Networking Across Disciplines: From Computer Science to the Creative Arts | The Enterprise Sessions with Kirsten Cater

 

How can the UK address its technology skills gap? Professor Michele Barbour speaks with Kirsten Cater, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Bristol. Kirsten leads the skills and training aspect of the MyWorld project, addressing the significant skills gap in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

 

Highlights

  • Delve into the relationship between higher education and industry as Kirsten shares her knowledge of the challenges faced by early-career researchers.
  • Explore practical tips to help make connections at networking events and strategies for researchers to go beyond their immediate projects.
  • Kirsten reflects on the thread that ties her diverse career together – her core as a computer scientist, coupled with a passion for understanding people.
  • Find out why interdisciplinary approaches are needed to address future challenges as Kirsten shares her experiences at the Centre for Sociodigital Futures.

 

🌐 About the Enterprise Sessions

The Enterprise Sessions bring together a diverse mix of company founders and researchers who talk openly about their personal experiences of forming spin-outs and start-ups, raising capital, academic-industry partnerships and the joys of translating research discoveries into real-world impact.

The series aims to inform, inspire and challenge myths and stereotypes about research commercialisation and how businesses and universities can work together to tackle society’s biggest challenges.

 

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 Connect with

MyWorld website: https://www.myworld-creates.com/

MyWorld on X: https://twitter.com/MyWorldCreates

MyWorld on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/myworldcreates/

MyWorld  on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@MyWorldCreates

Dr Kirsten Cater at Pervasive Media Studio: https://www.watershed.co.uk/studio/residents/kirsten-cater

 

 

Transcript:

 

00:00:00 Prof Michele Barbour 

Welcome to the enterprise sessions. Today I’m talking to Professor Kirsten Cater, who is professor of human computer interactions and also of innovation and entrepreneurship pedagogy. Kirsten, thank you so much for joining me. I’m really grateful for your time. 

00:00:15 Prof Michele Barbour 

So there’s so much I want to talk to you about because you do so many different things that interface between her education and industry. But perhaps we’ll sort of step back a little bit first. 

00:00:24 Prof Michele Barbour 

Of all, could you tell me a little bit about your backgrounds and what first brought you to the university of Bristol? 

00:00:29 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So I’m a computer scientist by heart. So I studied computer science and I’m actually a graduate of the University of Bristol. So I’ve been working with the university for a very long period. But actually I think in some ways that’s played to my advantages because over that long period I’ve been able to get to know the university and and know what works and what doesn’t work. 

00:00:51 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And I guess because I’m entrepreneur and an innovator, when I see that the university could do things slightly better, I’m always kind of chomping at the bit to think about actually, what could we do to improve either a student experience or to think about the impact of our research and hopefully make some things. 

00:01:12 Prof Kirsten Cater 

More improved. 

00:01:13 Prof Michele Barbour 

I’m really glad to say that because I’m a Bristol grad too, and sometimes in our in our sector there’s this sense that you must move to move up. You must move. 

00:01:22 Prof Michele Barbour 

And some people that work really well for, but actually I’m really glad I stayed. It’s Bristol’s a great place. It’s a great city. It’s a, it’s a. 

00:01:28 Prof Michele Barbour 

Great university. So I’m glad we share that. 

00:01:31 Prof Michele Barbour 

So, so much. I’d like to talk to you about. I know that you’ve done lots of research with lots of different external bodies, industry companies, community groups, but maybe we’ll start with your innovation and entrepreneurship work with our undergraduate students and know you were instrumental in setting up. 

00:01:50 Prof Michele Barbour 

Are recently formed Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, so perhaps you could tell me a bit about what gave rise to that, what the motivations were and and then where we. 

00:02:00 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So I guess a lot of my research is incredibly interdisciplinary and collaborative, so working with, as you said, a whole range of different partners. And so I guess I’ve always looked at the UK education system and thought actually it’s a bit of a shame that our students come and study one discipline. 

00:02:19 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Or at most might do a joint honours. And so I wanted to try and create a degree program that allowed that interdisciplinary fund that I really enjoy within my research, but also allows students cause it’s great opportunity at university to actually be able to take some risks, to experiment, to explore. 

00:02:38 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And our students have got so many amazing ideas. So if we can create a ecosystem, an environment that allows them to experiment and gives them the tools and techniques, it’s just been, yeah, fantastic to see those students flourish and create some fantastic startups. 

00:02:58 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So you know, like you’ve got Amber and Hazel who’ve done prequel, the first female urinal. Yep. And Constantina and Roman and their AI system. And so, yeah, it’s the fact that these students still have a core, disciplined depth. 

00:03:04 

That is amazing. 

00:03:15 Prof Kirsten Cater 

But they’re then taught this skill set on how to work in those interdisciplinary teams and how to innovate, how to come up with ideas, but also in that safe environment, we can’t deny that entrepreneurship is risky. You’re gonna fail. And so actually by having the. 

00:03:34 Prof Kirsten Cater 

All year integrated Masters degree program. It allows space for students to come up with ideas. 

00:03:40 Prof Kirsten Cater 

To try things out, to get things wrong. Because we all get things wrong and I don’t think we talk about failure enough. You know, as an academic and frustrated that you can’t necessarily publish when things have gone wrong in in journals and papers, only positive things. But actually if we talk about failure, it makes us much more. 

00:04:00 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Brilliant. And as being an entrepreneur, you have to be incredibly resilient because you will have failures along that roller coaster journey. And so that’s why it’s been kind of, yeah, fantastic to be able to set up that centre. It was challenging to do so. But yeah, it’s been absolutely. 

00:04:21 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Eye opening, inspiring. Working with those students and then seeing them graduate and go go off into the world and make that positive. 

00:04:29 Prof Michele Barbour 

Impact. They are extraordinary. I if if that had existed when I was looking at undergraduate programs that have been first in the queue and I like you like to talk about fail. 

00:04:40 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yeah, but I also sometimes like to explore what we even mean by failure. Some of the student projects through the Center for Innovation Entrepreneurship don’t become startups, but don’t count that as a failure. What they’ve learned? Well, the skills they’ve gained. And I, I love that it brings together these diverse sort of the groups of students. I remember seeing this amazing pitch. 

00:05:00 Prof Michele Barbour 

A A combination between a computer scientist and a human geographer. I mean, these are not necessarily disciplines that often collaborate. They do collaborate. But but not not every day. And yet they’ve made such a beautiful team with their complementary skill. 

00:05:14 Prof Michele Barbour 

I don’t know if that particular went on to form a company or not, but I wouldn’t constitute that as a failure anyway. I think that there’s there’s different ways of looking at at success and of. 

00:05:24 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Yeah, failure is always seen as a negative word, but I think it’s part and parcel to be innovative. You have to make mistakes along the way. You know, as a computer scientist, I’m taking risks. I’m pushing technological boundaries, and some things are gonna work and some things aren’t. But I don’t see that as a negative thing. I see that as everything. 

00:05:44 Prof Kirsten Cater 

That I do in order to be an innovator. 

00:05:47 Prof Michele Barbour 

Absolutely. So you are, as we’ve established a computer scientist. 

00:05:51 Prof Michele Barbour 

But the first time I met you was in the Pervasive Media studio, which I would describe very much as an arts creative, cultural environment first and foremost. And you do a lot of work at that interface with the creative world. So tell us a little bit about what you do and why, as a computer scientist. 

00:06:11 Prof Michele Barbour 

You’re working with with the sort of the discipline of the cultural creative. 

00:06:16 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yeah. 

00:06:17 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So certainly a lot of although I’ve worked with a lot of different technologies, a lot of my recent work is around uh, creative technologies and in particular, immersive technologies. So virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality. And I just think it’s really exciting that you know, as again as a computer scientist. 

00:06:37 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I’m gonna design things in a particular. 

00:06:40 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Way and that’s why it’s so important to work with loads of different disciplines and loads of different kind of sectors, because that’s where I get inspiration because they think ohh. Actually could you could we use the technology in this way? And I’m like ohh. I hadn’t thought about that because I’m trained to think as a computer scientist in a particular way. 

00:07:01 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So yeah, that’s why I love working with those different sectors, the cultural sector, the creative sector, because they’re just so inspiring in thinking about how they could utilise technology in different ways. And then I can adapt the technology to suit those new application. 

00:07:18 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Areas. So I think you know for me particularly things like virtual reality at the moment, you know, everyone’s banding around Metaverse. What is the Metaverse thinking that it’s a new thing when it’s been around for a very long time. But I do think that actually by working with creatives, they’re going to push those boundaries away from all let’s replicate. 

00:07:39 Prof Kirsten Cater 

What we do every day in our daily practice and then just use technology to do that, I think actually as new mediums come along like virtuality and meta verses, what does that platform, what does that technology allow us to do that we just can’t even do in our normal day-to-day lives? 

00:07:56 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And so I think it’s kind of a really exciting time for us as researchers, but also working collaboratory collaboratively across different disciplines and different sectors to think actually what is the power, what’s that impact, what’s the positiveness that we can do with these technologies in the future, the impact for me is by making technology. 

00:08:17 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Accessible, giving it to people who wouldn’t necessarily have that experience to try something out to push boundaries, so some really exciting projects. 

00:08:28 Prof Kirsten Cater 

That we’ve work. 

00:08:28 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Put on is by empowering people who’ve been very skilled in creating 2D, more, more traditional modes of filming, and then empowered them to think about 360 or virtual reality. And we were very lucky to work with a producer called Victoria Malbec. 

00:08:48 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And she created with us a a virtual reality piece called the Waiting Room. And it was actually about her first person journey through breast cancer. 

00:09:00 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So it’s a very, very emotive piece, but she found it very interesting, but also challenging using these new technologies to tell a story in an immersive way. And luckily for us, that went on to premiere at the Venice Film Festival and Go on to win storytelling awards in fur and. 

00:09:19 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And so on. So yeah, it’s just, you know, she wouldn’t have had that experience had we not been able to work in partnership and collaboration and think about and show her what the technologies could do. And then she pushed boundaries in exciting ways that we hadn’t thought. 

00:09:33 Prof Michele Barbour 

About how extraordinary and congratulations on on that award and what a wonderful way to. 

00:09:38 Prof Michele Barbour 

To to to share what I’m sure is a deeply moving and and just distressing. I’m sure at times experience, but I’m really, really important to talk about these things. So that is an example of of, umm, some really important work with with an individual. But you’ve collaborated with everything from individuals to to large corporates. 

00:09:59 Prof Michele Barbour 

So maybe tell us a little bit about your experience sort of across that spectrum from smaller companies up to larger companies, how they similar, how they’re similar, how they’re different? 

00:10:08 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I think it’s really important and I guess it’s trying to think about empathising with who you are working with. Collaboration should always be a two way process. So it’s understanding not just what you would like from that relationship, but also what can you do to benefit them, what are they going to get out of working with you. 

00:10:29 Prof Kirsten Cater 

In your research or the education that you’re trying to do. 

00:10:32 Prof Kirsten Cater 

  1. And so for me it’s really important to have those open and honest conversations. We’ll all need various outputs at the end of the day, as academics, of course, with, you know, ref pressures. We’re looking for publications or for the grunt income or, you know, embedding.

00:10:52 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Of students within that process. 

00:10:55 Prof Kirsten Cater 

With other organisations it can be very, very different, so it’s important having those open conversations at the beginning and thinking through. OK, but what would you like from this relationship? And it could be from a technology’s point of view. Maybe it’s a tech company, a big corporate, they’re wanting a particular development within their technology that they’ve got. 

00:11:15 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Not compared to a community organisation, it kind of for me, you know, thinking about what they might want. It could be an educational piece, training up some community partners, empowering them to be. 

00:11:29 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Need to be skilled in using some of these modern technologies that are coming in our future. It could be, you know, just helping them out and and raising their awareness of that organisation. A lot of stuff that I’m very keen on is diversity and. 

00:11:44 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Solution, so quite often. Unfortunately technology is predominantly white males, so again you know anything I can do thinking about our diversity of the community groups we’re engaging with in our research and again that empowerment piece, it could be working with startups and in because they’re juggling. 

00:12:05 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So many things. They’ve got so many ideas that actually as academics we can bring in some exciting angle that they hadn’t got time or. 

00:12:13 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Capacity to think of. 

00:12:14 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Out. So I think it’s wide and really diverse depending on who that community partner is or that corporate or that start up. So just spending time right at the very beginning, talking through what you want to get from that relationship and what they want to get from that relationship. 

00:12:35 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And keep revisiting it. I think is also really key because quite often things come along and change. And so making sure that everyone. 

00:12:42 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Still really positive and still getting something out of that relationship, but also get, you know, not being worried to say this relationship isn’t working because there have been times where actually you know those different diverges of outputs have put too much pressure that actually everyone’s going into different directions and that’s fine. So it goes back. It’s not a failure. 

00:13:03 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Mm-hmm. It’s about actually having that confidence to say now. Now let’s move into different directions and and think about what new collaborations might be coming along. 

00:13:14 Prof Michele Barbour 

I I feel like I’m talking to someone that’s had three careers, how you’ve collaborated with such an extraordinary range of different groups is is amazing. It’s it’s uplifting how how does some of these collaborations initiate? I hear what you’re saying about sitting down and having those really honest conversations, not just at the outset, but also throughout any project. 

00:13:33 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yes, but how did you get to that point? How do you meet these people and identify that there’s something to have a conversation about? 

00:13:41 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Again, it completely varied. I’ve been very, you know, lucky I’ve had kind of almost cold calls, you know, or people contacting the university and saying, have you got anyone who knows about this? And so, you know, people. 

00:13:56 Prof Kirsten Cater 

In the research enterprise development team Dre, they have been really kind of like Ohh key. Could you come and have a conversation about this and and tell you what they need? 

00:14:07 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I’ve done a lot of networking, so obviously if you’re kind of new to this, you know, trying to get out there, there’s fantastic meet ups, lots of different conferences, but also think about conferences that aren’t just for academics thinking about actually where, where are the stakeholders. 

00:14:26 Prof Kirsten Cater 

You want to engage? Where are they going and thinking about actually how how can I go to those places? So I’ve. I’ve definitely felt like a fish out of water sometimes when I’ve gone to places that aren’t my normal comfort zone. 

00:14:40 Prof Kirsten Cater 

But specifically to meet with people that I wouldn’t normally be networking with and then that’s kind of led to so many interesting conversations, I just wouldn’t have predicted. And then they’ve led on to going ohh actually you’ve got similar interest to me. If you thought about this and then you know continuing and building on those relationships. 

00:15:01 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So again, I think it’s very wide and diverse, but I I think trying to do lots of different things also thinking about you know who else in the university might know someone. So if you are seeking a particular some expert or a stakeholder you know make sure that you’re engaging and asking around that. 

00:15:21 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Could be another academic in your department. Could be an academic in in another department that’s looking at the research, but from a very different view. 

00:15:30 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Point or it could be, you know, our fantastic collaboration teams within the university and our central services. We’re very lucky to have such great services that can, you know, support us as academics to build those new partnerships. 

00:15:46 Prof Michele Barbour 

It sounds like a sort of combination of networking with intents. Who do I want to meet and where might they be? But then also keeping that mind open as opportunistic things that arise, those those conversations you weren’t anticipating and following them? 

00:16:01 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Up. Yeah, no, definitely making sure you follow them up, but also. 

00:16:06 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I guess yes sometimes. 

00:16:08 Prof Kirsten Cater 

As you said that spontaneity, you know, being prepared and open, you can have a fantastic conversation while you’re just happen to be next to someone waiting. 

00:16:10 

It’s he. 

00:16:17 Prof Kirsten Cater 

For a bus. 

00:16:18 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Yeah, you know, and then you suddenly realise that there’s that connection there that you just wouldn’t normally have. So yeah, I’ve there’s been some amazing conversations over my career. 

00:16:28 Prof Kirsten Cater 

You know, in the unexpected places. 

00:16:30 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So being open and yeah, being positive and being willing to chat about your work that you do to a wide range of different audiences and thinking about again, that empathy, you know, what could that person? What do they do? I find it fascinating learning about other people and then thinking actually, is there a link there that I can make? 

00:16:51 Prof Michele Barbour 

I find it really hard to have picture how you fit all this in. Do you have a mechanism for prioritizing and actually saying I won’t do that or I won’t engage with that thing at this time? Or are you one of those people there like me who just wants to do all the things? 

00:17:10 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I’m like a kid in a candy shop. Sorry, but yeah, I often, yeah. Have those. Those conversations. I’m. 

00:17:12 Prof Michele Barbour 

Thanks. 

00:17:17 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Like wow, that’s. 

00:17:18 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Amazing what you do is fantastic. Ohh, actually I think there’s a link here that you know, but also I guess as I’m getting towards. 

00:17:25 Prof Kirsten Cater 

My later career. 

00:17:27 Prof Kirsten Cater 

You know, the fact that we have so many new. 

00:17:30 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Academics, early career researchers. If we can do anything to support them. Quite often I’m helping to get ohh. Have you spoken to so and so you know, they’re just starting out. It’d be fantastic. So I am terrible at saying no to things. 

00:17:43 Prof Kirsten Cater 

But I’m starting to learn. Actually I can say no. But with that fact that I could pass that relationship on to someone else. And now’s a good time for them, where they might have. 

00:17:48 

Really. 

00:17:53 Prof Kirsten Cater 

A bit more time than I do. 

00:17:55 Prof Michele Barbour 

So it’s not as much, no, but not me. But this amazing person I love working with early career researchers and I. 

00:17:57 

Yes. 

00:18:03 Prof Michele Barbour 

I I hope like you I I try and sort of share contacts and opportunities with them. One of the things that I feel like I’m back in my head against brick Wall. 

00:18:10 Prof Michele Barbour 

Sometimes is when early career research say and feel I’m too busy, sounds really interesting. Michelle, thanks very much. But I can’t engage with that. I have my project and I absolutely understand that pressure, that need to deliver. That’s what the funding was put in place for. But in the modern day of research can call outs and agreements and so on. 

00:18:28 Prof Michele Barbour 

Is there a way that? 

00:18:29 Prof Michele Barbour 

You advise and encourage and empower early career researchers to explore around the margins, to explore things for themselves and not just focus on their one project. Because I sometimes struggle with convincing people of that or or finding mechanisms to empower them. 

00:18:46 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Yeah, I think it’s tricky. I I think it’s tricky because sometimes it might not be them. It might be, as you said, the pressures of the project or pressures of line management. So I think there are some things that we should all be acutely aware of as line managers of early career researchers in making sure that we are supporting them develop their own career path. 

00:19:09 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And become leading researchers in themselves, rather than just working on the project that we have funding for right now. And as you said, you know the concord it, it has that space, we are should be doing that, although some people are better than. 

00:19:24 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Others, but also I do think you know, it’s that empowerment piece, I think networking, I I still get scared going to networking events but if we talk again about that you know we’re all we’re all in that uncomfort zone and so actually it it’s OK. So I think the more and more. 

00:19:44 Prof Kirsten Cater 

You do that you realise that actually everyone else is feeling a little bit uncomfortable, so you know, just having some set questions in your back pocket, asking other people about what it is that they do puts them at ease, and then they’ll be asking them about what it is that you do. 

00:20:00 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Do so. Yeah, I think just, you know, getting out of your comfort zone, going to try to maybe smaller networking events and collaboration events, you know, to start off with and then before you know it, you’re going to lots of different venues and speaking to a whole range of different. 

00:20:15 Prof Michele Barbour 

People I I’m really glad you say that because I get really alarmed going into networking about. Sometimes I stand on the threshold. 

00:20:21 Prof Michele Barbour 

Thinking, why do I make myself do this? And yet, inevitably, by the end of the event, I’ve always enjoyed myself and I also really recognize what you say, and it’s something I’ve sort of come to myself. 

00:20:30 Prof Michele Barbour 

Others asking people about themselves, their work, what, what motivates them in their in their daily life is a really good opener because a lot of people will like to be asked, and even the few that don’t can use that as an excuse to bounce a question back on you. So it’s rather than launching in with a I really need to talk to you about this project. 

00:20:50 Prof Michele Barbour 

Just asking those open questions, it’s gonna be a really good answer. 

00:20:53 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Yeah, the other. 

00:20:54 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Good thing is well, and I learned this from Stacey Olicker from Channel 4 when we were talking particularly supporting a group of diverse people from underrepresented groups was if you’re kind of nervous about going to some of these networking events, go with someone else as well. 

00:21:10 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And she talks about actually, your friend could talk about you and you could talk about them rather than actually feeling that, you know, that daunting bit of. How do I positively about myself? Because sometimes we all struggle on that front. So that could be a way to you know. 

00:21:26 Prof Michele Barbour 

Get around that, I think actually be somebody else’s wing person. Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. 

00:21:30 Prof Michele Barbour 

So tell me a little bit more about that collaboration with Channel 4. That sounds really fascinating. 

00:21:35 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So it’s just one of. 

00:21:36 Prof Kirsten Cater 

The many partners that we have within the my world project, so as you said, so quite often working with the native and cultural India. 

00:21:44 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Stories so the my world project is a UKR IC, United Kingdom Research and innovation funded project, and it’s one of the strength in places funded projects. So we were very fortunate to have £30 million of investment plus another 16 from all of our different partners and again a whole. 

00:22:05 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Range from very large corporate organisations through to community partners and so that is working. 

00:22:12 Prof Kirsten Cater 

On what we call the creative. 

00:22:13 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Continuum. Mm-hmm. So thinking about, actually, you can’t just talk about the future of networking and streaming. So we’ve got 5G6G whatever’s coming in the future. But also, how is that affecting in terms of our distribution? What kind of new compression algorithms might we need? 

00:22:35 Prof Kirsten Cater 

But also how does it change the human aspect of it? We’re all humans at the end of that pipeline, and so you can’t again look at in any one of those research topic areas. We’re out thinking that actually it’s a creative continuum that each one affects each. 

00:22:48 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Other and so yeah, it’s a very exciting research project. So we’ve got some very core deep depth research topics, but also we’ve got money to spend on experimental productions. There’s lots of research and development calls that are coming out to fund research, innovative projects. 

00:23:09 Prof Kirsten Cater 

But also fellowships too, and then within that project I lead all the skills and training. Mm-hmm. Because there’s a massive skills gap within the UK in terms of this innovative space. 

00:23:22 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And So what can I do with my fellow colleagues from the other three universities as well? So we’re working with the University of West of England, University of Bath and University Bath SPA to think about actually, as in academic institutions, what can we do to support the education and training of things like, you know? 

00:23:41 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Virtual reality, or augmented reality in Myspace, but a whole suite of different technologies like virtual production coming and how is that changing that sector? And so that’s why it’s been fantastic to work with so many different collaborators on that project because you really do need that different in. 

00:23:57 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Inputs to think about actually where where’s the future going? Where do we need to? For me, where do we need to train people up for those jobs of the future? 

00:24:06 Prof Michele Barbour 

I think that’s an important cause. I think when when you and I started out in our careers, most education offered by universities would be quite disciplinary, quite specific, quite. 

00:24:17 Prof Michele Barbour 

Sort of purely academic. 

00:24:19 Prof Michele Barbour 

And that’s just not the not the landscape we’re looking at anymore. So to really deliver education, whether it’s whole degree programs, pH, D’s, whether it’s micro credentials for, for upskilling existing workforce, we need to be working with industry partners. We can’t figure it all out on us and and academic partners as well. And I’m aware of that collaboration with the four Bristol and Bath universities I think is. 

00:24:40 Prof Michele Barbour 

Really, really rich scene for us to dip into in creative in in other. 

00:24:44 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Areas as well? Yep, no, I mean, we’ve all got our street strengths and we’ve also got all our, you know, weaknesses and that’s fine. So actually by working across the partners, it means that we can deliver something that’s really exciting and meeting that need. 

00:25:00 Prof Michele Barbour 

So as you describe just some of the things you done in your career, it’s it’s enormously diverse, so many different interests. 

00:25:07 Prof Michele Barbour 

Do you have a sort of a a thread that runs through it? Is there something that some interest or some aim or some mission that kind of knits together what you do? Or do you think of it as as I’m seeing? It’s just an extraordinary rich range, like a palette of all these, this rainbow of different colors of things that you. 

00:25:26 Prof Michele Barbour 

Do I guess? 

00:25:27 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Well, it goes back to my heart of I am a computer scientist, but I’m a human computer interaction. So for me it’s and what? What can I do to understand people? 

00:25:39 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And then it comes in with the innovation entrepreneurship element. So actually, you know, you’ve got a problem. I’m suddenly excited about that. Is there any way that I or can I use my network to help you? I don’t know why. It’s just something within me, I guess. So it’s that whether it’s, you know, creating the centre of innovation. 

00:25:58 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Entrepreneurship, seeing that kind of challenge there, but also that fantastic opportunity, but also within my research, you know it’s it’s what can I do as a computer scientist. What can I do to think about those future technologies and make them better? And I think, you know, sometimes technologies can be branded badly. 

00:26:18 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And yes, I’m not denying that some technologies, you know aren’t necessarily thought through, you know, in terms of the future ethical implications. So one of the things that we’ve got at the moment is the sensor for social digital futures and some of the work we’re doing there is fantastic. 

00:26:37 Prof Kirsten Cater 

In terms of eye opening, being able to spend lots of time working with social scientists like Professor Susan Holford and and David Cloverton, you know, thinking about actually how what theories and methods do they? 

00:26:50 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Dose and what do I do within the technologies and the other technology affordances that we’re looking at like artificial intelligence, high performance computing networks, but also robotics what the future of those technologies and thinking about the ethical implications for that? So what are our social futures? 

00:27:10 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Going to be like often they can be very branded, very utopian by certain organisations. This is coming. You have to engage with it. It’s gonna look like this. Other times they’re kind of branded in a kind of very dystopian way. Ohh, you should be really scared of this technology. It’s gonna be disastrous. It’s. 

00:27:28 Prof Kirsten Cater 

The change, and I think actually within the centre, it means that we can actually think about, well, what is that future, who are the actors in that space, how can we empower new actors to have a conversation in this space and think about it in a very, very interdisciplinary way. And it’s challenging working in disciplinary is not easy. But for me, it’s really exciting. 

00:27:49 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Because I realise actually no I need to change my mind. I need to think about. Actually you’re looking at. From this viewpoint, I think that’s really. 

00:27:57 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Fascinating for me. So if I can be a better researcher by learning, I’m not gonna say that I’m suddenly gonna become a social scientist. But learning and understanding how they look at that problem from a different viewpoint means that I then become a better researcher and and still a computer scientist. But in. 

00:28:13 Prof Kirsten Cater 

A different way. 

00:28:15 Prof Michele Barbour 

What you described to me there about the this what happens the interfaces between different areas of research is what to me exemplifies what I love about Bristol, the university, the city. It really motivates me, but there are plenty of researchers who would find that very uncomfortable to. 

00:28:32 Prof Michele Barbour 

To engage directly with, to work deeply with people, with very different expertise, you are often coming at it with quite different languages, quite different baseline understandings. 

00:28:44 Prof Michele Barbour 

Some people, many people, would find that intimidating or or just not appealing. Do you ever find that difficult and overcome it? Or do you love it so much? It’s not. 

00:28:56 Prof Kirsten Cater 

No, it’s difficult. Still is difficult, but I think then that’s when I’m finding something difficult it I think well, why is? Why am I feeling uncomfortable in this? And actually I then embrace it and think actually that is because I don’t know enough about it or it’s challenging to the my discipline and the way that I. 

00:29:16 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Currently are doing. 

00:29:17 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Things and do I stay within that inner space and argue back on that front? I think there are times where actually, you know, you do need to argue back and say, look, this is the way that things go or other times you think actually no I am wrong. You know in that way that I’ve been thinking about that problem and actually I do need to embrace the new way of looking at this. 

00:29:39 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So completely fill out my depth even to the day, you know. But I think it’s partly because. 

00:29:46 Prof Kirsten Cater 

You know, every time I speak to a different academic or a different organisation, they’re coming with very different views to it. So you know I. 

00:29:55 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Think it if if. 

00:29:57 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Ever. I’m. I’m not scared on that front or don’t feel out of my depth. Actually, I’m probably working with the same people too much and actually I think you then look at your portfolio and think actually no. 

00:30:09 Prof Kirsten Cater 

But who am I not listening to in this conversation? There’s got to be a different voice out there, actually. That might give me a different view to this problem rather than just working with the same people who’ve got the same views as you. 

00:30:21 Prof Michele Barbour 

I hear a lot of people say in different contexts and with different meanings. We need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’re going one further, saying you need to actively seek out discomfort, actively find it and and. 

00:30:34 Prof Michele Barbour 

Develop through it right? 

00:30:35 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Well, maybe glutton. 

00:30:36 Prof Kirsten Cater 

For. 

00:30:36 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Punishment. I don’t know. Yes. Yeah, partly so. Because I think it’s it’s challenging. 

00:30:42 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I think for me, the most exciting, most impactful research or or education development, things that I’ve been doing is when I am in that uncomfortable space, listening to different views. 

00:30:55 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Points and then yeah, completely agree. It is really, really challenging to be in that space and it probably does take time to be in that, you know, feeling, feeling comfortable with being feeling uncomfortable. But yeah, no, I think it’s certainly exciting to have those clashes of the different disciplines. 

00:31:16 Prof Kirsten Cater 

But recognising that there is a healthy clash there and then that may lead to an opportunity you just hadn’t thought about. 

00:31:23 Prof Michele Barbour 

And I wonder if that’s also applicable to working with companies, because we’ve been talking there about some different disciplines within within academia. 

00:31:31 Prof Michele Barbour 

You’ve mentioned working with individuals you’ve worked with, working with SMEs and startups and with big corporates. 

00:31:39 Prof Michele Barbour 

Are are the challenges common across that group, or do different types of external partners present different types of challenges and opportunities? 

00:31:49 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Very different. So I guess it goes back to understanding what their needs are. What do they want from that relationship? 

00:32:00 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And so just thinking that through carefully, so yeah. 

00:32:05 Prof Kirsten Cater 

  1. A startups going to be, you know, often very small, they’ve got lots of pressures of funding. They’ve got a particular thing that they’re developing and creating. So you know, understanding what their needs are and what you want out of that relationship. So a very much two way process. What would you like from that relationship?

00:32:26 Prof Kirsten Cater 

As well as what they want from that relationship is important to understand compared to a bigger corporate. 

00:32:33 Prof Kirsten Cater 

They have very different agendas and as academics, we obviously have our own pressures on us in terms of thinking about those publications or getting research funding. So I think it’s kind of very varied. So yeah, very much understanding and having those conversations at the beginning of those. 

00:32:54 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Meetings where you’re first getting to know each other. It’s kind of like a speed dating, you know? Is this relationship gonna work for us? Are we both gonna be able to get something from it is really important. 

00:33:07 Prof Michele Barbour 

We’ve already established we’re both Bristol Bristol graduates, Bristol, Bristol, long term fans. What would your undergraduate self think about what you’re doing now? And if you could, what would you say to undergraduate Kirsten? 

00:33:27 

I hope, I hope. 

00:33:28 Prof Kirsten Cater 

That. I would. Yeah. Look above myself. Like almost as a kind of role model. You know, I was fortunate to see some role models that I had both within industry and academia, and I thought, ohh, wow, they’re amazing. I’d love to do those kind of things. So I guess, yeah, I would hope that. 

00:33:47 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Yeah, a younger self would look and go. Wow. Yeah. No, hopefully she’s had a positive impact in the work that she does. What would I say to myself? It’s gonna be a rollercoaster of a ride, but. 

00:34:02 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Keep positive. Don’t be scared of trying new things, taking those risks and and be tenacious. You know when you know there are scenarios where people say no to you and that is for very good reasons. And understanding that and making that clear but also. 

00:34:22 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Where certain things are done just because it’s traditional, that’s how we do things, you know. 

00:34:30 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Don’t be afraid to query that and see whether there are new ways to do that, and so I guess that’s been sometimes where I’ve hit brick walls both within the university or outside the university. And then I’ve tried to understand why they have taken why that brick wall is there. If there is very good. 

00:34:50 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Foundational reasons why that brick has wall has to remain. That’s fine, but actually, is there a way to open up a door in that wall? And actually, yeah. 

00:34:58 Prof Michele Barbour 

Some sometimes you need to hold it is a good point. Yeah, sometimes. 

00:35:03 Prof Kirsten Cater 

You need to take it down. 

00:35:03 Prof Michele Barbour 

No, always the bulldozer. Sometimes a nice neat little is always fine, but sometimes the whole wall needs to go, yeah. 

00:35:10 Prof Michele Barbour 

And and what about if you were to look forward? So, I mean, you’ve done such an extraordinary range of things. What? What have you not done yet that you would like to or what? What challenge do you see as your next real target? 

00:35:28 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I guess for me particularly maybe in my research. 

00:35:31 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Side of things and and particularly within immersive technologies at the moment. 

00:35:36 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Want what? I don’t want it to be. You know, like things banded around metaverse, you know. Is it utopian? Is it dystopian? I guess I always come from trying to hopefully be a responsible innovator. Mm-hmm. So I think there’s a lot of interesting ethical questions around the future of technologies and not just immersive. Lots of technologies. Obviously, AI is a big one. 

00:36:01 Prof Kirsten Cater 

At the moment, with things like chat DPT. 

00:36:04 Prof Kirsten Cater 

So yeah, I think the challenge is for me, as a computer scientist is to be to continue to have those conversations and think about what can I do to make sure that this technology is being developed in a safe and exciting supportive way, but not limiting innovation. But thinking about. 

00:36:23 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Actually, what do we need to do by talking to government to be talking to standard policy policies, standing bodies, policies, divisions to think about, actually, what’s the safeguarding? We need to actually instigate so that others are also being responsible when they’re developing those technology. 

00:36:42 Prof Kirsten Cater 

It’s it’s a massive challenge, but yeah, we’ll see. 

00:36:46 Prof Kirsten Cater 

How far we? 

00:36:46 Prof Michele Barbour 

Can care? Absolutely, and it’s only we’re working across the disciplines, both within academia, but really importantly outside into government, into industry into, you know, international community, yeah. 

00:36:55 Prof Kirsten Cater 

I’m working those partnerships. Yeah, me as a single academic. I’m not gonna have that impact, but by working into disciplinary, working collaboratively, working with so many different stakeholders and understanding what they need and to to survive and thrive. 

00:37:12 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Is really important in those conversations. 

00:37:15 Prof Michele Barbour 

So I understand you’ve had some collaboration with a company called Occo Health. Could you tell us? 

00:37:20 Prof Michele Barbour 

A bit about that. 

00:37:21 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Yeah. So I was very fortunate to meet Stephanie. And so it started off when she was, you know, coming up with just some ideas. 

00:37:31 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Around how children have their eyes tested and the pressure point that actually they have to go and have their eyes tested as, say, an Eye Hospital and the amount of time that that actually takes to get a young child to sit still, to have the test done. 

00:37:52 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And often this is done on on monitoring process, so it’s happening quite regularly and whilst things are OK, you know it’s it’s important to do that monitoring. But actually the time and the effort. 

00:38:04 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Of you know, having the eye consultant there and the discomfort of the child and the parent or the Guardian who is with them quite frustrating and. And so she was looking at this as a kind of challenge point and thinking about what could could be done better. And so we started thinking about for me as a human computer interaction researcher. 

00:38:24 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Friends working with an early career research doctor, Stuart Gray, thinking about how technologies like iPads, you know, quite often kids will stay still for a significant period of time whilst they’re playing a game or watching something on their iPads. 

00:38:35 Prof Michele Barbour 

Oh yeah. 

00:38:40 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Or their mobile devices. So could we use those devices to get children to play fun games in different ways? So we had a very small starter research project looking in this space. We went into primary schools and they say never work with animals or children. But you know, it was a fun. 

00:39:00 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Challenging time, you know, getting the children to think about the different characters, what would engage them, what the interface would look. 

00:39:08 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Like and and so you know, over time. Then Stephanie managed to get secure even more funding for the project. And then we’ve continued to have that research relationship with her as times gone investigating different parts or or now that the interface is. 

00:39:25 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Is a lot more. 

00:39:25 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Robust. You’re thinking about the different characters but different gameplay. 

00:39:29 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And whether the gamification of it was enough, you know, enough to keep them engaged on a regular basis, but not too much, that it’s overwhelming. 

00:39:36 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Thing. And so, yeah, no, it’s fantastic, you know, being able to see that real world impact. And as I said, you know that positivity of actually if I could make that child’s journey or that parent and guardians process much simpler and easier and and less challenging and but also saving time efficiency within the NHS and. 

00:39:57 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And within eye consultancy. 

00:40:00 Prof Kirsten Cater 

And you know what? More better could be from computer scientists to have that positive impact? 

00:40:02 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yes, everybody dying. 

00:40:05 Prof Michele Barbour 

So the idea is by playing the game the the the tablet is gaming information about the child’s eye health and so can sort of give in January it’s a green tick. In February, a green tick, but in March it’s we need to get you in to see the consultant because something might have. 

00:40:17 

Yeah. 

00:40:20 Prof Michele Barbour 

Change so is. Is that the premise simply, yeah. 

00:40:21 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Yes. Yeah. Completely. Yeah. Yeah. So it uses. 

00:40:24 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Is visual acuity, so things will slightly disappear. You know. So if your visual acuity is perfectly good, you will see those. But actually you know for those that have got certain eye conditions, they might not necessarily be picking up that that resolution or that object. And so are they missing that when they’re popping balloons? 

00:40:44 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Or whatever it might be, or chasing the spaceship, and so we can learn a lot from that data to monitor. Actually, when is that intervention point really critical that they then need to go and see the consult? 

00:40:55 Prof Michele Barbour 

It it, it sounds a lot more fun than what I do at my optometrist, which is the the flashing lights that I have to say if I can see them I want to and I realize this is a collaboration. It’s not your company, but I wonder if that could potentially have application with with older people, perhaps people who have sort of cognitive decline dementia who we need to know if. 

00:41:11 Prof Michele Barbour 

Their. 

00:41:11 Prof Michele Barbour 

Eyesight is deteriorating, but. 

00:41:13 Prof Michele Barbour 

For. 

00:41:14 Prof Michele Barbour 

Similar but distinct reasons it might be quite difficult to routinely get them in to to do tests in a sort of clinical. 

00:41:20 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Environments, yes. So potentially there’s lots of different, you know, end users of a product like this. And I think, I guess from a computer science point of view, some of the technology would be exactly the. 

00:41:32 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Name, but I think it from an HCI point of view. It’s interesting to say, well, what would engage that audience, you know? So playing a game gamifying it might not necessarily be the right way. What is this the thing the what’s the? 

00:41:44 Prof Kirsten Cater 

Kind of hook. 

00:41:45 Prof Michele Barbour 

Yeah. 

00:41:45 Prof Kirsten Cater 

That’s going to be getting them to use that application on a regular basis so that they don’t go, oh God say. 

00:41:52 Prof Kirsten Cater 

They have to now fill out that form, you know? So what? What, what? How can we make it fun for them? 

00:41:57 Prof Michele Barbour 

I can see that, yeah. 

00:41:59 Prof Michele Barbour 

Great. That’s all for this enterprise session. But join us again soon to hear more about the way our amazing staff and students are translating their enterprising ideas into real world impact. And do please click on the links if you’d like to contact the University of Bristol. 

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