Getting nowhere slowly: learning from a thousand miles at walking pace

Alan Dix

School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham, UK
Talis, Birmingham, UK

Talk at What Comes After CHI: Technology on the Trail, Virginia Tech., 2-3 March 2017



On 14th April 2013 I set out from Cardiff walking and on 28th July, three months, one thousand miles and three million footfalls later I returned to Cardiff, the town of my birth and youth. In Little Gidding, T. S. Elliot wrote:

"the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

I am not sure whether I know Cardiff any better for the experience, but there is certainly a learning in the slow and continual foot pace. The leg is a complex pendulum, a metronome that eats calories, time and space impartially. The glorious mid-Wales ridge, buried in six foot of snow only weeks before I passed sun-soaked in April; the deflated once-communities of north-east Wales that sense would have had one pass quickly by; the bulk of Wylfa's spent-nuclear cathedral framed in dead forest; and the now absent childhood ice cream kiosk – all are equally sampled, endured – the passage of path time and wear of body reflecting the change and decay of industrial edifice and limestone coast.

"You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report.

While the poet can accept undissected, if not unspoken, the knowing that is in the heart and soul, and the body repair the hurt of sole, the academic must transform this depth of knowing into interlinked ideas, transferable concepts, and actionable items. Yet in the end it is not simply the finding of nuggets amongst dust, but once they are organised, lined up, ordered, categorised, and cast into journal papers, to still recall as you touch each one the place it belongs in the soil, for each grain of dirt is gold dust.


Keywords: walking, connectivity, rurla issues, community, digtal divide, open data, open science, health and well-being, HCI


Getting nowhere slowly: learning from a thousand miles at walking pace from Alan Dix


Related Publications

  1. Dix, A. (2013). Mental Geography, Wonky Maps and a Long Way Ahead. GeoHCI, Workshop on Geography and HCI, CHI 2013.
    (mentions aspects of Frasan, the Tiree mobile heritage app, and also the Wales walk)
  2. A. Dix (2013). The Walk: exploring the technical and social margins. Keynote APCHI 2013 / India HCI 2013, Bangalore India, 27th September 2013.
    (includes first extensive report on the walk)
  3. A. Morgan, A. Dix, M. Phillips and C. House (2014).
    Blue sky thinking meets green field usability: can mobile internet software engineering bridge the rural divide? Local Economy, September–November 2014. 29(6–7):750–761. (Published online August 21, 2014). doi: 10.1177/0269094214548399
  4. Dix, A., & Ellis, G. (2015). The Alan walks Wales dataset: Quantified Self and Open Data. In J. Atenas & L. Havemann (Eds.), Open Data As Open Educational Resources: Case Studies of Emerging Practice. London: Open Knowledge, Open Education Working Group. doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.1590031
  5. A. Dix (2013). Data – Alan Walks Wales.
    (portion of AWW website documenting the available data )
  6. A. J. Dix (1995). Cooperation without (reliable) Communication: Interfaces for Mobile Applications. Distributed Systems Engineering, 2(3): pp. 171-181.
    (first journal paper on mobile HCI - note, focus on poor connectivity rather than screen size)
  7. A. Dix (2014). Open Data Islands and Communities White Paper (20 June 2014)
    (full paper and ODIC microsite)
















Alan Dix 13/2/2017