Lecture on Digitalization and our Work Environment


System development work is difficult, and many IT systems do not work satisfactorily despite intensive technology development. My research is about improving the situation and understanding what the problems are. I am working on developing improved working methods in the organizations and projects that develop and introduce IT. The focus here is user-centered methods, gender, sociotechnical perspective and agile development. I have also researched the skills that the people in the projects need to master to be able to work with the development of complex systems that support people in a good way.

If you are curious about my research – listen to the 12 min long lecture in Swedish


On Digitalisation and Fragmentation of Time

Diane Golay and Åsa Cajander did a presentation on Fragmentation of Time and Digitalisation for the Uppsala University Academic Senate this fall. This blog post captures some of what we said in the presentation.  Enjoy!

Digitalisation of work sometimes has the unintended side effect that it fragments our time. Fragmentation commonly refers to the separation of activities into many discrete pieces. It is usually calculated based on two different aspects: the length of continuous work episodes, and the number of interruptions. In those terms, fragmented work is characterized  by short work tasks and frequent interruptions, as opposed to a work rhythm made of few but long work episodes with no or few interruptions.

Several studies have pointed to the increasing fragmentation of our work.  For instance, a 2009 study found that people switched tasks about every 12 minutes. Two years later, another study found that a modern worker’s day comprised an average of 88 work episodes, most of which (90%) lasted for 10 minutes or less. The found average duration for those work episodes was of just under three minutes.

Work fragmentation is related to a perceived increase in work pace and work intensity. It is also detrimental to the actual work taking place. The causes of fragmentation can be both external, such as a phone call or a computer that stops working, or internal, i.e. self-initiated, such as looking up an information on the web while working on a report.

External interruptions have a particularly negative effect on work. A context switch requires cognitive overhead, and context- switching is related to time costs. Concrete negative consequences of external interruptions include errors, stress, work delay, difficulty resuming the interrupted task, and increased user frustration. Interruptions are however not always negative: inquiries, breaks, and adjustments can facilitate the primary task by providing valuable information or creating an environment that encourages increased productivity. Context plays a significant role in determining whether interruptions are considered to be beneficial or detrimental. In general, interruptions that occur outside of one’s current working sphere context are disruptive as they lead one to (sometimes radically) shift their thinking. In contrast, interruptions that concern one’s current working sphere are considered helpful.

However, it should be noted that fragmentation is also a natural part of our work. Work tasks are to a small or high degree woven together and fragmented in complex patterns. Workers seldom work with one task at the time. Interruptions are a to some extent also a natural part of our work. Breaks are for example crucial for collaboration and learning.

So we should not aim for a fully continuous workflow, but might want to try and reduce external and internal interruptions that are not related to the task(s) at hand. Finding an amount of fragmentation that works for us will enable us to boost our work performance, reduce our cognitive workload, and simply make us feel better at and about our work.


[1] Jin, J., & Dabbish, L. A. (2009). Self-interruption on the computer. Proceedings of the 27th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI 09, 1799. https://doi.org/10.1145/1518701.1518979

[2] Wajcman, J., & Rose, E. (2011). Constant connectivity: Rethinking interruptions at work. Organization Studies, 32(7), 941–961. https://doi.org/10.1177/0170840611410829

Dr Grünloh did an Excellent Job Defending her PhD

We all knew that Christiane Grünloh of our team knows how to do great and important research. But we were still amazed by her skills at the defense! Also, the atmosphere was really super nice and the defense was really a discussion among true professionals more than a questioning. The opponent David Hendry did such an excellent job and was really well prepared. If you weren’t there you missed something special!

Minna Salminen Karlsson from the HTO team, who is indeed very experienced, said:

“This was one of the best PhD defences that I’ve been to!”

The title of the PhD thesis is “Harmful or Empowering? Stakeholders’ Expectations and Experiences of Patient Accessible Electronic Health Records”. The research deals with the national eHealth service in Sweden that gives people access to their electronic health records.

You can read more about the PhD thesis in Christiane’s blog found here

Winding Road to Become Professor of Human Computer Interaction

Next week it is time to celebrate that I have become a new professor of Human Computer Interaction. Up until a couple of years ago I would never had thought that this would happen. The typical professor in my world is odd or excentric, very smart and a man. Well, perhaps I am a bit excentric? Hmm. Especially when it comes to sleeping I do follow a slightly different orbit from the rest of society. I am indeed a proper party pooper and fall asleep early in the evenings  :-o. Also my winding background is not very traditional for professors. There was a recent paper about my background in ACM Crossroads found here for those who are curious. But I do not see myself as very smart at all, and I think I am quite an average person generally. Moreover, I am very happy about being a woman.

How did I then end up being a professor of Human Computer Interaction? Well, I think that my best abilities as a researcher is curiosity and being brave. Also I think that Human Computer Interaction is an area that fits well with my interests as it is transdisciplinary. In short: I can fit the areas that I am interested in well into the subject of Human Computer Interaction even though they transcend education, enterprise usability, eHealth, gender and wellbeing. There was a text about my research on the university’s web page found here. Finally, I am convinced that I would not have come this far without the fabulous people I work with both in the HTO group, the UpCERg group and internationally. In a good collaboration everyone is a winner and research becomes so much more fun. A good example of this is that my colleagues Mats Daniels and Arnold Pears are also inaugurated as full professors at the same ceremony as I am, and also the important research that my colleagues and I do.

The inauguration of full professors is a public ceremony with newly appointed professors and this year it takes place on the 16th of November at 15.00. The ceremony has its roots in the medieval times and has been held every year since 1625. Perhaps I’ll see you there?





NordiCHI’18 – Key Note by Carly Gloge on Moonshot thinking at Google X and Pippi Longstocking Reflections

This week several members of the HTO group attended the NordiCHI 2018 conference in Olso, with the theme “revisiting the life cycle”. Here are some highlights from the first key note that we attended. In this key note Carly Gloge presented some work at company X which is Google’s “moonshot factory”. Their idea is to start with the really big problems first, and trying to solve them with innovation and technology. Some examples of innovations are self driving cars, here presented as reinventing the car driver.

This key note was really also addressing diversity as a success factor for the Moonshot factory, as well as being brave. Google X has really focused on diversity, and Carly Gloge says that this is one of the reasons why Google X has been so successful. A veryinteresting thing that came up related to this in the discussions section was the fact that Google is sued by Caucasian men that feel that they don’t have equal opportunities as other people at Google. They have ended up being accused of discrimination towards Caucasian men!

“If I would have known then what I know now, I would really have focused on diversity on my team in my previous jobs”.

Carly Gloge also presented their finding that psychological safety is at the core of successful teams. This finding is based on a Google investigation on successful teams where they ended up understanding that psychological safety was the only way to create a successful team, and not combining Type A personalities or “alpha males”.

They also very much focus on the growth mindset as a way of thinking, which means that you can always learn new things and that it is not innate to be an expert in something. This mindset is also mentioned as the “YET” mindset – I don’t know this yet and some in our HTO group has done some research on this mindset in computer science. This made us think of one of the famous quotes from Pippi Longstocking:

“I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”

― Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking

Carly Gloge tells us that the importance of diversity is also gaining traction in the asset management community, with large actors such as the US company Blackrock identifying diversity as a success factor that they include when creating their investment strategies.

Google has acquired a lot of companies, small and large, and Carly Gloge’s team is one composed of several such acquisitions. As with any acquisition this has its challenges, especially for a company aiming for radical solutions to the world’s problems. As Carly puts it, they frequently need to ask themselves “are we [our group/team] just a solution looking for a problem, or what are the problems we really would like to tackle?”

A suitable quote from Carly to start off this conference:
“If you obsess over your users, you can’t go wrong”

Kick-off for a series of posts on teaching and learning

In addition to the research that we do, many of the members of HTO are involved in lots of teaching activities at the department of IT in Uppsala. Some of the courses we teach are in the area of health care, and here we have a very good collaboration with Region Uppsala. The setup of this collaboration is to aim for a win-win between students learning and the Region’s goals and visions. We have collaborated with the Region since around 2004, and it has resulted in many new learning opportunities as well as input to innovations in health care both for the Region and for the nation.

We also work with innovation and development of learning opportunities in our teaching. Åsa Cajander is a member of the Uppsala Computing Education Research Group, and this community gives lots of input and ideas for improvements of courses.

This semester we collaborate with Region Uppsala through our course on Medical Informatics and the course IT in Society. We also collaborate through joint master theses on topics of interest to the Region. We have asked a couple of our current students to write blog posts about their experiences during their thesis work, and this fall the HTO blog will contain a series of blog posts on teaching and learning activities related to the HTO group.

Inauguration of Åsa Cajander as New Full Professor

Åsa Cajander will be installed as one of around 20 new full professors at Uppsala University on the 16th of November 2018 between 15-17. There will be plenty of other people from the department at the same inauguration as we seem to be very successful this year in promoting full professors.

The inauguration ceremony has its roots in the medieval university, and is really one of the university’s grand ceremonies. During the week before the inauguration all the new professors will do lectures presenting their work. These lectures are recorded and can be found online for the curious reader.

Doktorspromotionen jan 2018 Foto. Mikael Wallerstedt

Uppsala University also has a very grand Conferment Cermony. The Conferment Ceremony and the Inauguration of Professors are the ceremonies which exist att all Swedish universities and research university colleges. While the Conferment Ceremony is connected to the individual faculties, each with its own promotor, the Inauguration is common to the whole university.


Article in Interactions Highlighing the SIGCHI/EIT Health Summer School

Last summer many from the HTO group joined the SIGCHI/EIT Health Summer School that was organised in Dublin and in Uppsala/Stockholm. The photo in the blog post is from the amazing library at Trinity Colleague.

The magazine Interactions highlighted the summer school in their latest edition.

The article highlights some of the learning experiences from organising such a summer school, such as that demand is high for such summer courses, patient participation is very valuable and that it was easy to recruit contributors to the summer school.

I know that the other organisers of the summer school thought that it was a lot of administration, but all agreed that it was also great fun!

Interactions also highlighted some of the HTO groups’ blog posts about the summer school found here:

Jonas Moll: https://molljonas.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/ehealth-summer-school-in-dublin-day-5/

Christiane Grünloh: https://www.htogroup.org/2017/07/08/behaviour-change-social-practice-theory-and-learned-helplessness/

Diane Golay: http://dianegolay.ch/2017/07/05/on-humans-computers-and-why-users-should-not-be-blamed-for-struggling-with-computerized-systems/


Another Excellent Teacher in the HTO group!!

Now the HTO group has two excellent teachers as Åsa Cajander was awarded the title last week joining Lars Oestreicher who was awarded the title several years ago.

Uppsala University has a formal process for awarding skilled teachers the title “Excellent teacher”, and the title is connected to a salary raise. There is a board that appoints excellent teachers at each faculty, and the faculty of science and technology has one Board for Appointment of Excellent Teachers that meet every semester.

The curious reader find the guidelines for admittance of excellent teachers online in this pdf document. 

Digitaliseringen och arbetsmiljön – en nyutgiven bok av Bengt Sandblad mfl.

Boken som Bengt Sandblad från HTO-gruppen har varit med och skrivit finns nu att köpa! Du kan besälla boken tex här. 


Vad är en god digital arbetsmiljö? Hur går man till väga för att skapa en sådan? Trots att det i dag finns mycket kunskap om detta, ser vi fortfarande it-projekt som havererar och missnöjda användare. Det är uppenbarligen svårt att lyckas i praktiken. Teorier måste omsättas i praktisk handling.

När användningen och betydelsen av de digitala stödsystemen i arbets­­livet ökar handlar det i allt större utsträckning om en digital arbetsmiljö. Om alla ska kunna utföra sina arbetsuppgifter på ett effektivt och säkert ?sätt, med hög kvalitet och utan onödiga belastningar, måste man ställa höga krav på de digitala systemens utformning och införande. Erfarenheterna i dag är tudelade: dels bidrar it-systemen till förnyelse ?och verksamhetsnytta, dels uppvisar de alltför ofta stora brister vilket medför påtagliga arbetsmiljöproblem. Många användare är frustrerade över att deras it-verktyg inte stödjer dem eller fungerar som de borde.?

Den här boken ger en grundläggande beskrivning av kunskapsläget om digitalisering och digitala arbetsmiljöproblem, samt en omfattande vägledning i hur man kan utnyttja digitaliseringens möjligheter och samtidigt försäkra sig om en god och hållbar digital arbetsmiljö.