Published 20 July 2021

Summer School Spotlight: Nancy Qing Xia

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’ve just graduated from University College London (UCL) with a BSc in Psychology and I’m lucky enough to be going on to do a masters in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), also at UCL.

I’ve always been interested in people, their behaviours and social interaction as a whole. I’m interested in doing research because I think that applied research can have a big impact on society.

My interest in technology comes from my Dad – he’s always looking forward to the next new gadget so we have loads of weird stuff around our house!

When I decided to take my studies in that direction, I found out that I could combine psychology and technology to look at the social aspect of how people use technology.

My dissertation examined ways of addressing the ‘black box’ problem of new technology by increasing transparency and product explainability. My project focused specifically on smart devices, and how people attribute responsibility when something goes wrong with the technology they are using.

I’m actually still working with my supervisor at UCL to continue this project as it’s such an interesting subject.

I’m also interested in behavioural science in relation to issues like the environment and climate change. I’m a member of the Behavioural Innovation Society at UCL and as part of this group I’ve helped to design an intervention to reduce the level of academic air travel.

We’re trialling this initially with the Psychology Department and eventually hope to issue it across the whole university.

Why did you apply to join the DC Labs summer school?

I’m really interested in this area of research as it’s fairly new to me.

In the run up to starting my Masters in HCI, I want to grow my tech and HCI skills by working with researchers who specialise in this field.

It’s so exciting to work with the researchers at DC Labs and to talk to people working in game psychology and immersive storytelling. 

It’s interesting to see the creative aspects that people incorporate into the technology as well. I love playing games and watching films and it’s fascinating to see how all the different elements come together.

Tell us about the project you’re working on

I’m working on AI Futures - a large, ongoing project that is aiming to capture views and expectations from multiple perspectives about a future with Artificial Intelligence.

The project team has already undertaken interviews with AI scholars and philosophers, and reported on their findings. Over the summer, I’ll be designing a survey for AI policy makers and decision makers, looking specifically at how these people incorporate the public’s understanding of AI into their policy making.

At the moment I’m finalising the survey questions and phrasing. Then we’ll conduct a few pilot studies and reach out to organisations who work in the sector to get a sample survey group.

Hopefully all these findings will combine with existing and upcoming research to give a really good global perspective of many different opinions of what a future with AI can look like.

It’s really cool to be part of such a big project.

What would you like to achieve this summer?

I’d like to achieve more knowledge about AI as this is an area that is still quite new to me. I also hope that by the end of summer I’ll have learnt from different disciplines and will be more flexible in my approach to research.

I feel that getting involved in researching a topic is a quicker way of learning than simply reading what other people have done.

The AI Futures project involves multidisciplinary research and collaboration with different fields including Computer Science and the Social Sciences. I’ve found all of this so interesting and very different to Psychology.

Such a complex and vast area requires examination from a broad perspective. Already this project is changing my mindset about how I approach research and what methods I should use to tackle different problems. 

And what are your first impressions of DC Labs?

Everyone is so friendly and chilled!

Having only experienced academia from a student perspective, I started my role as an intern with certain preconceptions but everyone here is so down to earth and it’s very easy to talk to people.

When I found out the team has a Discord channel I was really happy! I thought everything would be super formal but that’s definitely not the case.

Both my parents went to the University of York. My Mum did a PhD at York and we lived in the city for a while when I was younger so I hope to be able to visit later in the summer.