for crime, poverty and urban decay. This is starkly contrasted by the residents of Heygate themselves, who point out the crime rate for the estate was “45% below the borough average”. The Heygate Estate has been slated for “redevelopment” by the local council, which has lead to the displacement of the entire community, and subsequently the demolition of their former home. Heygate Was Home has been designed to provide a give a voice to residents to give “personal accounts of how we experience the ‘redevelopment’”. This is interesting to the project as it is an example of “grassroots” activism – a political movement that is initiated by the community themselves, as opposed to an external organisation. The website records the discourse of council decisions and media coverage regarding the regeneration of the Heygate estate, as well as providing an archive for residents experiences of their time living in Heygate. It also provides a digital outlet for those who have only verbally shared their experiences of the estate, allowing the sharing of this content through the archive, and extracts via Twitter. Image Credit: London SE1 Community Website / CC-BY-2.0