Berlin-Melbourne University Alliance: A 2-Day Study Hackathon

The Berlin-Melbourne University Alliance is a graduate research program that brings together researchers from the Behavioural Sciences and Computing to develop, deploy, and study technologies that quantify, track, and instill healthy behaviours. Hosted by the University of Melbourne and Freie Uniersität Berlin, the team consists of post-doc and graduate researchers advised by a prominent board of mentors, including experts from the Connected Health CRE .

Everyday behaviours, such as physical activity or smartphone usage, can become habitual and impact people’s health. Confined by the pandemic, the team conducted a 2-day, cross-continental study hackathon to prototype ways to study healthy smartphone behaviours. Partnering with a recently launched smartphone app called not less but better2, the group designed and launched a pilot study to investigate problematic smartphone activities and devised strategies to support more goal-directed as opposed to mindless technology usage. Over the course of two afternoons and a series of agile work sprints, a research agenda and a technology roadmap were developed, which will build the base for joint collaboration and user studies across Australia and Germany.

The alliance recently secured funding for two PhD positions, applications for which are due on 20 September, 2021. For graduate researchers interested in developing and/or studying technologies to monitor and achieve sustainable behavioural changes in people’s everyday lives are welcome to reach out to Dr Tilman Dingler, one of the program leaders. Successful candidates will be enrolled in a joint PhD program working in an interdisciplinary environment across both locations in Australia and Germany.

Figure 1: The team of behavioural and computer scientists took a joint look at how to detect, assess, and mitigate problematic smartphone usage.


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