This talk is about a research initiative in “Digital Civics” that Prof. Patrick Olivier has been undertaking, firstly at Open Lab, Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, and now at Monash University, Australia. Digital Civics proposes the use of digital technologies in the provision of relational models of citizen-centred services, that is, models that take as a starting point the potential of digital technologies to support citizen-focused sharing of knowledge, experience and resources. By framing government and NGOs as more than simply the provider of uniform and mechanistic services, Digital Civics aims to leverage technology to foster environments in which local agents (e.g. local government, charities, local businesses, citizens) are able to solve problems together. Digital Civics research is inherently cross-disciplinary, action-oriented and place-based, and this requires academic researchers to configure themselves differently to the Communities and organisation with whom they conduct their research. In this talk, Prof. Olivier will be describing examples of their Digital Civics research, from applications in community engagement and education to public health and social justice, as well as the trajectory and pragmatics of the overall endeavour.
Prof. Olivier is an expert in human-computer interaction with particular research interests include the application of social and ubiquitous computing, the development of new approaches to interaction (including as novel sensing platforms and interaction techniques) and human-centred design methods. He coined the term Digital Civics, now a central focus of his research. Digital Civics is a cross-disciplinary area of research that explores ways technology can promote new forms of participation in the design and delivery of local services including education, public health and social care and town planning. For example, the App Movement Platform is a new kind of technology commissioning service that allows anyone to campaign for, design, and automatically generate location-based review systems for topics of concern to them. Before joining Monash in December 2018, Prof. Olivier was Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the School of Computing, Newcastle University, United Kingdom where founded and lead Open Lab, Newcastle University’s centre for cross-disciplinary research in digital technologies. He was director of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics (55 cross-disciplinary PhD students) and the EPSRC Digital Economy Research Centre a multidisciplinary five-year project involving 25 postdoctoral researchers. Prof. Olivier's immediate plans are to establish ACTION Lab, a new action-oriented initiative in Digital Civics within the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University, and his visit to WorldFish is an initial attempt to open a dialogue with a view to collaboration.