SIAT - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

Receive updates for this collection

Bodily resonance: Exploring the effects of virtual embodiment on pain modulation and the fostering of empathy toward pain sufferers

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-04-15
Abstract: 

Globally, around 20% of people suffer from chronic pain, an illness that cannot be cured and has been linked to numerous physical and mental conditions. According to the BioPsychoSocial model of pain, chronic pain presents patients with biological, psychological, and social challenges and difficulties. Immersive virtual reality (VR) has shown great promise in helping people manage acute and chronic pain, and facilitating empathy of vulnerable populations. Therefore, the first research trajectory of this dissertation targets chronic pain patients’ biological and psychological sufferings to provide VR analgesia, and the second research trajectory targets healthy people to build empathy and reduce patients’ social stigma. Researchers have taken the attention distraction approach to study how acute pain patients can manage their condition in VR, while the virtual embodiment approach has mostly been studied with healthy people exposed to pain stimulus. My first research trajectory aimed to understand how embodied characteristics affect users’ sense of embodiment and pain. Three studies have been carried out with healthy people under heat pain, complex regional pain syndrome patients, and phantom limb pain patients. My findings indicate that for all three studies, when users see a healthy or intact virtual body or body parts, they experience significant reductions in their self-reported pain ratings. Additionally, I found that the appearance of a virtual body has a significant impact on pain, whereas the virtual body’s motions do not. Despite the prevalence of chronic pain, public awareness of it is remarkably low, and pain patients commonly experience social stigma. Thus, having an embodied perspective of chronic pain patients is critical to understand their social stigma. Although there is a growing interest in using embodied VR to foster empathy towards gender or racial bias, few studies have focused on people with chronic pain. My second trajectory explored how researchers can foster empathy towards pain patients in embodied VR. To conclude, this dissertation uncovers the role of VR embodiment and dissects embodied characteristics in pain modulation and empathy generation. Finally, I summarized a novel conceptual design framework for embodied VR applications with design recommendations and future research directions.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Diane Gromala
Chris D. Shaw
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Expressive movement generation with machine learning

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-03-25
Abstract: 

Movement is an essential aspect of our lives. Not only do we move to interact with our physical environment, but we also express ourselves and communicate with others through our movements. In an increasingly computerized world where various technologies and devices surround us, our movements are essential parts of our interaction with and consumption of computational devices and artifacts. In this context, incorporating an understanding of our movements within the design of the technologies surrounding us can significantly improve our daily experiences. This need has given rise to the field of movement computing – developing computational models of movement that can perceive, manipulate, and generate movements. In this thesis, we contribute to the field of movement computing by building machine-learning-based solutions for automatic movement generation. In particular, we focus on using machine learning techniques and motion capture data to create controllable, generative movement models. We also contribute to the field by creating datasets, tools, and libraries that we have developed during our research. We start our research by reviewing the works on building automatic movement generation systems using machine learning techniques and motion capture data. Our review covers background topics such as high-level movement characterization, training data, features representation, machine learning models, and evaluation methods. Building on our literature review, we present WalkNet, an interactive agent walking movement controller based on neural networks. The expressivity of virtual, animated agents plays an essential role in their believability. Therefore, WalkNet integrates controlling the expressive qualities of movement with the goal-oriented behaviour of an animated virtual agent. It allows us to control the generation based on the valence and arousal levels of affect, the movement’s walking direction, and the mover’s movement signature in real-time. Following WalkNet, we look at controlling movement generation using more complex stimuli such as music represented by audio signals (i.e., non-symbolic music). Music-driven dance generation involves a highly non-linear mapping between temporally dense stimuli (i.e., the audio signal) and movements, which renders a more challenging modelling movement problem. To this end, we present GrooveNet, a real-time machine learning model for music-driven dance generation.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
Philippe Pasquier
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Audio beacon technologies, surveillance and social order

Date created: 
2021-07-22
Abstract: 

This thesis explores audio beacon technology with the aim of elucidating the implications of this technology for the individual in contemporary society. Audio beacons are hidden inside digital devices. They emit and receive high frequency audio signals which are inaudible to the human ear, thereby generating and transmitting data without our knowledge. The motivation for this research is to raise awareness of the prevalence of audio beacon technologies and to explore their implications for contemporary society. The research takes an interdisciplinary approach involving – 1) a survey of audio beacon technology, 2) a contextualization in terms of contemporary theories of surveillance and control and 3) an interpretation in terms of 20th century dystopian literature. The hidden surveillance and privacy of this technology is examined mainly through the humanistic perspective of George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four. The general conclusion formed is that audio beacon technologies can serve as a surveillance method enhancing authoritarian and exploitative regimes. To mitigate the negative impacts of audio beacons, this research proposes two types of solutions – 1) individual actions that will have an immediate effect and 2) governmental legislation that can improve privacy in the longer term. Both of these solutions cannot happen without a raised public awareness, towards which this research hopes to make a contribution. Finally, this research introduces the notion of a 'digital paradox' in which the dystopian worlds of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are brought together in order to characterize surveillance and control in contemporary society.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Niranjan Rajah
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Sensemaking with learning analytics visualizations: Investigating dashboard comprehension and effects on learning strategy

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-04-07
Abstract: 

In the provision of just-in-time feedback, student-facing learning analytics dashboards (LADs) are meant to aid decision-making during the process of learning. Unlike summative feedback received at its conclusion, this formative feedback may help learners pivot their learning strategies while still engaged in the learning activity. To turn this feedback into actionable insights however, learners must understand LADs well enough to make accurate judgements of learning with them. For these learners, LADs could become an integral part of their self-regulatory learning strategy. This dissertation presents a multifaceted examination of learners’ sensemaking processes with LADs designed to support self-regulatory learning. The in-situ studies detailed therein examine learners’ understanding of the data visualized in LADs and the effects of this understanding on their performance-related mental models. Trace data, surveys, semi-structured in-depth qualitative interviews, and retrospective cued recall methods were used to identify why, when, and how learners used LADs to guide their learning. Learners’ qualitative accounts of their experience explained and contextualized the quantitative data collected from the observed activities. Learners preferred less complex LADs, finding them more useful and aesthetically appealing, despite lower gist recall with simpler visualizations. During an early investigation of how LADs were used to make learning judgments in situ, we observed learners’ tendency to act upon brief LAD interactions. This inspired us to operationalize gist as a form of measurement, describing learners’ ability to make sense of a LAD after a brief visual interrogation. Subsequent comparisons of the accuracy and descriptiveness of learners’ gist estimates to those of laypeople repeatedly showed that laypeople were more apt than learners to produce accurate and complete gist descriptions. This dissertation culminates in a final study examining the evolution of learners’ mental models of their performance due to repeated LAD interaction, followed by a discussion of the contextual factors that contributed to what was observed. Trends observed across this work suggest that learners were more apt to “get the gist” with LAD after repeated interaction. This dissertation contributes a novel method for evaluating learners’ interpretation of LADs, while our findings offer insight into how LADs shape learners’ sensemaking processes.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Marek Hatala
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Design and in pandemic validation of correlation visualisation for sleep data analytics

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-06-17
Abstract: 

Sleep plays an important role in the overall health and well-being of a child. The relationship between sleep and daytime behaviours of children with sleep disorders is understood poorly; different aspects of a child’s routine may interact with each other to contribute to sleep disorders. To diagnose, monitor and successfully treat many medical conditions pertaining to sleep, it becomes imperative to analyse the many aspects of a child’s daytime and sleep behaviours. We built a visual analytic tool for studying the correlation between different variables pertaining to the daily life of the child. The tool allows clinicians to explore how the different aspects of a child’s behaviour and activities affect their sleep and overall well-being. This tool is developed as an extension of an existing tool SWAPP, which allows caregivers and clinicians to log and monitor the child’s everyday data. Later, we performed a remote usability study on the tool to demonstrate the efficacy of the tool. Finally, we generated actionable guidelines for improving the tool from the results of the study.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Chris Shaw
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.

Carrying others: A feminist materialist approach to research-creation

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-01-14
Abstract: 

Everyone is connected and operates with or alongside a maternal structure. As psychologist Bracha L. Ettinger states, we all hold within us an imprint or memory of being carried — carried across landscapes, across time, into destinations unknown (Ettinger, 2006). This doctoral dissertation takes up these poetics through an interdisciplinary investigation of Feminist Materialist Research-Creation practices and strategies. Referencing recent traditions of Art Intervention, Performance Art, Land Art, and the canon of feminist art history, this research mirrors, connects with, and critiques digital imaginaries and considers how the maternal body responds to the agency of things in the world. This research makes a unique contribution to the humanities, feminist scholarship, and Research-Creation practices by exploring strategies and subjectivities, new positions of theorization, and analyses that unsettle contemporary approaches to artistic research. This includes a series of theoretical texts, experimental framing, and a portfolio of eight artworks that were individually and collaboratively created and produced between 2016–2019: Traces of Motherhood; Domestic Cupboards; Magical Beast: The Space Within, Out and In-Between, Hunting Self; Mothering Bacteria: The Body as an Interface; Floating in the In-Between; Carrying Others; and Nostalgic Geography: Mama and Papa have Trains, Orchards and Mountains in their Backyard. Showcased with the artwork are digital and technological ephemera, including curatorial conversations, exhibition and submission text, process documentation, links, posters, and other preparatory information. This document also introduces a series of interludes and refections that construct and demonstrate alternative ways of approaching the central ideas, themes, and methodological and theoretical ideas explored in the thesis. Cumulatively, these creative articulations foreground the complexities, process, and nuances of Feminist Materialist approaches to Research-Creation. This document also presents the three main themes which include: 1) Materiality; 2) the Optical Unconscious; and 3) the Technological Unconscious; and, take up the three salient concepts and theories: 1) Carriance; 2) Feminist Materialism; and, 3) Research-Creation. In particular, I argue that Carriance aligns with ideas of care, co-production and becomes a creative way of thinking about connection. Each of the eight artworks demonstrate aspects of Carriance, collaboration, and connection and present emergent ways to consider creative methods, methodologies, and expanded feminist expressions. By discussing a variety of projects and creative forms, this dissertation is a speculative art-making investigation that foregrounds human and non-human relationships, ecofeminist perspectives, and mothering, opening up the term Carriance in a variety of ways to show how it can be more than one method, form, or approach with much potential to challenge, encourage and elicit embodied ways of knowing.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Kate Hennessy
Thecla Schiphorst
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Advances in soundscape and music emotion recognition

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-07-02
Abstract: 

A soundscape is an acoustic environment perceived in context by human beings. A soundscape recording is a recording of the sound present at a given location at a given time, obtained with one or more fixed or moving microphones. Soundscape recordings play essential roles in the experience of video games, virtual reality and film. Artificial soundscapes created by professional sound designers can evoke a specific emotion in target audiences to better immerse them in multimedia content. The research in soundscape emotion recognition (SER) investigates computational systems that recognize the perceived emotion of soundscape recordings. Similarly, music emotion recognition is building computational systems that recognize the perceived emotion of music recordings.We concentrate on using novel artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze soundscape recordings and music recordings from the perspective of affective computing. The contributions of this thesis are as follows: First, we conduct empirical studies to demonstrate that listeners agree with each other regarding the perceived emotion of soundscape and music, and that it is possible to build a human-competitive model to predict the emotion perceived. Second, we curate and collect a soundscape dataset and multiple music datasets annotated with perceived emotion using crowdsourcing techniques. Third, we experiment with SER algorithms based on deep learning techniques. An evaluation of our SER models demonstrates that they perform better than each listener and state-of-the-art models. Fourth, we investigate quantifiable trends in the effect of mixing on the perceived emotion of soundscape recordings. Fifth, we build a music emotion recognition model for experimental music to investigate the ranking-based emotion recognition task. Finally, we utilize models built for SER and sound event detection to analyze and compare Chinese and Western classical music. Certain similarities between Chinese classical music and soundscape recordings permit transferability between deep learning models. These contributions present methods for automating the soundscape and music emotion recognition tasks.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Philippe Pasquier
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Bridging the gap between design space exploration and generative design interfaces: An exploratory study

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-04-14
Abstract: 

This doctoral work aims to understand designers' search behaviour when navigating through a large number of design alternatives. The motivation for this research lies in previous studies on designers’ search for design alternatives using different design media. With an increased computing capabilities and large screen displays, the opportunity to generate multiple designs has now become practical. However, due to the paucity of desired tool features, today’s designers adapt ad-hoc techniques; such as opening two files side-by-side, layering designs for comparison, and saving versions manually. These techniques are rudimentary and have limited benefits and real costs when it comes to viewing multiple designs simultaneously and making sense of the overall design space. Recently some research has presented interfaces and system features for such exploration. However, before adopting any of these solutions, it is essential to understand the act of navigating and managing a large design space. The premise of our research is that, if designers can access and work directly with a large number of designs in an environment with new representations and tools as part of the design workflow, we expect new patterns and strategies to emerge and change the design process. What though are these new patterns and strategies? To answer this, I conducted a lab experiment with ten designers who were given one thousand design alternatives of an apartment building. The alternatives were produced using generative design techniques and were printed on index cards with an intention to discover how designers would engage with these designs in a controlled lab experimental setting. The results of the experiment revealed a cycle of design tasks performed repeatedly and patterns of spatial organizations to record designers' decisions. Based on the results from the experiment, I introduce high-level spatial metaphors and develop an interface prototype to support my analysis. I also present a comparison of existing CAD interfaces with respect to the proposed spatial metaphors.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
Halil Erhan
Robert Woodbury
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Designing for self-transcendent experiences in virtual reality

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-10
Abstract: 

This thesis contributes to Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) research with a focus on the design of immersive experiences that support self-transcendence. Self-transcendence is defined as a decrease in a sense of self and a increase in unity with the world. It can change what individuals know and value, their perspective on the world and life, evolving them as a grown person. Consequently, self-transcendence is gaining attention in Psychology, Philosophy, and Neuroscience. But, we are still far from understanding the complex phenomenological and neurocognitive aspects of self-transcendence, as well as its implications for individual growth and psychological well-being. In reviewing the methods for studying self-transcendence, we found differing conceptual models determine different ways for understanding and studying self-transcendence. Understanding self-transcendence is made especially challenging because of its ineffable qualities and extraordinary conditions in which it takes place. For that reason, researchers have began to look at technological solutions for both eliciting self-transcendence to better study it under controlled and replicable conditions as well as giving people greater access to the experience. We reviewed immersive, interactive technologies that aim to support positive experiences such as self-transcendence and extracted a set of design considerations that were prevalent across experiences. We then explored two different focuses of self-transcendence: awe and lucid dreaming. First, we took an existing VR experience designed specifically to support the self-transcendent experience of awe and looked at how the mindset and physical setting surrounding that VR experience might better support the experience of and accommodation of awe. Second, we delved deep into lucid dreaming to better understand the aspects that could help inform the design of an immersive experience that supports self-transcendence. We put those design ideas into practice by developing a neurofeedback system that aims to support lucid dreaming practices in an immersive experience. Through these review papers and design explorations, we contribute to the understanding of how one might design and evaluate immersive technological experiences that support varieties of self-transcendence. We hope to inspire more work in this area that holds promise in better understanding human nature and living our best lives.

Document type: 
Thesis
Supervisor(s): 
Bernhard Riecke
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Gender stereotypes in virtual agents

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-08
Abstract: 

Visual, behavioural and verbal cues for gender are often used in designing virtual agents to take advantage of their cultural and stereotypical effects on the users. However, recent studies point towards a more gender-balanced view of stereotypical traits and roles in our society. This thesis is intended as an effort towards a progressive and inclusive approach for gender representations in virtual agents. The contributions are two-fold. First, in an iterative design process, representative male, female and androgynous embodied AI agents were created with few differences in their visual attributes. Second, these agents were then used to evaluate the stereotypical assumptions of gendered traits and roles in AI virtual agents. The results showed that, indeed, gender stereotypes are not as effective as previously assumed, and androgynous agents could represent a middle-ground between gendered stereotypes. The thesis findings are presented in the hope to foster discussions in virtual agent research and the frequent stereotypical use of gender representations.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Steve DiPaola
Department: 
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.Sc.