Looking back at 2018

I had a very full year – a lot of things happened in 2018!  I was busy – sometimes madly busy, but in a way I was better equipped to deal with the madness than in previous years. Inspired by Ton, I started writing similar blog posts three years ago, but never managed to finish and publish any of them. They are still there in draft form.

I keep on telling my students that there’s never enough time, and one has to make time for the things that are important to them. For 2019, I am planning to take a leaf of my own book, do less things and make more time for reflection. As part of this, I plan to blog more and spend less time on Facebook. It is a valuable source of professional news and observation material for me, but I reckon I could compartimentalise and organise my usage better. And write more.

So, what did 2018 bring me?


  • +CityxChange, a large scale EU project I was involved in at the proposal stage, got funded, and we had our kick-off meeting in November in Trondheim, Norway. I am looking forward to working on the community engagement aspects together with our partners!



Two other projects started as community initiatives and are slowly taking a life of their own:

  • Friends of Lace, a collaboration between Limerick Museum and a group of local lacemakers that started in 2017, had an excellent year in 2018. We created a new website, a booklet and a Limerick lace making kit for beginners, and we are currently working on a digital catalogue. Our Amazing Lace Symposium brought together over 50 lace makers, researchers and artists, and included two thought-provoking keynotes by Fiona Harrington and Sara Robertson.
  • Collaborative Housing Limerick, that started as a grassroots research group in May this year, is advancing toward becoming an initiative group. Networking with cohousing groups from all around Ireland following the Housing Ourselves annual conference in Cloughjordan, a visit to the Blahojen Cohousing Association in Aarhus, Denmark, a lot of readings and online observation equipped us well for taking the next steps.

Event organisation:

  • the Design Research Conference 2018 in Limerick in June. 600 attendees. Fabulous experience. Great speakers. I had the chance to be part of the organising committee. The worst complaint we got was about the weather- too hot – for a change! My personal highlights were the picnics on the lawn and the sessions we decided to move outdoors!
  • This year we hosted the Irish HCI annual conference in Limerick. Usually it is very difficult to convince people to attend events anywhere else than in Dublin, but based on the feedback we got, the event, which brought together over 60 HCI academics, researchers and students, was enjoyed by all.

Irish HCI conference 2018

A number of publications I worked on for a long time finally came out. Check out this open access  Springer book where I have a chapter on the Limerick Local Heroes events and another one with my colleagues on the Woodquay Project initiated and led by the Adaptive Governance Lab.

I had some articles rejected for ‘interesting’ reasons (too long, nothing new here, not enough papers received for publication) and will need more work.   Looking back, I am now publishing things I worked on 3-4 years ago, and sometimes the energy is not there anymore. The funding lottery has put new things on my plate, I’ve moved to new topics, and it’s a bit like having to live in the present and in the past alternatively.

I travelled a lot for work this year and this is something I want to become more selective about. Invited talks and conferences are tempting, but do not leave much time for in-depth reflection, reading and creativity. I went to PDC in Belgium, and it was one of the best conferences I ever attended. The community is alive and creative, it creates space for criticism and growth, and I came back with a lot of ideas and new contacts. And the organising committee people were really amazing – the venues, the food, the side events – a fantastic experience!

I also attended a couple of other events, not strictly academic, that brought together various mixes of people: Open Coop 2018, ThingsCon, ICT2018.

I didn’t manage to fit in a proper holiday this year. Nevertheless, attending Elmine and Ton’s Smart Stuff That Matters unconference in Amersfoort in September really helped recharging my batteries! This photo reminds me of the excitement I felt  co-designing and building a butler robot who was supposed to befriend all the people in that lovely neighbourhood, as a birthday present for Elmine!  Of course our robot came under Elmine’s unforgiving huge hammer in the end, but it was fun to build!  I came back filled with thoughts and dreams and joy, having re-connected with old friends and having made new ones, with the best intentions to blog about what happened there…I have a draft somewhere!


And there was also the KOBA School of Wicked Fabrics in Berlin in August – my first full week dedicated to working with eTextiles, after lurking at several e-Stitches London meet-ups! We now have an e-Stitches Limerick group in Fab lab Limerick, and there is growing interest locally. Three of us participated online in the Textile Academy bootcamp Milan in May, and got a glimpse into the requirements for creating a Fabricademy node in Limerick in the future.


The last week of the year was a no-work period, as my grown-up kids managed to finally visit at the same time, and we took advantage of the mild weather to take trips to Connemara, Dingle and also closer to home. And there was time spent with family, new and old friends, cooking and eating and being merry!

Back at my desk now, as those exam papers won’t correct themselves!

Finally, borrowing Neil Gaiman’s words, a wish for all of you:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness!”

December 30 2018 05:39 pm | blogging

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