Dr Robert Comber

Rob Comber is a Lecturer in Computer Mediated Communication working to examine the methods and tools for promoting citizen participation across a range of social and civic issues, including education, health and digital civics. He has previously worked on the EU FP7 funded Balance@Home project as a Marie Curie Experienced Researcher, where he explored issues of Human-food Interaction with a specific focus on situated food practices for health in the household. He completed his PhD in the Department of Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Ireland under the supervision of John McCarthy.

Rob is a founding member of the SIGCHI FoodCHI community and Managing Guest Editor of a 'Food and Interaction Design' special issue of the International Journal of Human Computer Studies (IJHCS). His research currently focuses on everyday practices, community, social communication, participation, social media, human-food interaction, and behaviour change. He employs ethnographic methods to understand how people engage in everyday practices with technology and each other.


The aim of Balance@Home is to help European citizens to obtain consumer solutions for a hassle-free guidance towards balanced lifestyle with respect to meal planning, meal preparation and personal choice. The project explores methods for inferring eating habits in an unobtrusive way and seeks to use this information to provide situated feedback on meal planning and preparation.

Outputs: CHI2013 - Food as situated action | CHI2013 - Methods for Studying Technology in the Home |interactions - Food for thought | CHI2012 - Food and Interaction Design | DIS2012 - Food for Thought

Telematic Dinner Party

Telematic Dinner Party is a project, with Pollie Barden of QMUL, investigating social presence, play and remote agency at a mediated dinner party. For these dinners, each group of guests are in two separate rooms and integrated on a single table by video projections. The TDP is supported by augmented devices (networked turntables which move in sync) to provide for remote agency and playfulness.

Outputs: DIS2012 - Telematic Dinner Party | SIGGRAPH2012 - The telematic dinner party | Eat, cook, grow - Not Sharing Sushi


BallotShare, a PhD project of Vasilis Vlachokyriakos, is an exploratory digital system designed to probe the configurations of electronic voting in non-traditional contexts. Through provocative deconstruction of formal requirements for voting, BallotShare becomes a tool to reconsider participation in decision-making. BallotShare is configurable for unique contexts and serves to probe situated decision-making practices including in families, the workplaces, and many other settings.

Outputs: CeDEM13 - Unpicking the design space of e-Voting for Participation


mappmal is a multidisciplinary approach to develop a prototype for the prevention of malnutrition in older people. The application is used in hospital settings to monitor the amount of food consumed by patients at risk of malnutrition. The user is presented with an image of a meal on a touchscreen tablet PC. They can then make a visual assessment of the portion consumed and erase a corresponding amount from the application using the touch screen. Evaluations suggest it is faster and more accurate than current best possible practice.

Outputs: CHI2012 - Supporting visual assessment of food and nutrient intake in a clinical care setting

Monadic Visualisation

Monadic visualization is an approach to represent relational information spaces that resolves the distinction between the whole and its parts and supports new forms of navigation. Working with Marian Dork, we draw on work by scholars in sociology, notably Gabriel Tarde and Bruno Latour, to use the concept of the monad as a new perspective that expands the possibility for creating meaning in the navigation of relational datasets. The monadic visualization technique uses a given node’s attractions to provide a view on the social world reflecting the selected node in a circular layout through radial displacements, visual folding, and expansion of nodes. In this way, the monad is both an element in itself and a reflection of its society. To investigate the potential of monadic visualization, we applied the visualization to a highly cross-referenced book and a fictional social network.


BinCam is a social persuasive system to motivate reflection and behavioral change in people's food waste and recycling habits. The system replaces an existing kitchen refuse bin and automatically logs disposed of items through digital images captured by a smart phone installed on the underside of the bin lid. Captured images are uploaded to a BinCam application on facebook. Here, users can explore, review or share communications about bin-related behavior of themselves and others.

Outputs: CHI2013 - HCI in the Press | PUC - Designing beyond habit | CHI2012 - "We've Bin Watching You" | CHI2012 Interactivity - BinCam – A Social Persuasive System to Improve Waste Behaviors


FridgeCam is a technology probe, designed to prompt users to reflect on every day food practices in the kitchen. A mobile phone is attached to the inside of a refrigerator or ‘fridge’ door. For every second that the fridge door is opened the camera in the phone takes a picture through an attached fisheye lens and uploads it to a dedicated website. Users can access captured images through their smart phones or computers, enabling them to reflect on their food practices and the contents of their fridge. FridgeCam is a collaboration with Eva Ganglbauer at the HCI Group in TU Wien.

Outputs: ToCHI - Negotiating Food Waste