Luigina Ciolfi

Front Cover

March 6, 2013
by Luigina Ciolfi
1 Comment

“Magic is Might 2012″ Book of Proceedings is now available!

The book of proceedings collecting papers presented to the “Magic Is Might 2012″ conference and edited by me and Gráinne O’Brien is now available to download freely. The conference explored the cultural impact of the Harry Potter books and films and included participants with backgrounds in (among others) sociology, media design, gender studies, e-commerce.

You can find a high-resolution PDF copy (17MB) here

And there is also a low-resolution PDF (5MB) for people on slow connections here

Enjoy reading it!


March 3, 2013
by Luigina Ciolfi

Upcoming workshop at CHI 2013

I will be co-hosting a workshop at CHI 2013 in Paris in April on “Explorations in Social Interaction Design”.

As computing moves into the background and social media pervade everyday life, we need in HCI a broader vocabulary and additional resources for designing with socially generated data in ways that are rich, meaningful and sustainable. On the other hand, as designers of future products and environments, we urgently need to grasp and embrace the fluid social practices of connectivity.

In this one-day workshop, we aim to explore how the two lines of inquiry of sociability and materiality are and could be further linked towards a novel research agenda in Social Interaction Design (SxD) that merges social data and networked connections with a vision for materiality in computing and tangible interaction.

The workshop is organised by :
Elisa Giaccardi, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Luigina Ciolfi, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Eva Hornecker, Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany
Chris Speed, Edinburgh University, UK
Shaowen Bardzell, Indiana University, USA

in collaboration with
Pieter Jan Stappers, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Paul Hekkert, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
Marco Rozendaal, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

Program Committee Members:
Elizabeth Churchill, eBay Research Labs, USA
Rogerio de Paula, IBM Research Brazil
Maurice McGinley, AVG Innovation Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thecla Schiphorst, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

Full description of the workshop and (soon) a full list of participants can be found here

Old and new in Sheffield city centre

January 15, 2013
by Luigina Ciolfi

Of New Things

It is quite hard to believe but I have already been working at Sheffield Hallam University and living in Sheffield for over one month.

It has been a very exciting time, both with the discovery of the city and surrounding area and with getting to know my colleagues and new academic home.

Everyone is very welcoming and I, because I am part of a large research institute, I am still meeting people and finding out about their work.

Old and new in Sheffield city centre

A very interesting thing about C3RI is its mixing research with knowledge transfer. Next door to where I sit, there are facilities for innovative packaging design led by Design Futures: an initiative to bring design innovation from research into industry. I love their lab where brainstormings take place and full of interesting packaging samples and inspirational materials – I wish I could play there for a little while!

There are also other labs for prototyping and evaluation, as well as faculty and research offices and a knowledge transfer team. Academically, we are a very multidisciplinary group, and the two research centres, Communication and Computing (which I belong to) and Art and Design have a lot of connections and collaborations. The academics’ research spans from media studies, to human-centered design, design for healthcare, security, human factors, fashion, science and technology studies and more. There is so much to learn about my own colleagues!

While I slowly re-start all my work that had a forced break with the physical relocation, I also have the opportunity of doing something completely new: in February, we will host the kick-off meeting of our newly funded EU FP7 project meSch, which will be led by my ADRC colleague Daniela Petrelli and also includes my lovely former colleagues at UL IDC as well as 11 other European partners. We will research and develop novel platforms for the creation of DYI tangibles in museums and galleries, mixing co-design, tangible and embedded interaction and heritage technology. You can see why I am excited about this project :) You will hear much more about it once we have officially started and launch our web presence.

I am also co-organising a CHI Workshop on “Social Interaction Design“, writing several papers, starting the preparation for COOP 2014 of which I am scientific co-chair and many other things in between.

It is a good time full of new things!


September 26, 2012
by Luigina Ciolfi

A New Chapter

I am delighted to announce that on December 1st I will take on a new position as Reader of Communications at Sheffield Hallam University (UK).

I will be based at C3RI, the Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute, in the Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Science. Within the Institute, I will be a member of the Communication and Computing Research Centre, a group of very interesting and interdisciplinary people, with a strong tradition in Interaction Design and related fields. I am greatly looking forward to new challenges!

I have enjoyed immensely the past 13 years as a member of the UL Interaction Design Centre and of the CSIS Department, and I am lucky that we will be able to maintain a research collaboration trough a new EU Project over the next four years. Therefore my Irish-Italian accent will be slow to disappear :)

I will post my new contact details once the move is completed!

A new student society for UL? (Artwork by Hannah Deacon)

August 10, 2012
by Luigina Ciolfi

The Might of Magic

Now that the hype has died down and I had some time to recover, it’s about time I write something about the mind-blowing experience that has been “Magic Is Might 2012″, the conference that Gráinne O’Brien of the Department of Sociology and myself organised here at UL a couple of weeks ago.
I say mind-blowing because this event has provided me with many surprises, challenges, opportunities and, generally, plenty of food for thought – to the point that I am still trying to process it all.

But first things first: about 2 years ago I met Gráinne through a UL colleague who knew we were both Potterheads and thought we’d have a lot to talk about. She was right: Gráinne and I know the books deeply, and are very interested in the themes and characters of the story, as well as the cultural impact that it has had on fans. I use Harry Potter in my Information Society module as a case study of how online communities can develop, and Gráinne has written her MA thesis in Gender, Culture and Society on the character of Lord Voldemort.

The day that Dragons came to UL (artwork by Lette Moloney from a photo by Neville Gawley)

So about 14 months ago Gráinne suggested that we hold an academic event on Harry Potter at UL, issuing a call for papers, reviewing submissions and selecting a program of good quality presentations for the event. Nothing too strange nor different from countless other academic conferences on whatever topic held at universities around the globe, including some that I have myself organised in the past.
However, it was a very new experience for me to review papers that were inspired by the same source material I know so well, but coming from so many disparate disciplinary areas: from education, to design, business, technology and cultural theory. The submissions showed us right away that we could select an interesting and challenging program.

Then things started becoming even more more unusual. We wanted our conference to be a venue for presenting good academic work, but we also wanted it to be something that the (presumably) Potter-loving attendees would find memorable. As the conference was not affiliated nor authorised in any way by JK Rowling and her publishers, nor by Warner Bros., we were careful to respect the intellectual property of the author and filmmakers. It meant, however, that we put together a wonderful team of people to create original content to make our event truly unique. For example, the idea of a trial emerged, where an episode from the books, the “infamous” moment when Dolores Umbridge is abducted by a herd of angry centaurs into Hogwarts’ Forbidden Forest, would be scrutinized from a legal point of view, and participants would be asked to debate on whether the character’s obvious unpleasantness was enough to justify her punishment. A colleague from the School of Law at UL scripted the entire trial, including witness statements which were shot by the talented crowd at MoCinema in Limerick. As we kept the subject of the trial secret until the last moment, we also got some “teaser” photos created by another local company, Moloney Media, and shot in the UL Moot Courtroom (where the trial was actually held during the conference). The amount and quality of work that was kindly donated by these local businesses to the conference is incredible.

Dementors in the UL Moot Court! (Copyright: Keith Moloney)

Lette at Moloney Media also created wonderful original graphics for our blog and social media pages, and fabulous original crests for the four Hogwarts Houses to be displayed on decorative banners at the conference venue. If this wasn’t enough, the volunteers who agreed to come and help us run the event smoothly also created excellent artwork to transform the C1 corridor in the UL Main Building into a “mini-Hogwarts” with club posters, class noticeboards and so on. The place looked fantastic!

True to my colours: posing with the Ravenclaw Banner (Banner design: Lette Moloney; Photo: Hannah Deacon)

When, finally, the presenters (coming from three continents!) arrived and the talks started, I was thrilled to hear so many interesting papers: for example, Jennifer Trieu‘s wonderful discussion of how food is used in the books to define British national identity; Berry and Daan Eggen‘s reflections on how novel interaction technologies can realise some of the visions of magic in the books; and Cathy Leogrande‘s analysis of how the books have produced impressive examples of transmedia storytelling – to mention but a few. I was even more thrilled by how easily the group debated all the contributions, often offering the authors a uniquely novel perspective on their work. For my paper, I -and interaction designer- talked about the characterisation of home places in the books, and received questions from sociologists, cultural theorists and educators. It doesn’t happen every day!

Muggle Studies Class perhaps? (Photo by Hannah Deacon)

I think that for everyone a definite highlight was the invited keynote presentation that Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman of Glenstal Abbey delivered on the second day of the conference. Abbot Hederman, who has a PhD in education and has written widely on the subject, sharply addressed the dismissing opinions on the books expressed by some critics, arguing how it is impossible to ignore the influence of Harry Potter when so many millions of people have read, appropriated and become involved with the story.

(L-R) Me, Gráinne and Mark Patrick Hederman during the photoshoot by the Whomping Willow (Photo by Alan Ryan)

Overall, I think the conference was an academic and knowledge transfer success: we received only positive feedback from the attendees and presenters.

My own account of the experience, however, would not be complete if I didn’t mention the totally unexpected and completely overwhelming media frenzy that “Magic Is Might” generated in Ireland. While working with the UL Press Office on the press release for the event, I would never have thought  that such a reaction was to be expected.

The madness began when a certain radio broadcaster with huge following broke the embargo on the press release and mentioned the conference on his radio show as, more or less, nonsense (e.g. “Why should taxpayers’ money be spent on people discussing a kids book???”). The following day, I had the opportunity to answer his questions on air gaining some good feedback from listeners and critics. After the interview, almost every media outlet in the country wanted to talk to us. The result was a mad day of interviews, photo shoots and phone calls, all on top of the normal conference activities, and media coverage including all the national newspapers (Times, Independent and Examiner), Limerick and Clare newspapers, local and national radio, and the evening prime time TV news! (Gulp!)

I found it incredible that you had to explain why something that has inspired so many people in so many ways is worth studying, and that I had to argue for people’s freedom to examine and reflect on what shapes contemporary culture and leads to new knowledge in so many fields. As my “everyday” research is pretty easily applicable to solving everyday problems or to supporting work and leisure activities, I never realised how difficult it might be for people in less immediately translated areas of research to communicate the worth of what they do to the general public. While reading some articles online on this issue after the “radio interview experience”, I even came across criticism to CERN’s research on subatomic particles (e.g. “What do we need Higgs’ Boson for when we cannot even see it?” \O/), so imagine what we could have got back for debating a fictional boy wizard with an anger management problem!

A new student society for UL? (Artwork by Hannah Deacon)

I must say that, however, except for a few bemused comments on Twitter, the feedback to “Magic is Might” has been fantastically positive. Receiving emails from people in mental health, education and psychology in the wake of the news coverage, explaining how Harry Potter has helped them in their work was absolutely inspiring.

So, even at our little conference, the might of magic prevailed in the end.

July 31, 2012
by Luigina Ciolfi

CfP JCSCW Special Issue: Work Practices, Nomadicity and the Mediational Role of Technology

We have extended the submission deadline to the special issue we are preparing for the CSCW Journal as part of the NWL Project.

Full Call for papers is below!

CSCW Journal Special Issue: Work Practices, Nomadicity and the Mediational Role of Technology

Special issue editors:
Luigina Ciolfi (Interaction Design Centre, University of Limerick,
Ap. Fabiano Pinatti de Carvalho (Interaction Design Centre, University of Limerick,


Important dates (EXTENDED):

  • Submission deadline : September 30th 2012
  • Feedback to Authors due: January 2013
  • Revised version due: March 2013



Submissions should be 6000-8000 words and MUST adhere to the journal’s formatting and editorial standards, available at (please refer to the Instructions for Authors located in the menu For Authors and Editors on the right).


Submissions must be made via the Springer Editorial Manager (

For updates see:



Over the past few years new forms of work have emerged and developed. One of the key characteristics of current forms of work, and particularly information work, is the potential for nomadic practices, since workers mainly deal with something that can be easily represented digitally and taken to or accessed from different locations. In other words, it can be said that work activities can be easily detached from the office premises and can be performed anytime or anywhere that suits the workers’ needs (Davis, 2002). In fact, increasing attention is being paid to what is here called modern nomadicity – an approach to work that involves engaging with work activities across different locations depending on the availability of the resources that are necessary for accomplishing them (de Carvalho et al., 2011). In so doing, several studies have approached issues related to nomadic work practices and the design of technologies to support those involved with them (Bartolucci, 2007; Chen & Nath, 2005; Ciolfi et al., 2005; Cousins & Robey, 2005; Kleinrock, 1996; Kristensen, 2002; La Porta et al., 1996; Lyytinen & Yoo, 2002; Rossitto & Eklundh, 2007; Su & Mark, 2008).

Despite the increasing number of research studies in the topic, there are still open issues that should be explored in order to better understand it. Some of those issues are to do with:

  • the nature of nomadic work practices among different groups of workers, which encompasses understanding the meanings associated with nomadicity, investigating how it unfolds in different work settings, identifying the attributes that make a specific work activity potentially nomadic, comprehending the reasons that lead people to approach it nomadically, and exploring the impact that nomadicity may have upon collaborative activities;
  • the meditational role that technologies can play in the making of nomadic work, which concerns investigating how the technological means are appropriated and used in nomadic contexts, identifying in which situations they act as a support or a hindrance to nomadic work practices and exploring how technologies (tools, platforms and services) can be designed to better support nomadic work;
  • the blurring of work and life boundaries that seems to be happening in the lives of those involved with nomadicity, which comprises examining to what extent nomadic work practices have been contributing towards the blurring of the divide between the work and the private dimensions of people’s lives, identifying what are the pros and cons stemming from it, and comprehending how people negotiate and manage this blurring.

Therefore, the invited contributions should answer foundational questions such as those listed below:

  • What is the nature of nomadic work practices?
  • What is the role of computer technologies in the making of nomadic work?
  • What kinds of resources do people assemble when they mobilise their work activities?
  • What are the impacts of nomadicity in collaborative work?
  • How are nomadic work practices affecting the work/life boundaries?
  • What are the social and organisational implications of nomadic work?
  • What opportunities and constraints are linked to being nomadic?
  • What are the reasons for people to choose a place over another place to develop their work activities?

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Empirical research
  • Collaborative work
  • Mobilisation work
  • Design of technologies
  • Nomadic strategies
  • Social implications of nomadicity
  • Access anytime/anywhere
  • Place-making
  • Social networks
  • Work and enjoyment
  • Organisational aspects of nomadic work
  • Social aspects of nomadic work

All enquiries can be emailed to




June 14, 2012
by Luigina Ciolfi

“The Making of Harry Potter” Exhibition

As many of you probably know by now, I am quite the Potterhead :).

As well as that, I am also co-organising a conference on the cultural impact that the Harry Potter books and films have had in the years between the publication of the first novel in the series (in 1997) to date. I am working on my paper for the conference (taking place at the end of July), “The Making of Home Places in Harry Potter”, where I talk about how in the books houses and homes are characterised in often surprising ways. As I am currently quite immersed in the original material, it was absolutely perfect timing that I was able to book a ticket to take the Warner Bros. Studio Tour to “The Making of Harry Potter” exhibition at Leavesden studios near London this week. The site at Leavesden is a disused airfield that Warner Bros. converted into filming facility when they began production of the Harry Potter franchise (the first film was released in 2001).

Other reasons to be excited were my interests in both films and filmmaking, and exhibition design, particularly when including some interactive technology. The tour didn’t disappoint at any level: rather, it was exhilarating. I won’t give away too many details here in case anyone is planning to go and visit, as surprises are a key aspect of the experience. From an exhibition design and organisation point of view, everything flows really well: small groups are staggered into the exhibit, while there is plenty to see and photograph around the entrance and while queuing – props, set photographs, the front window of the shop, etc.

Set stills displayed all around the entrance hall

The exhibition itself is structured around two large sound stages (called J and K ;) ) and an outdoor area between them where some external sets are displayed, and where you can indulge in a glass of Butterbeer (which is delicious for about three sips before it becomes unbearably sweet). Across the space, visitors encounter both entire sets (such as one of the classrooms at Hogwarts; the Professor Dumbledore’s office, etc.), large and small props (the main gates to the school, wizarding equipment, furniture, costumes and magical creatures!), and a very large collection of production materials such as sketches, models and concept art that were created before filming had begun.

I liked the (apparently) simple interactive elements of the exhibits, such as cauldrons stirring themselves when you stood in front of them, and the wands controlling other surprising behaviours in the exhibit. Although simple, the interaction resonates very closely with the idea of magic in the books, and keeps the additional “gadget” layer light – you want this when you are surrounded by a sensory overload of wizardry! I also liked how the “medieval” look and feel of objects and rooms was not affected by the presence of sleek technology.

Potions classroom, with self-stirring cauldron :)

One of the themed exhibits I liked the most is the one on graphics and graphic design, collecting a very large amount of print media that was created to make real a large amount of fictional books, newspapers, object packagings, letters and other similar items mentioned in the books. For example, if you have seen the very first movie “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, you will probably remember the magical letters trying to reach Harry despite the attempts of his non-magical relatives to stop them. They were all handwritten on real parchment.

Letters from Hogwarts from the first film

These are just one of the thousands of items that were created with incredible attention to detail in order to re-create Harry’s world, even if they were to be seen only for fleeting moments in the films – this particular exhibit is a must-see for fans without a doubt!

The full-scale sets are also a very good way to appreciate how a “realistic” environment can be created for a film, from lighting, to building materials and props. Some of the sets have survived for over 10 years of filming and were built to sustain hundreds of cast members and hundreds of staff working on the production. Some of the props were no less robust: one particular sculpture made of actual chocolate and shaped like a phoenix survived for 7 years in a fridge to be used in many banqueting scenes!

Final advice to all Potterheads: get yourselves there. Advice to everyone else: you would enjoy it too :)

(BTW I had to exercise great restraint in writing this post)


June 3, 2012
by Luigina Ciolfi

COOP 2012

Had a great few days in Marseille attending COOP 2012, 10th International  Conference on the Design of Cooperative Systems. The theme this year was “From research to practice: Results and open challenges”, and indeed there was an excellent variety of papers covering the entire space between field studies and design and evaluation. The program featured work on healthcare, industry use of social media, technology and the elderly, and a variety of work settings – including a contribution from our own NWL project that you can read here.

The view over La Canebiere from the conference venue was breathtaking!

Moreover, we discussed three keynote presentations on very different topics. On Day 1, Graham Button gave an overview of the basic epistemological motivations of CSCW research and of, in particular, ethnomethodological enquiry, posing some provocative questions on whether current forms of work and non-work should be studied any differently. On Day 2, Marco Susani gave his designerly perspective on how new forms of collaborations (which he called “guerrilla collaboration”) emerge in an era of almost infinite digital possibilities. Finally, on Day 3, Manuel Zacklad reflected on the 20 years of the COOP community, proposing new frameworks for re-thinking cooperation and coordination with respect to new forms of digital interaction.

Myriam Lewkowicz introduces Manuel Zacklad

Beside a very high-quality program and great discussions with old and new colleagues, I also greatly enjoyed the lovely city of Marseille – although the temperature was much higher than what you could expect in May!

Conference dinner on board Le Marseillois

Overall, it was a great conference and setting the bar very high for the next edition in two years’ time: I am truly honoured to have been asked to serve as scientific co-chair (together with Dave Martin of XRCE Grenoble) for COOP 2014, and we will soon begin planning how to make it a success!

May 15, 2012
by Luigina Ciolfi

Research Talk at Linköping University

This week I visited Linköping University where I was invited by the Interaction and Service Design Research Group to give a talk on my research. It was a really interesting visit as I had not been at Linköping University before and I got a chance to take a tour of the campus (and admire some interesting architecture!) and to meet folks in the Department of Computer and Information Science. Stefan Holmlid and Mattias Arvola of IxS gave me an excellent overview of their current projects. In particular, I was really intrigued by Mattias and his students’ work on mobile augmented reality which has been applied and tested in various settings, including heritage (their recent mobile augmented reality guide for Astrid Lindgren’s Birthplace park is lovely!). They have developed their own mobile AR platform which blends in various media, making designing mobile guides much more flexible. More info on current projects can be found here.

Personally, I received some very sharp questions from the audience at my talk on place experience around “Reminisce” at Bunratty Folk Park: food for thought! Now, more papers to write :)

May 4, 2012
by Luigina Ciolfi

Welcome to my website!

Hi All, welcome to my new website! It’s still work in progress so bear with me as I add all relevant information and related media and make each page interesting!

I am a lecturer and researcher in Interaction Design. I am currently working at the University of Limerick‘s Interaction Design Centre. My interests lie in the complex relationship between humans and interactive systems, and in how the physical world we inhabit is affected by novel opportunities for interaction for individuals and groups. My work belongs to the academic disciplines of Human-Computer Interaction, Interaction Design and Social and Collaborative Computing.

Here you will be able to learn more about me and my work, my writings and the projects I have been involved in over the past few years, something on teaching and mentoring students and my professional activities in the international interaction design community.

I will use the blog to post updates on what I am up to and other items of interests from colleagues and the wider world of interaction design.