Firstly I would like to express my gratitude to Bob Spence, who has been an excellent supervisor, and has supported me in every way through the last three years. He has been a real inspiration for taking a creative and innovative approach to HCI problems. I have also benefited from his policy of providing his students with the opportunity to attend conferences: meeting a wide variety of people in the field has definitely been a great help to me. Within our group at Imperial I also have to thank: Hua Su, who taught me a lot about Engineering, Mathematical Modelling and how to get on in life; Huw Dawkes who basically taught me how to program and also carried out the lion’s share of the implementation of the ideas described in this thesis; Zahid Malik who is always there when I need to talk things through; and Ravinder Bhoghal for his help with the original Attribute Explorer video. I also have to thank the industrial collaborators we have worked with, in particular Ken Chakawata, Ron Bird, Greg Garrison, David Lowther, Derek Dyck, Ernie Freeman, Paul Rankin, Arnout Brombacher and the designers at Philips.
There are many people who have helped me on my way here. Firstly Phil Barnard took me on as a naive but enthusiastic HCI researcher just after I left University. Working in his group provided invaluable foundations in understanding how research happens. During my time at the Applied Psychology Unit (Cambridge) I learnt a great deal from all of the people there, especially my office mates Ann Blandford, Jon May, Abi Sellen and Wai-On Lee. I would like to pay particular thanks to Thomas Green who helped me in my search fro a PhD place and first introduced me to Bob.
I should give a special mention to a number of other people who have helped me on my way: Neville Stanton and Ray Taylor who were my undergraduate supervisors on a project that looked at Hypertext and Maps; Nick Matthews who was the first to encourage me to do a PhD (his enthusiasm for research has always been inspiring); The staff of the Birmingham Sun 1989/90 (Aston’s Student Newspaper) where as editor I first learnt to use a Macintosh under the guidance of many (especially Peter Sayer); Jaki Booth (Permanent Secretary Aston Student’s Guild) who is the manager I have ever met; Mrs Barker – my Physics teacher at secondary school – who introduced me to my first programming (a robot arm) – that project sowed the seeds for my later enthusiasm for computers; and lastly Mrs Dixon Warren and my teachers at Northside Primary School in Gaberone, Botswana for my happy and hassle-free introduction to the world of studying. I have only the fondest memories of those sunny days.
One of my worries about going to work in the Electrical Engineering Department at Imperial was that I would feel cut off from the world of HCI. However that has not been the case. Email and visits to conferences has allowed me to interact with many other colleagues who have been a great support. In particular I would like to thank Paul Dourish and Matthew Chalmers fo just being around to drink beer at appropriate times. I should also like to thank the Information Visualisation Researchers at PARC whose encouragement has really stimulated me to keep going: Stu Card, Jock Mackinlay, Ramana Rao, Marti Hearst and Peter Pirolli. I would also like to thank: Steve Draper, Alan Dix, Arun Lunzer, Daniel Keim, Mark Perry, Bill Gaver, Chris Ahlberg, Ben Shneiderman, Bonnie Nardi, Stephen Payne and Phil Gray for some helpful conversations and all the people on the HCI’96 Committee for all their support during 1995/96 (especially Steph Wilson and Sandra Foubister).
I also have to thank my other friends who have tried to prevent me from becoming a computer nerd over the last couple of years: Anthea Gulliford, Alice Wells, Christine Pilley, Hannah Rabbs, Celia deFreitas, Julie McGlinn, Christine Mollet, Francoise Mathieu, Fernanda deSouza, Dee Rollinson, Natalie Roy, Marianne Christiansen, Mel and Dave Marshall, Randy Flannagan, Phil Heard, Johnny Rabbs, James Tresillian, Shaun Beggs, Mark Douglas, Mark Setrum, Peter Sayer and Simon Storey to name but a few. The residents of Southwell Hall have also provided an invaluable source of distraction over the last four years. Ken Young, the Warden, the SubWardens (Alun Fowles, Deji Jegede, Karen Young and David Zdravkovic) and reapps have been great allies and even better drinking companions.
My Parents although sometimes mystified by the subject matter of my work, have rarely questioned its value and have provided peaceful sanctuary over the last few months to allow some intensive writing. My siblings Jessica, Michael and Richard and the rest of my family have also been very good at bringing me back to earth when I start imagining that the computer world is too important. I hope that their forthcoming forays into the world of email and internet will not change this.
Last of all my gratitude must fall upon my most patient companion, Guy Franklin, who has shared most of the ups and downs of this thesis. His belief in what I have been doing has on many occasions been stronger than my own. I hope that I can do the same when he writes up later this year.