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Doctor Madeline Balaam

Interaction Design for healthcare, education and wellbeing

A little about me


I'm a lecturer in the School of Computing Science within Newcastle University. Specifically, my research is concerned with Interaction Design for public health and learning. I am driven by a desire to design technologies which better meet the needs and practices of people in their everyday lives and in doing so I apply participatory and user-centred design methods. 

I am extremely interested in the possibilities for revolutionising women's health and public health through digital innovation, and am developing a research group of my own exploring this topic (including sexual health, nutrition, parental early-years interactions and child's play). Much of this agenda can be traced back to the design and development of a user-generated app called FeedFinder that supports breastfeeding mothers in finding, reviewing and adding locations for public breastfeeding, which we started working on back in 2013 and which we continue to support and research today. FeedFinder currently has around 8000 users, with well over 5000 places for public breastfeeding reviewed and mapped in the UK and worldwide. In itself it is a unique dataset describing women's experiences of breastfeeding in public, which we'll be publishing on shortly.

More recently, we have developed Labella, a prototype to explore how humour and mobile technologies can raise women's knowledge of their intimate anatomy. We were so happy to have this work be awarded a 'best paper' award at CHI 2016. In particular, it was really interesting to demo the technology to the CHI attendees and find out what people thought of our work. Thinking more broadly about the role for digital technologies and HCI in women's health, Teresa and I also published a paper describing the opportunities and challenges for HCI within women's health and intimate care, which was also published at CHI 2016. Watch this space for a women's health hack in 2017!

We are slap bang in the middle of a deployment of our 'Citizen Radio' platform - formally known as 'Sehat ki Vaani' in both the Lebanon and India. Both these deployments are somewhat differently framed, but are testing our Interactive-Voice Response based community radio platform. We're very excited about the possibilities for this infrastructure in resource-constrained setting, and of course, I'm particularly interested in how the technology can support maternal health practices. 

Prior to joining the Open Lab I was a research fellow in the Interact lab within the University of Sussex, working on projects like the shyness in pervasive computing project and the motivating mobility project.

I completed my DPhil in the IDEAs lab. My work investigated how the learning context influences the emotions experienced by students. This work was aided through the Subtle Stone, a novel technology that I designed and developed to support students in their private communication of emotional experience to their class teacher (and a researcher).