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Digital interruptions and prolonged distraction

   Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics

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  Dr L Turner, Dr Sandy Gould  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The task of managing our focus and attention has become an almost persistent task due to the rise of personal technologies that have become engrained in our lives. These interruptions are often caused by smartphone notifications due to the frequency and diversity of information that they contain, but this could also just be an alarm, or other cues from devices that are not related to our focus in a situation. The study of interruptibility and the cognitive impact of distractions on attention has been of wide research interest, ranging from empirical studies on desktop devices, through to mobile devices, and now the Internet of Things. Across these, broad research questions have been proposed, including: What features of interruptions enable them to effectively cross the mental barrier of focus? What behaviours do individuals use to manage interruptions? Can the response behaviour be predicted?

However, an often-key assumption in the literature is that the impact of interruptions is short-lived and occurs in cognitive isolation of other interruptions. Where an interruption is seen to occur, negatively impact task performance in some way, and then fade away as the individual returns back to the task until the next interruption (resumption lag). In reality, the frequent presence, diversity, and multi-modal nature of interruptions (such as from the smartphone) likely produces a cumulative and somewhat prolonged effect, resulting cross-interruption impact that is not captured or understood.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervision team prior to submitting their application.

Aims and Methods: The initial direction will involve undertaking a literature review. Alongside this, existing interruption datasets will be examined with appropriate statistical and machine learning methods to provide preliminary insight into cross-interruption effects. This may be followed by dedicated empirical studies ‘in-the-wild’ using the Android platform.

Deliverables: The outcomes of this research intends to help inform the design of intelligent interruption systems.

Keywords: Interruptibility, human-computer interaction, human-centred computing, social computing, smartphone, contextual sensing, behaviour change.

 For more information about the project, please contact Liam Turner [Email Address Removed]

Academic criteria: A 2:1 Honours undergraduate degree or a master's degree, in computing or a related subject. Applicants with appropriate professional experience are also considered. Degree-level mathematics (or equivalent) is required for research in some project areas.

Applicants for whom English is not their first language must demonstrate proficiency by obtaining an IELTS score of at least 6.5 overall, with a minimum of 6.0 in each skills component.

How to apply:

Please contact the supervisors of the project prior to submitting your application to discuss and develop an individual research proposal that builds on the information provided in this advert. Once you have developed the proposal with support from the supervisors, please submit your application following the instructions provided below

Please submit your application before the application deadline 29th April 2022 via Computer Science and Informatics - Study - Cardiff University

In order to be considered candidates must submit the following information: 

  • Supporting statement 
  • CV 
  • In the ‘Research Proposal’ section of the application enter the name of the project you are applying to and upload your Individual research proposal, as mentioned above in BOLD
  • In the funding field of your application, insert “I am applying for 2022 PhD Scholarship in Computer Science and Informatics”, and specify the project title and supervisors of this project in the text box provided.
  • Qualification certificates and Transcripts
  • References x 2 
  • Proof of English language (if applicable)

Interview - If the application meets the entrance requirements, you will be invited to an interview

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

A School-Funded PhD Scholarship is available for entry 2022/23. In the Funding field of your application, insert "I am applying for 2022 PhD Scholarship" and specify the project title and supervisor of this project in the fields provided.

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