Report: 7th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Modelling and Using Context (CONTEXT 2011)

After a four years hiatus the CONTEXT conference series came back to life and presented itself as professional and ambitious as ever. The Seventh International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Modeling and Using Context (CONTEXT) took place in Karlsruhe, Germany. It brought together researchers and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines.  Thanks to Prof. Michael Beigl and his team — most notably Dr. Hedda Schmidtke — the conference turned out to be a great event. About 70 participants enjoyed the conference venue, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Most of the participants attended nearly every talk. This shows how well the conference was received and how interesting the sometimes not so easy to follow talks from different fields of one’s own research were. The conference dinner at the Centre for Art and Media (ZKM) was a highlight of the event.

Three invited talks marked the milestones of the main conference. On Wednesday morning, Jerry Hobbs reflected on „Discourse Interpretation in Context“. The second keynote was given by Ruth Kempson, King’s College, London, on „Ellipsis in Conversational Dialogue“. Even though the last invited talk was on the morning after the conference dinner, Paul Holleis had many listeners for his  talk on „Explicit, Generic, and Social Context“.

From the three workshops before the main conference I attended the workshop on Modelling and Reasoning in Context (MRC). The one and a half days workshop was a lively event that I enjoyed very much. In between the eight presentations two panel discussions and an open discussion gave lots of opportunities to look at context from different angles.

The CONTEXT community decided to start a wiki to collect information about the topic of context and the people working on it. Stay tuned. More information coming up soon.

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Workshop: Human Centered Case-Based Reasoning HCCBR @ ICCBR 2009

Context-awareness and context-based reasoning are essential not only for mobile and ubiquitous computing, but also for a wide range of other areas such as collaborative software, web engineering, personal digital assistants, information sharing, health care workflow and patient control, adaptive games, and e-Learning solutions. … The workshop will examine methods, mechanisms, and techniques to keep the human in the centre of attention during the whole lifecycle of an intelligent system, from initial problem description through to knowledge acquisition and modelling and on to interactive use and maintenance.

Update: Due to the lack of enough submissions the workshop needed to be cancelled.

The human is always at the center of my research. So it is no surprise that I’ll try to investigate another facet of socio-technical computational systems in the upcoming workshop on Human Centered Case-Based Reasoning HCCBR. The workshop is part of the 8th International Conference on Case-Based Reasoning ICCBR 2009 and will take place 20–23 July 2009, in Seattle, Wahington. Here is an excerpt of the call for papers (submission deadline: 23 March 2009):

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Human-centered computing focuses on methodologies and technologies to improve the interaction and performance of socio-technical systems. Intelligent systems are not longer considered to be black boxes that provide a full solution to a problem on their own, instead, problem solving is seen as an interactive process. Case-Based Reasoning would appear to be a natural fit for such integrated human/computer systems.

A number of important questions are raised by Human-centered approaches. It is important to gain a better understanding of how each part of the combined system can help to extend the capabilities of the other. It is also of interest to examine how human knowledge modelling and construction can best be supported through technology.

Many of these issues are already being addressed in other disciplines, however, the question remains as to how findings from the social sciences and psychology may be integrated into the design of CBR systems. This integration ranges from psychologically plausible knowledge models to the delivery of an attractive end user experience.

Another important research topic in human centred computing centres around the issue of communication and, in particular, explanations. Problem descriptions, as well as other input, can be incomplete and changing. As a consequence, there has to be communication between human and software agents. Communication requires mutual understanding that can be essentially supported by explanations.

Further, context sensitive processing plays a key role in many modern IT applications. Context-awareness and context-based reasoning are essential not only for mobile and ubiquitous computing, but also for a wide range of other areas such as collaborative software, web engineering, personal digital assistants, information sharing, health care workflow and patient control, adaptive games, and e-Learning solutions.

From an intelligent systems perspective, a further challenge is to integrate context with other types of knowledge as an additional major source for reasoning, decision-making, and adaptation and to form a coherent and versatile architecture. There is a common understanding that achieving desired behaviour from intelligent systems will depend on the ability to represent and manipulate information about a rich range of contextual factors.

This workshop aims to bring together researchers and practitioners exploring human aspects of the design, implementation, and use of intelligent systems, from a broad range of areas, to share their problems and methodologies across different research and application areas. The workshop will examine methods, mechanisms, and techniques to keep the human in the centre of attention during the whole lifecycle of an intelligent system, from initial problem description through to knowledge acquisition and modelling and on to interactive use and maintenance.

Please consider submitting a paper!

Network of Excellence MUSCAT: Modeling and USing Context in Artificial cogniTive systems

I am very proud to be part of such a high-calibre consortium of colleagues and friends at Université Pierre et Marie Curie – Paris 6, France: Patrick Brézillon (Co-ordinator) Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz DFKI GmbH, Germany: Sven Schwarz and trb (Yes, I still like to work with me!) New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria: Boicho Kokinov Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway: Agnar Aamodt , Anders Kofod-Petersen , and John Krogstie Roskilde Universitetscenter, Denmark: Henning Christiansen Universita degli studi di Trento, Italy: Fausto Giunchiglia and Pavel Shvaiko Lulea University of Technology, Sweden: Arkady Zaslavsky The network introduces the concept of local nodes , which will be co-ordinated by the main consortium partners.

-)Last week was very busy with EU project proposals for our department and myself. Beside the STREP proposal that I co-ordinated (Mnemosyne), I worked on a Network of Excellence (NoE) proposal, which was co-ordinated by my colleague and friend Patrick Brézillon. The NoE, if funded, will help me continue and further strengthen my research on contextual issues in the context (no pun intended) of explanation-capabilities of knowledge-based systems. The proposal abstract says:

The [Network of Excellence MUSCAT: Modeling and USing Context in Artificial cogniTive systems] brings together researchers involved in context modelling in human and computer-based reasoning for artificial cognitive systems (ACSs). This international and interdisciplinary community has emerged over the past ten years. However, the community appears to be a patchwork because there has been no attempt up to now to consolidate, federate or, at least, coordinate the different efforts in order to advance the field. Each partner studies some aspects of context but rarely in relation with aspects studied by other partners. Moreover, the community is 75% European. However, several groups with the same concern appear across the world. Thus European researchers have decided to join their forces and expertise, first to develop a joint research program, share, exchange and cooperate, and then to unite and lead the rest of the international community.

The MUSCAT network has the following main objectives in the areas of modelling and application of context in artificial cognitive systems:

  • Unify the fragmented high-level expertise of partners across fields for long term cooperation, for example, on robots handling tangible objects, building models of surrounding environments, monitoring and controlling material and information processes.
  • Enable interaction within the community involved in context research across disciplines and countries by promoting a close combination of research, training and education, more specifically in fields such as learning, healthcare, public safety, environmental monitoring, intelligent transportation, etc.
  • Disseminate and share with the rest of the scientific community the data, information, knowledge, tools and products related to context accumulated by the Network of Excellence.
  • Transfer to enterprises intellectual and software resources, tools and prototypes on context developed within the NoE, and therefore enhance the European industry’s capacity to innovate and compete effectively.

I am very proud to be part of such a high-calibre consortium of colleagues and friends at

  1. Université Pierre et Marie Curie – Paris 6, France: Patrick Brézillon (Co-ordinator)
  2. Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz DFKI GmbH, Germany: Sven Schwarz and trb (Yes, I still like to work with me!)
  3. New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria: Boicho Kokinov
  4. Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway: Agnar Aamodt, Anders Kofod-Petersen, and John Krogstie
  5. Roskilde Universitetscenter, Denmark: Henning Christiansen
  6. Universita degli studi di Trento, Italy: Fausto Giunchiglia and Pavel Shvaiko
  7. Lulea University of Technology, Sweden: Arkady Zaslavsky

The network introduces the concept of local nodes, which will be co-ordinated by the main consortium partners. We could already include in the proposal

  1. Université de Savoie,France
  2. Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1, France
  3. Université Paris X, France
  4. Université Paris 8, France
  5. Fundación Robotiker (TECNALIA-RBTK), Spain
  6. FHG-FIT, Germany
  7. Fundation Bruno Kassler FBK-IRST, Italy

Keeping my fingers crossed!

(Logo design by Stefan Schulz. All rights reserved.)

The making of my first Doctor

After the thesis has been evaluated by both opponents coming to the conclusion that the work is worth a PhD the defence takes place.In Norway, the PhD candidate needs to give a lecture on a topic selected by the evaluation committee, i.e., Patrick and me…. Being the second opponent I did exactly what I was supposed to do, commenting on structural and presentation-related deficiencies, but there was also enough time for talking about content ;-)The last remarkable difference is that the supervisor of the thesis, Agnar Aamodt, has no say in the evaluation at all.

On June 1, I was one of the opponents in Anders Kofod-Petersen’s PhD defence at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology NTNU in Trondheim. This experience marks the current culmination point of my academic career as this was the first time that I was involved in the “making of a doctor” 🙂

I met Anders at my first workshop on Modelling and Retrieval of Context MRC 2004, which I initiated and co-organized together with Stefan Schulz. It was also there that I met Patrick Brézillon who became the other opponent. At that time I did not think about being involved in Anders‘ or anyone else’s PhD evaluation process. But I seemed to have made some lasting impression 😉

The evaluation process started about a year ago (June 19, 2006, to be precise) when Agnar Aamodt asked me if I would like to be an opponent in the PhD evaluation of Anders Kofod-Petersen, which I happily agreed to. As I learned, the evaluation process is somewhat different to the German system (especially wrt the procedure in Kaiserslautern).

In Norway, the PhD candidate needs to give a lecture on a topic selected by the evaluation committee, i.e., Patrick and me. The PhD candidate only has two weeks for preparing the lecture. Certainly something worth adding to the German evaluation process.

Another difference is that the opponents each have about 45 minutes stage time for interviewing the PhD candidate after his defence talk. Not only the PhD candidate is examined here, but also the opponent. At least this is how I feel about it 🙂 Historically, the first opponent focusses on the content of the thesis while the second opponent gives more emphasis on the structural and presentation-related matters. Being the second opponent I did exactly what I was supposed to do, commenting on structural and presentation-related matters. But there was also more than enough time for talking about content 😉

The last remarkable difference in the Norwegian and German systems is that the supervisor of the thesis, Agnar Aamodt, has no say in the evaluation at all. In Germany, your supervisor (“Doktorvater”) is also your first referee. I think the Norwegian way is a very good way of bringing in another view of some distinguished researcher and removing any possible bias of the supervisor. Of course, it makes the process harder for the PhD candidate, but also more scientific and transparent.

The defence went very well. Anders gave a trial lecture on “Effective Application of Social Theories to Agent Communication”, a title chosen by Patrick and me. Anders‘ summary of his thesis “A Case-Based Approach to Realising Ambient Intelligence among Agents” went as well as I expected 🙂 and he defended his work in the interviews with Patrick and me quite well. It was a pleasure to award him his title. Well done, Herr Doktor!

All in all, my visit in Trondheim was quite an experience (see also my photos on my flickr account), despite some heavy migraine. I had the opportunity to give a talk on “Explanation, Dialogue, and Communication” and to hear one by Patrick about his contextual graph building tool (only in French at the moment, but check it out!). There emerged quite some opportunities to work together with Agnar and Patrick.

Passing on my experience of doing a PhD and actually participating in the formal evaluation and finishing process of a PhD is very rewarding. I am looking forward to repeating this experience in the future. Hopefully many more times!

[composed and posted with ecto]

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CONTEXT 07

Update (2006-10-06): The website is up and running: CONTEXT 07.Today I was invited to be one of three program co-chairs of the next CONTEXT conference…. I will be able to suggest PC members and will be responsible for the reviewing process and selection of the papers as well as for arranging the program of the conference with the other co-chairs.

Update (2006-10-06): The website is up and running: CONTEXT 07.

Today I was invited to be one of three program co-chairs of the next CONTEXT conference. An inivitation I happily accepted. I will be able to suggest PC members and will be responsible for the reviewing process and selection of the papers as well as for arranging the program of the conference with the other co-chairs. I wrote in an earlier post (MRC 2006 @ AAAI-06) that Stefan Schulz and I offered to host the CONTEXT´07, but the offer was turned down. Roskilde University, Denmark, made it. Congratulations guys!

MRC 2006 @ AAAI-06

We started with presentations and, as the first highlight, Anind Dey’s invited talk on „Usability in Context-Aware Applications“ where he gave a broad overview of his work at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.As it is kind of tradition now in my workshops the participants collected topics of interest for discussion during and–that is always the hope!–after the workshop…. Each presenter described his demo briefly to the audience before each workshop participant could pick which demo he or she was most interested in. The demos then were presented and discussed in small groups.The selected topics were intensely discussed in the afternoon before Sven Schwarz together with David Vallet and Philipp Mohr together with Richard Dapoigny presented preliminary results.

This third international workshop on Modeling and Retrieval of Context MRC 2006 was–again–a success. About 20 people participated in the workshop. This time even more emphasis was laid on discussions than on presentations. Seven papers were presented accompanied by a session with four posters and a demonstration session with six (!) applications (see agenda for details and presentation slides).
Day 1, as usual, was used to warm up to each other. We started with presentations and, as the first highlight, Anind Dey’s invited talk on „Usability in Context-Aware Applications“ where he gave a broad overview of his work at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

As it is kind of tradition now in my workshops the participants collected topics of interest for discussion during and–that is always the hope!–after the workshop. Two topics were discussed: Context representation and context schema requirements (lead by Philipp Mohr) and Evaluation of context elicitation and context models (lead by Sven Schwarz and David Vallet). A short report on the results remains to be written and put up on the workshop website. It was nice to see groups of workshop participants sitting together during the main conference days discussing topics further.

Following another tradition of this workshop series most of us headed out for a joint dinner at a seafood restaurant called Barking Crab. This restaurant „with picnic table atmosphere“ was suggested by another passenger on the flight to Boston who happened to sit next to me on the plane and who grew up in Boston. Photos from this event will be put up on the workshop website. You will see that we all enjoyed the evening and the good food.

After getting to know each other a little bit better on the evening before, the next day started much easier as you can imagine. The main event on day 2 was the demo session. Each presenter described his demo briefly to the audience before each workshop participant could pick which demo he or she was most interested in. The demos then were presented and discussed in small groups.

The selected topics were intensely discussed in the afternoon before Sven Schwarz together with David Vallet and Philipp Mohr together with Richard Dapoigny presented preliminary results. As it turned out Sven’s and David’s topic could be laid to rest whereas more results are to be expected from the second group. Check the workshop website for more details later.

It is not yet clear whether there will be an MRC workshop in 2007. Stefan Schulz and I applied for hosting CONTEXT 2007 in Kaiserslautern. David Leake, who already organized MRC 2005 and 2006 with us, suggested this idea, backed up by Anind Dey and Roy Turner as we learned at the workshop. Keep your fingers crossed!

Content, Users, and Context

As context is one of my main research interests I welcomed this article on Understanding the Market Context. The authors modify The Three Circles of Information Architecture (used by Peter Morville for User Experience Design).

As context is one of my main research interests I welcomed this article on Understanding the Market Context. The authors modify The Three Circles of Information Architecture (used by Peter Morville for User Experience Design). The context here is the business marketplace of competing companies/products/services.

via Martin