Hello, I’m Matt! If you want to learn about me in 10 seconds, read the now page. If you’d like to get in touch, you can see how in the contact page. The rest is all details. I removed my profile picture to make each page as lightweight as possible, so if you’d like to see my beardy-mug you can click here to see my profile picture.

Work

Under capitalism we’re forced to sell our labour for money in order to buy basic necessities and recreational commodities. While a person should not be defined by their job(s); I am lucky in that a large part of my working life is aligned very directly to my values and what I want to contribute to the world. It goes without saying that although I do work which aligns with my values; the organisations that I’m affiliated with often do not directly share interests in these things except where it’s obvious or explicitly mentioned.

I have professional, personal, and political interests in: Anti-capitalism and Communism; Charities; Critical Pedagogy; Data Standards; Design and Design Methods; Digital Civics; Ethnography and Ethnomethodology; the Fediverse and the Indieweb; Human-Computer Interaction (HCI); Interaction Design; Open Data; Participatory Design; Transparency and Accountability; Working Class Culture and Movements; and Youth Work.

For the sake of the reader I’ve artificially grouped a few of these things into three sections below to delineate how I spend (sell?) my “work” time. But please bear in mind that these are all bound up together and there are a myriad of connections between these activities in my life.

Open Data

My interest in Open Data ultimately began as an extension of my research interests in Accountability and Transparency through my PhD. Open Data is the method that the digitally-inclined cite as delivering Transparency and Accountability in the modern era. Publish the data, we cry, and watch as democracy reasserts itself over capital and corruption.

It may be obvious from my tone that I am skeptical of the “just publish the data” attitude. Thankfully, this seems to be shrinking to a minority attitude in the sector; Open Data needs people to interpret it and put it to use. This is often framed as a “use-case”, or “usability” concern which I am also hesitant about as I think it takes a simplistic view.

My initial research was concerned with producing a way to allow charities to represent their work and spending. This intersected with Open Data in that it became clear that producing a standardised and reusable way of charities collecting, curating, and disclosing information their activities and spending would allow the development of interfaces to interpret that data and make it clearer to their funders and communities. Producing Open Data to a standard meant that any technical artifacts produced for the research wouldn’t lock-in the data.

Following the end of my funded period I also secured full-time work within Open Data Services Co-operative where I spend time working on various projects. I mostly work with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) which puts me in direct contact with publishers and users of OCDS data, as well inputting to the ongoing design and future direction. I also work closely with the team at 360Giving, mostly supporting governance and standard design processes.

My work in Open Data intersects with a lot of my interests, but right now I am interested around how one designs Open Data standards with people in a democratic and participatory way. I am also formulating broader concerns and questions around the notion of “Participatory Open Data”; who designs it, who publishes it; and how can people participate in this process in an ongoing fashion, rather than Open Data be something done to them or for them as a simple transaction.

Research

I began my research with an MRes in Digital Civics at Open Lab within Newcastle University in the UK. This continued into a PhD, with research concerns around designing technologies for Transparency and Accountability in, with, and for Charities. During my PhD I worked with The Patchwork Project where I used Participatory Design-inspired methods to co-design and deploy a prototype data standard for modeling charity work activity and spending, as well as some applications for producing, curating, and relating this data to others. I have made my PhD Thesis available online, if anyone is interested in reading it.

It’s trendy to use the word “intersection” when describing one’s research activity; because of the dominance of metaphysical and isolated “categories” of activity. I’m a dialectical thinker, so I’ll just say that my work touches upon doing HCI and Digital Civics research within charities and I’m concerned with how researchers go about this business. I am interested in Participatory Design methods done right (I don’t believe that Participation can be ‘configured’ without sacrificing the original PD ethos in some way), especially within charity settings. Transparency, Accountability, and Open Data are obviously concerns of mine: both broadly and especially within charities.

Research methods are also important to me. I took a Marxist-Leninist approach to my PhD work, and also utilised Ethnomethodology and agree with that way of interpreting settings. This has given me a broad interest in the performance of Ethnography, especially as it pertains to the design of interactive systems. I don’t believe I have something particularly profound to contribute to this area, but I may seek to publish something on using Marxism-Leninism and Ethnomethodology together at some point.

I’m currently making changes to my PhD thesis after successfully defending it in June 2021, and I’ve been out of the publication cycle for some time. In the future I plan to re-enter this using my experiences from the front-lines of Open Data in practice, but also hopefully begin to contribute back to the Digital Civics world as well. After my PhD corrections are accepted I plan to seek visiting status at Open Lab. Part of this is to selfishly retain unfettered access to research papers, but I also want to rebuild collaborative relationships within the HCI research sector.

Charity work

Originally intertwined with my PhD work; I am the trustee of a charity called The Patchwork Project, or simply ‘Patchwork’, which is a Youth Work charity based in Benwell in the West-End of Newcastle upon Tyne.

I first got involved with Patchwork through my PhD research around Transparency, Accountability, and Open-Data in charities. This research took a fieldwork oriented approach based on Ethnomethodology; which basically meant learning how to work there. During research I took part in volunteer activities being a part of the team delivering the 8-12 group in Patchwork’s play centre ‘Patchwork 2’, office activities planning events and contributing to the admin work, and also participating in staff training and culture. At Patchwork there is a strong sense of team and community culture; your life and paid work mixes in a very good way. I often found myself spending my Saturdays climbing mountains with the Patchwork crew.

I remain an active trustee of Patchwork and regularly attend committee meetings as well as continue to engage with these people as part of my extended family. While I can no longer be there every day, I contribute where I can to supporting the team with technical matters and volunteer where needed. I plan for Patchwork to be a large part of my life far into the future, and I am currently reflecting on ways where I can become more useful to them.

Philosophy

A person’s philosophy drives how they approach things and interact with others. As such you can sum up my philosophy as being heavily influenced by the following (listed alphabetically):

  • Communism, especially Marxism-Leninism. Basically, I think the planet and human rights are pretty neat and that Communist-Utopia is possible through organisation and hard work
  • Feminism, especially Marxist-Feminists such as Silvia Federici but although I have a Marxy critique of Identity Politics, I support some of the goals of Intersectionality and am staunchly Pro-Trans rights and support harm reduction for Sex Workers under capitalism by decriminalisation
  • Minimalism, especially when presented as thinking about the most “simple” or “straightforward” way of accomplishing tasks and reducing clutter. The design of this site was influenced by my minimalist tendencies. I use it as a tool to evaluate how my own desires have been hijacked by consumer capitalism, and quieten my brain which can get distracted very easily
  • Stoicism, as described in this book. Stoicism and Minimalism go hand-in-hand in driving what most would call my self-care, and small-scale mundane interactions. Stoicism offers me a practical set of tools to maintain good mental health and tranquility during class struggle

Trivia

Diet

I try to maintain a simple and sustainable diet. Although I’m sometimes a bit naughty. Broadly, I would describe myself as practicing pescetarian diet as I don’t eat meat. This is for ethical/sustainability reasons, as well as for bodily health. I’ve also been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, meaning I react pretty nastily to things containing gluten. I therefore don’t feature bread prominently and since gluten-free bread products are super expensive I tend to just eat more vegetables. My main sources of carbohydrates are rice and starchy vegetables. I’m still naughty and have bread occasionally but I treat it the same way one might treat drinking alcohol or smoking. I usually budget for having one planned and one unplanned gluten intake per week.

My favourite foods shift around a bit but at the moment I look forward to eating:

  • Spicy Noodle Soup
  • Salad with spinach, fish, tomatoes, and beetroot
  • Sushi with salmon and tuna
  • Chickpea curry
  • Anything pickled or with beetroot in it
  • Pizza. I sometimes am good and make gluten-free pizza dough. Most of the time I’m not

Favourite stuff

  • Android Smartphone. It’s neat, has a decent camera for a non-camera person and I run it with LineageOS without the Google Services Framework installed on it. I actually don’t carry it all the time and often leave it at home.
  • Backpack; an old french army bag I’ve had for over 13 years. I don’t know the model but it looks like this only much more beaten up.
  • My keys; carried on a black paracord lanyard I made myself.
  • Also on the lanyard; a small multitool
  • Palestinian Keffiyeh; good for heat, good for cold.
  • If it’s rain-season I carry a pack-down waterproof jacket and trousers.
  • Thin metal wallet; I think they’re trendy atm, which is neat. I like it because it doesn’t have a large profile in my pocket.
  • Dot-paper Notebook and pen; I like dot-paper because it’s flexible. I don’t bullet-journal. My pen is a fountain pen with a refillable cartridge to try reduce plastic. I use a blue-black colour ink.
  • A 13” laptop running Xubuntu 20.04.

Misc and Hobbies

  • I really enjoy strength training, particularly bodyweight strength. My preferred system is a variation of Convict Conditioning, and I like to train first thing in the morning because I’m usually exhausted the evenings from work and I want to ensure that I still train.
  • I love tea, particularly loose-leaf tea. I store three jars of loose tea at home, which I sometimes combine with spices.
  • Sometimes I climb mountains.
  • I’m surprisingly passionate about simplicity in life and try my best to use plaintext files or markdown wherever possible.
  • I’m trying to reduce my waste little by little. I am skeptical of Zero Waste as presented because it lacks a Class Analysis and often focuses on individual achievement rather than the core reason we have so much plastic in the first place – capitalism.
  • I love the sea and have a boat that I’m currently neglecting. The plan is to eventually take her out on adventures.

Blogroll

These are the places I like to go and read things on the web. Some of these people I know personally while others are internet strangers whose blogs I read. None of them asked to be on this blogroll. Also it should go without saying that I don’t endorse everything these people may say or do. I read the blogs because they produce slightly more content I like than not.