Author/Interviewee: Assoc. Prof. Ragnhild Eg, Kristiania University College
Editor/Interviewer: Michael Riegler
Please describe your journey into research from your youth up to the present. What foundational lessons did you learn from this journey? Why were you initially attracted to multimedia?
In high school, I really had no idea what I wanted to study in university. I liked writing, so I first tried out journalism. I soon discovered that I was too timid for this line of work, and the writing was less creative than I had imagined. So I returned to my favourite subject, psychology. I have always been fascinated by how the human mind works, how we can process all the information that surrounds us – and act on it. This fascination led me from a Bachelor in Australia, back to Norway where I started a Master in cognitive and biological psychology. One of my professors (whom I was lucky to have as a supervisor later) was working on a project on speech perception, and I still remember the first example she used to demonstrate how what we see can alter what we hear. I am delighted that I still encounter new examples of how multi-sensory processes can trick us. Most of all, I am interested by how these complex processes happen naturally, beyond our consciousness. And that is also what interests me in multimedia, how is it that we perceive information conveyed by digital systems in much the same way we perceive information from the physical world? And when we do not perceive it in the same way, what is causing the discrepancy?
My personal lessons are not to let a chosen path lead you in a direction you do not want to go. Moreover, not all of us are driven by a grand master plan. I am very much driven by impulses and curiosity, and this has led me to a line of work where curiosity is an asset.
Tell us more about your vision and objectives behind your current roles? What do you hope to accomplish and how will you bring this about?
I currently work at a university college, where I have the opportunity to combine two passions: teaching and research. I wish to continue with both, so my vision relates to my research progression. My objective is pretty basic, I wish to broaden the scope of my research to include more perspectives on human perception. To do that, I want to start with new collaborations that can lead to long-term projects. As mentioned, I often let curiosity guide me, and I do not intend to stop doing just that.
Can you profile your current research, its challenges, opportunities, and implications?
In later years, my research scope has extended from perception of multimedia content to human-computer interactions, and further on to individual factors. Although we investigate perceptual processes in the context of computer systems’ limitations, our original approach was to generalise across a population. Yet, the question of how universal perceptual processes can differ so much between individuals has become more and more intriguing.
How would you describe the role of women especially in the field of multimedia?
I have a love-hate relationship when it comes to stereotypes. Not only are they unavoidable, they are essential for us to process information. Moreover, it can be quite amusing to apply characteristics to stereotypes. On the other hand, stereotypes contribute to preserve, and even strengthen, certain conceptions about individuals. On the topic of women in multimedia, I find it important because we are a minority and I believe any community benefits from diversity. However, I find it difficult to describe our role without falling back on stereotypical gender traits.
How would you describe your top innovative achievements in terms of the problems you were trying to solve, your solutions, and the impact it has today and into the future?
The path that led me to multimedia research started with my studies in psychology, so I came into the field with a different outlook. I use my theoretical knowledge about human cognition and perception, and my experience with psychological research methods, to tackle multimedia challenges. For instance, designing behavioural studies with experimental controls and validity checks. Perhaps not innovative, my first approach to study the perception of multimedia quality was to avoid addressing quality, and rather control it as an experimental factor. Instead, I explored variations in perceptual integration, across different quality levels. Interestingly, I see more and more knowledge introduced from psychology and neuroscience to multimedia research. I regard these cross-overs as an indication that multimedia research has come to be an established field with versatile research methods, and I look forward to seeing what insights come out of it.
Over your distinguished career, what are your top lessons you want to share with the audience?
When I started my PhD, I came into a research environment dominated by computer science. The transition went far smoother than I had imagined, mostly due to open-minded and welcoming colleagues. Yet, working with inter-disciplinary research will lead to encounters where you do not understand the contributions of others, and they may not understand yours. Have respect for the knowledge and expertise others bring with them, and expect the same respect for your own strengths. This type of collaboration can be demanding, but can also bring about the most interesting questions and results.
Another lesson I want to share, is perhaps one that can only come through personal experience. I enjoy collaborating on research projects, but being a researcher also requires a great deal of autonomy. Only at the end of the first year did I realise that no one could tell me what should be the focus of my PhD, even though I was expected to contribute to a larger project. Research is not constrained by clear boundaries, and I believe a researcher must be able to apply their own curiosity even when external forces seem to enforce limits.
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
I would ask what is the best joke you know! And my answer would undoubtedly be a knock-knock joke.
Editor’s note: Officially added to the standard questionnaire!
What is the best joke you know? 🙂
– Who’s there?
A little old lady
– A little old lady who?
Wow, I had no idea you could yodel!
Assoc. Prof. Ragnhild Eg:
Ragnhild Eg is an associate professor at Kristiania University College, where she combines her background and interests in psychology with research and education. She teaches psychology and ethics, and pursue research interests spanning from perception and the effects of technological constraints, to the consequences of online media consumption.
Michael Alexander Riegler:
Michael is a scientific researcher at Simula Research Laboratory. His research interests are medical multimedia data analysis and understanding, image processing, image retrieval, parallel processing, crowdsourcing, social computing and user intent.