Professor Patrick Olivier


By Ms Nancy Van Nieuwenhove | 31st May 2019

Professor Patrick Olivier

Societal Informatics, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University

Research interests: Human-computer interaction; Digital Civics; Ubiquitous computing; Social Computing; Interaction design; ITC4D.

Patrick Olivier

Professor Patrick Olivier is world-renowned human-computer interaction expert. He joined the Societal Informatics Research Group at the Monash University Faculty of Information Technology in December 2018. He works alongside social informatics and human-centred computing experts to develop digital services to address matter of social justice and inequality. “I have been impressed with the University’s commitment to socially impactful innovation. Some of my research interests include the application of social and ubiquitous technologies in education, public health and social justice, the development of new approaches to interaction and human-centred design methods. I am committed to the pursuit of processes by which people can be involved in creation of technology and digital services. The idea of a transition from a transactional service towards a more relational model of services where citizens have a role to play, providing a platform for collaboration but also exchange of experience and resources.”

Patrick has a background in Natural Sciences (BA), in Artificial Intelligence with Engineering Applications (M.Sc.) and in Language Engineering (Ph.D). Before Monash, Patrick was Professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the School of Computing, Newcastle University, United Kingdom. He founded and led Open Lab at the Newcastle University’s centre for cross-disciplinary research in digital technologies. At Newcastle, he founded and directed of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics (55 PhD students) and the EPSRC Digital Economy Research Centre (25 postdocs).

Patrick coined the term ‘digital civics’.The big idea behind ‘digital civics’ is to use technology to bridge the gap between government and its citizens, develop interdisciplinary collaborations, engage with industry, with not-for-profit and governmental organisations. “It’s exploring how digital technologies could promote more participation in designing and delivering public services like education, public health, social care and town planning. It is cross-disciplinary, action-oriented, place-based and open source. In the case of education for example, it is using technology to infrastructure schools to engage with communities creating an ecosystem model of learning (i.e. Park:Learn, Remix Portal…). In the case of Smart Cities, it is going beyond a technocentric vision where cities are underpinned by a set of technologies and platforms (big data, smartphones, smart meters…) and empower its citizens, this human capital we already have. Stopping thinking about users as consumers and think about them as citizens. For me digital civics is about how digital technologies can empower communities, support citizen-focused sharing of knowledge, experience and resources”.

Patrick has also been exploring the concept of ‘commissioning platform’ for Information services (e.g. App Movement Platform), events (Event Movement) and Media (Bootlegger). “The App Movement Platform provides a platform for users to commission their own location-based review systems, to highlight specific issues and maintain a trusted information source on topics of interest (e.g. Feed-Finder for good locations to breastfeed, accessible buildings, where to access free condoms, or where to fly your drone safely, etc.). It means that users can just have an idea and get the service generated (the app is generated from a template) if enough people in the community desire the tool proposed. It breaks the barrier of producing the app, the expertise needed, the cost... Crowd mapping is a conventional idea but providing a platform that build relationship between for example mother (as experts) and local government is a big shift in thinking. By framing government as more than the provider of services, digital civics aims to leverage technology to foster environments in which local agents (e.g. charities, local businesses, citizens) can solve problems together. I’m always thinking about smaller scale geographic communities driving innovation.

Through his research Patrick led the development of widely adopted open source software and hardware projects, including the Open Movement AX3 accelerometer for physical activities, the Intake24 24-hour dietary assessment tool, and also the BuildAX open source indoor environment sensor network, which has been used in a number of research deployments exploring energy management in residential and commercial buildings.