Hello everyone! We are excited to introduce this month’s CHI NL Meet guest Alain Starke, where he shares with us his bio and aspirations! 🙂
What is your name?
Hi, I’m Dr. ir. Alain Starke!
What’s your current job / occupation?
As of December 15 (2022): Assistant Professor Persuasive Communication in a Digital Society, at the University of Amsterdam. I’m transitioning from a postdoc in Personalized Food Advice at Wageningen University & Research.
And what are you currently working on?
I have been part of the ‘Me, My Diet and I’ project. As a consortium, we were developing a Digital Twin for blood sugar and blood fat, trying to predict an individual’s response to eating a meal. I worked on consumer acceptance of such food advice, that would be based on both the health constraints of an individual, as well as their taste-based preferences for food products and meals.
In a broader sense, my research uses recommender systems, personalized algorithms and interfaces, to affect the choices and behavior of individuals. I not only do so in the context of food, but also regarding news consumption and energy conservation. An important question is to what extent changes in an interface contribute to changes in a user’s choices and evaluation, and how big the influence is of personalized algorithms.
What is your proudest achievement so far? Can be anything, professional or otherwise.
I am happy to start an assistant professor position now, after starting with a self-funded, grant-based PhD back in 2015. What stands out, however, is that I’ve been allowed to travel to all kinds of places in the name of science, and that I got to meet and work with some of the brightest minds around. That you, as a community, allow me to inspire you and vice versa is my biggest achievement.
Which person, paper, or concept has had the biggest influence on your work?
Much of Daniel Kahneman’s work sparked my interest in human decision-making and biases even before I started my PhD. It was that combined with the rapid emergence of personalized technologies on the web that really got me early to work on how we are influenced by digital interfaces.
What breakthroughs or developments do you expect in your profession in the next 10 years?
I expect that digital interfaces and data will affect more and more the topics and skills that social scientists will need. Instead of monotheistic disciplines, we will have various multidisciplinary domains and teams. I think that the skills of scientists will become more diverse as a result. This is perhaps not new to a CHI community.
When it comes to recommender system research, I expect the accuracy-based prediction work to become less relevant.
What have you recently read, watched, or listened to that you would like to recommend to others?
I just finished Eric Johnson’s Elements of Choice. This book is a nice introduction to various ways in which we are influenced in both analogue and digital decision-making environments. It provides a nice crossover between traditional work on nudging (e.g., in brick-and-mortar supermarkets) and more digital nudging and personalization.
Much of the other stuff I listen to or watch is not related to work. I use overly extensive analysis and philosophizing about Dutch football as a means to relax, such as through the Hekkensluiters podcast.
Finally, a chance for self-promotion: what should we read, watch, or listen to so we learn more about your work?
I am rather active on various types of social media (the ones that will still exist once this is published), so I’d recommend you to follow me there and to connect. On Twitter this is currently @alainstarke.
One of my favorite papers I’ve written, which is an energy recommender system ‘replication’ of a classical study on social norms in towel re-use, is a Paper I can recommend to read. With regard to food and personalization, I would love to work together with people to examine the longer-term effects of personalization and nudging on behavior – reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org!
CHI Nederland (CHI NL) is celebrating its 25th year anniversary this year, and we have much in store to acknowledge this occasion. Stay tuned!