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I am interested in the way we transcribe numbers. It may seem like a specialist task, but you enter numbers in daily, whether it's dialling a new phone number, or copying over a bank account number. I'm specifically interested in numbers because of how important it is that people enter them correctly in the medical domain, where an error can mean a patient can get seriously injured, or may even die. I do a lot of work with, and am an honorary member of the CHI+MED project, which aims to make medical devices safer.
I am interested in the cognitive processes involved when doing this sort of task. I'm specifically looking at the comparison between the way we transcribe numbers and the way we transcribe words. I'm also interested in the errors we make when transcribing numbers; what they are and why we make them.
I did my BSc at the University of Edinburgh in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. I then completed my MSc at the University of York in Human Centred Interactive Technologies. I have been working on my PhD at UCL since Sept 2010.
My research aims at understanding more about the process of transcribing numbers. This page explains more about the projects involved and links to publications and other media. These are the current main themes in my work:
My work on digit distribution looks at the digits that are really being used in hospitals. Motivated by my error work, I wanted to know more about the frequency of each digit. Just as in English, the letters 'e' appears far more often than 'q', I wondered whether there would be similar patterns in digits.
I found there were very clear patterns in use, not every digit is equally likely to be used. 0 gets used three times more often than any other digit (and poor old 4 get left behind).
This work has been a really interesting project for me, it began as a summer holiday pet project and has gone from a Doctoal Symposium submission in 2011 (see the presentation video) to a work in progress at CHI in 2012 (see the CHI 2012 WIP paper and associated poster) to a full journal paper, which was shortlisted for the HFES prize.
During my recent Bright Club comedy stand-up routine, based upon my research I discussed some of my findings. The stand-up video can be found online.
entry is a highly pervasive task, whether it be entering our PIN at an
ATM, or dialing a phone number to entering in financial data or medical
information. The errors made in these contexts, particularly in the
medical domain, can have very serious consequences.
I created a Number Entry Error Taxonomy after collecting together many examples of number entry errors. Previously, a corpus of number entry errors like this did not exist. The taxonomy groups the errors together according to their potential causes and consequences.
The work is on going, and the taxonomy at present needs to be honed further. This taxonomy can be used to consider the types of errors users may make when using an device; different errors may be associated with different tasks and different interfaces.
As well as being interested in the errors we make specifically when entering numbers, I also have a keen interest in collecting examples of and understand human error in general. To this end, I have been involved to a in UCLIC's errordiary project, which is an online database of everyday slips and mistakes. As with previous topics, I have done a Bright Club stand-up routine on the topic.
With this database, we are able to create fun and interactive teaching sessions for under graduate and Masters students about the topic of Human Error. For more information, including slides and exercise sheets, please go to the Teaching page of the errordiary website.
YouTube - Numberphile
I have had the opportunity to perform some comedy sets at the fantastic Bright Club. These stand-up routines are all based around my research into numbers and error. My most recent set is shown below, to see all of them, please see my youtube channel!
I've been lucky enough to get to talk about aspects of my research and comedy to various media outlets. Here's a collection of places where you can hear/see/read me chat about something!
10/4/12 - Word Of Mouth
The radio 4 programme Word Of Mouth were at the first Bright Club gig I performed at. The subsequent interview I did can be found in this episode. You can hear me speaking in a small group at 7:20 and then the intro of my set can be heard from 11:50. At 26:30 you can hear the end of my set and then an interview straight after it (I'm slightly high on adrenaline, I think you can tell).
21/8/12 - Mail Online
After reading a previous article on bank transfers going wrong, I wrote to the journalist to thank her for an interesting piece, and to give her more information about number entry error should she be interested. The article was so popular, that she wrote a follow up article, and contacted me for more information, which later appeared in the article.
11/6/13 - EPSRC Pioneer Magazine
I was given the opportunity to write about my Bright Club experience for the EPSRC's Pioneer magazine. The article (along with a snazzy photo) appeared in June 2013's issue, you can see an electronic copy of the magazine here. The article is on page 36.
19/6/13 - Watchdog Episode
As a result of my mention in the Mail Online article, Watchdog contacted me when they were doing a piece on bank transfer errors. In this clip, I talk about the fact that humans are inherently error prone, and that when it comes to reading numbers, it may be harder than reading words due to the rules involved in word creation, compared to those used in number creation.
Page last modified on 22 may 13 13:00 by Sarah E M Wiseman