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To whom it may concern,

This cover letter is in application for the position of Section Head/Lecturer in the Design
Innovation Centre (IDEALab) at the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore.
I am a PhD candidate in the field of Human-Computer Interaction from the University of
Glasgow where I worked under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Chalmers. I passed my oral
defence last February 2010 and am now awaiting approval of the final version of my thesis
from my reviewers. I also hold an MSc in HCI from the University of Sussex, where I worked
under the supervision of Dr. Geraldine Fitzpatrick.
I believe my profile is a good match for the post for several reasons. Let me begin by
describing my research experience. I have a background in qualitative research and have
experience with participant observation, interviewing, focus groups, and the NVivo software
for the analysis of qualitative data. In my PhD research I made extensive use of these methods
while conducting ethnographic work in the UK, Japan, South Korea, China, and Mexico
exploring the use of popular information and communication technologies like mobile
phones, social networks, and internet messaging. In the first four countries I conducted
fieldwork among university students. In Mexico, however, I conducted my research among an
older, non-computer savvy cohort within a religious group analysing its use of an online
genealogy application.
The outcome of my PhD research is condensed in a model of appropriation I produced
applying Grounded Theory and inspired by Anthony Giddens’ Structuration Theory. My
model attempts to convey the idea that successful ICTs are not only the result of clever
technological innovation and/or design, but also of the important influence of key
stakeholders (i.e., social structures like governments, private organisations, the media, and
even friends and family) who, by determining what technologies are available for
consumption and how these are to be used within their spheres of influence, turn exotic
technology into objects of everyday use.
During my PhD degree I honed my observational skills while studying the use of information
and communication technologies to mediate common social interaction in naturalistic
settings. I can abstract my observations to produce meaningful and coherent analysis of
behaviour. While working in the Interactive and Digital Media Institute at NUS in Singapore I
used these skills in several tasks including the analysis of a novel large display system, the
production of a grant research proposal to develop information and communication
technologies for the elderly, and the elaboration of a workshop proposal for the upcoming
CSCW 2011 conference in China exploring ageing of the population in Asia.
Let me now describe some of the research paths I’d like to pursue if I were to join the
IDEALab. I’d like to invest some time expanding the outcome of my PhD research. I believe
this can be done concurrently (or complementary) along with new and ongoing developments
in this organisation exploring the manner in which by tapping into the larger social context of
use (i.e., key stakeholders) the design of novel devices is more likely to have the impact
envisioned by its designers. I think this line of research is in harmony with contemporary
approaches to research design.
As indicated above, during my time working in NUS I drafted a grant research proposal on
the development of technology for the elderly. Sadly my proposal did not receive the support
needed to push it forward to secure funding. (Said draft proposal can be accessed here:
http://scr.bi/a5SPaK). As you will notice, this proposal is ambitious in that it attempts to
develop some rather complex digital technologies but only after gaining, first, a better
understanding of the experience of ageing in Singapore, and second, a better understanding of
the manner in which the experience of old age is shaped by socio-cultural structures in this
city-state. In my view, the social and technical aspects of this proposal could provide the
seeds of a dedicated research path in this area within the IDEALab.
The last research path I want to pursue is in a sense at the opposite end of that just described,
and perhaps outside the interests of your organisation, but relevant nonetheless. I’d like to
explore the use of robots as social companions. To this end, I want to conduct exploratory
work on the rich relation established between people and household pets (i.e., cats, dogs,
birds, etc.) to draw inspiration for the development of robotic companions across the whole
spectrum of human development and needs (i.e., childhood, mature age and old age, and as
company for bedridden patients). I think this area of research may be fruitful for several
reasons. First, it has received little attention from the field of robotics. Second, it could
potentially sidestep some of the major challenges in the development of humanoid robots
regarding, for instance, mechatronic structures and the cognitive aspects of interaction. And
third, it could pave the way for the eventual acceptance of more sophisticated autonomous
machines in domestic environments.
Now to the important issue of teaching. I am very familiar with various topics in HCI and
have used the book “Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction” (www.id-
book.com) as a textbook in an undergraduate course at the University of Glasgow. I can teach
the following topics pertaining to User Centred Design: Models and Theories in HCI,
Interfaces and Interactions, Identifying User Needs, User Studies, Field Studies, Design and
Prototyping. Because of my experience with qualitative research, I could also teach various
topics in this area including qualitative methods for data gathering and analysis. I look
forward to the opportunity to transmit my knowledge and be associated with undergraduate
and postgraduate students.
Other abilities and skills I posses that may be relevant for the post include an independent,
proactive, and frugal personality also developed during my PhD degree to meet the deadlines
of my project across several countries and within the constraints of a student budget; cultural
sensitivity and ease to rapport and network with people from diverse cultural backgrounds as
a consequence of my own experience for about seven years now as an expatriate in several
countries; administrative and managerial experience coordinating people and in project
planning from diverse posts held before enrolling in postgraduate education; and lastly, ability
to convey information effectively, both verbally and in written form, thanks to several formal
and informal teaching opportunities among people of all ages ranging from children to
university students to elderly people across several nations.
Finally, I think it is important to mention what else draws me to this post. I’m looking for an
opportunity to put my abilities and skills to good use. I’m looking for an environment where
people are encouraged to be independent and critical thinkers, and where their contributions
are valued and recognised. Moreover, I want to collaborate with other individuals who, like
me, see design work as an opportunity to have a positive impact on society, and not simply as
a path to further personal ambitions. Such a workplace will surely gain my respect and
deserve my undivided attention and my best efforts.
I trust you will find my skills, experience, and goals suited to the post. I look forward to the
opportunity to further discuss my prospects within the IDEALab through an interview. Bear
in mind that I will remain in Singapore until 2 December 2010, therefore, perhaps we could
be able to meet face to face before then. In any case, please feel free to contact me by email
(jose.rojasr@gmail.com) at your convenience.

Jose Rojas