Our researchers, supervisors and partners across Europe are all finding their way through this new reality. Ellen De Korte, based at the University of Bradford, has shared some insight into how she plans to work and live during the lockdown period in the UK.
“I start my day with a 15-minute power yoga workout. While we are still able to go outside for an hour, I plan to walk to the nearest park if I can over lunchtimes. In order to maintain a bit of structure and combat loneliness, I make a schedule of whom I speaking to (either on the phone or video-conferencing) on a nice Yorkshire themed calendar“
Ellen has also shared a picture of her “home office” set-up.
Within the space of a week the routine I have honed for many years was brought to a grinding halt. With hundreds of thousands of people affected, it was not a matter of “should I isolate” but “I am going to isolate, how should I do it productively”. Being productive during this difficult time means not just looking after the emails, but oneself. The mental burden isolation can carry is immense and it should not be underestimated. So here is my battle plan for the next few weeks (and if need be, months).
Separation without the anxiety
One of the biggest issues I grappled with was the separation between work and home. I have always worked outside of my home. Sure, there have been “working from home days” but those were few and far between. Most importantly, there was an end date. I have to admit, I was anxious about bringing my work home. “Will be as productive at home as I am in the office?” I asked. “When does work end and home begin?” I wondered. “If I empty the laundry during the day, am I doing this on my or the company’s time?”. Obviously, I was just working myself up into a frenzy for nothing. In fact, it is highly recommended that you get up from your desk often during the day. Load the washing machine, take the rubbish out, make a cup of tea. 5-10-minute breaks every so often are encouraged. I also found that creating a specific work station was essential to separate my work/home life.
Not having an office, I did take over some of the dining table but it is now my work area. It is not a “one size fits all” situation, individuality is key. It is important for each individual to think about the conditions under which they can be most productive, taking into account workflow and emotional response.
Reading more than just emails
There is no escaping the stark realisation that the emails will not stop. I am, however, going to expand my literary horizons (and indulge in old favourites for comfort). Here is my panacea for the monotony of emails: books.
Since I am not able to travel to France, I will follow Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan on their adventures through Paris. I will people watch through the anthropological writings of Kate Fox and I will “evolve” with Daniel Dennett’s work on consciousness.
Keeping to a schedule
Isolation can be, for a lack of a better word, isolating. On average, we spend more time at work than at home. We have a schedule to follow, meetings and coffee breaks. This is an important pattern to follow. I have always woken up at 6.30am to get to work for 8am. I will still do that, whether it means indulging in a more imaginative breakfast than muesli or fitting in a longer morning jog, I will not stray far from my morning rituals. Speaking of exercise, I am fortunate to live in a remote location so my daily jog involves seeing only the sheep in the fields. I stick to the remoteness of the moors. I am also trying to utilise video-conferencing as much as possible, whether it is in my personal life with friends and family locked down across the world as well as in my worklife.
From the perspective of a former game developer – Baran Usta
As a former developer, and avid gamer, I was very excited to be part of Yorkshire Games Festival, as part of my secondment at the National Science and Media Museum. It is not only because I got to listen to exciting talks given by the professionals working in the game industry, but also because of the training and workshops prepared for the enthusiastic students who are planning to be involved in this industry. The industry is vast, however, and there are various ways to take part. These range from being a designer to being an organizer of an e-sport event. As a former developer who had a chance to observe different stages of publishing a game, from conception to release, I was curious more about how these professionals were going to give talks about their expertise to such a diverse audience and communicate their messages. I have always found that very challenging. What I was looking forward to observing, was how they can convey abstract details and concepts while simultaneously bringing everybody to the same level of understanding. Although the game conference was organized more for the people who are exploring the career options in the industry, there were a lot of activities organized for the high school students to learn developing games using popular game engines. There were also workshops aimed at elementary school students to learn basics of coding. For me, when the content is complex by its nature and the audience is this broad, it is especially difficult to give a good talk. In that sense, it was an incredible experience! I observed how different presenters interact with the audience to convey their message. As a side benefit, I got to play some cool games that are not published yet!
The events and activities were organized with three main target groups in mind. The first group were kids who were either visiting the museum with their parents or on a class trip. We attended a session where the kids learned about the basic concepts of space and physics in a very clear and engaging way. It was fascinating to see how the kids were excited about what they learned. Happy to learn, in fact. Especially when they see the applications of the concepts with hands-on experiments, they became a lot more engaged.
Aspiring young students who were interested in the industry or people who are in the early stages of their career and interested in learning more constituted the largest group. As previously mentioned, although the wide range of topics was presented all of the talks were successfully tailored to include everyone in the audience. The presenters really did a fantastic job at engaging the whole audience at any given time. Of course, a level of technological details had to be provided. In this case, they explained the concept in a very concise and simple way making sure that everyone is able to follow the rest of the presentation. Presenting difficult information in an accessible way is important, however, it is not the only piece required to communicate the message; the way they present plays a crucial role as well. For me, it was an educational experience to see how effective humor could be in keeping the audience’s attention. Humor sometimes helped them give the audience some time to digest the information they presented.
The last group contained a number of sessions and workshops for students who enjoy playing games and have interest in the industry but have limited knowledge of game development. Some of the sessions were to teach them basics. There were two stages in these sessions: they had to determine the rules and the gameplay in the first step and implement those using different tools depending on their background in the second. It was interesting to see the different difficulty levels available depending on the student’s background. For example, for the students who are in elementary school, most of the functionality was already implemented and available as code blocks. The students had to put them in the right order to obtain the correct execution whereas the students in high school had to implement some functionality on their own to get a gameplay they had designed.
Overall, my secondment at the Yorkshire Games Festival helped gain perspective about all the different communication elements critical in engaging people from diverse backgrounds and ages. Moreover, I figured out these festivals are necessary not only for the audience to learn about new developments but also for the people who are presenting it, especially for the scientist. This is because scientists usually do not have direct access to see people reactions to their work, which I saw can be very motivating. For example, seeing a kid amazed and fascinated after figuring out how sound travels through matter was an incredible experience for me since it also reminded me how I was amazed and still feeling thrilled when I learn more about science. I call this secondment a success.
Largest and oldest Dutch public technological university
Our very own Ellen De Korte, from Bradford University, has been based at the University of Delft for her academic secondment.
Ellen De Korte has been fortunate to work with Sylvia Pont and her team. University of Delft has a strong history of cutting edge research, with a reputation of being on the forefront of academic and technological advances.
DyViTo would like to wish everyone a great start to 2020. We have several exciting events happening in the first 3 months of 2020.
Ellen De Korte has started her split secondment at the beginning of January. She has started at the University of Delft and she will be traveling to the University of Giessenduring the second half of her secondment. We wish her the best of luck!
Muge Cavdan and Jacob Cheeseman, from the University of Giessen, together with Baran Usta, from University of Delft, will be coming to Bradford at the beginning of February. They will be doing their secondment at the National Museum of Science and Media during their Yorkshire Gaming Festival. The festival is held from 5th until 9th February, with 5 days dedicated to celebrating games culture with workshops, masterclasses and special guests. Muge, Jacob and Baran will be helping with our partners during one of the biggest events in Yorkshire!
If that was not exciting enough, University of Cambridge will be hosting the whole DyViTo project for our Network Meeting and Workshops. As well as exciting talks and lectures from leading scientists int he fields of neuroscience and visual perception, the team in Cambridge is planning team building activities and round table sit-down with members of Downing College.