Professor Alan Newell

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Queen Mother Building


Alan Newell, Emeritus Professor at Dundee University, has spent over forty years conducting HCI research, primarily into supporting elderly and disabled people. He founded and headed the University’s School of Computing, and later set up within it the Queen Mother Research Centre, now one of the largest academic groups in the world researching digital systems for older and disabled people.

In his book “Design and the Digital Divide”, published by Morgan and Claypool in 2011 he describes his research and the insights he has gained from it.

His team developed stenograph transcription systems and television subtitling systems for the deaf and hearing-impaired, and a range of communication systems for non-speaking people. More recently the team has investigated techniques for use in studying older people, including those with dementia, and for developing systems to support them.

Alan pioneered the use of Interactive Professional Theatre for gathering requirements and increasing awareness of this field. Since then he has made presentations of Interactive Theatre events at a number of international conferences, showing how this technique addresses the challenges that older people face with technology.

He has published widely, and has given numerous keynote lectures at conferences in Europe, North America and Japan, including InterCHI 1993 and ASSETS 2002. Jointly with colleagues, he received best paper awards at the IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, and at the ACM Conference on Assistive Technologies.

He was a Deputy Principal of Dundee University between 1992 and 1995. He is a Member of the Order of the British Empire, a Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy. He was named ACM Fellow in 2006 for his contribution to computer-based systems for people with disabilities, was awarded the CHI Social Impact Award in 2011, and in 2012 appointed to the ACM CHI Academy.


Alan Newell’s team have produced a range of films showing the use of professional theatre in requirements gathering and for awareness raising and training young designers.   These include 'Relatively PC', and 'Relative Confusion'. 

DVDs of these films can be obtained by emailing Alan Newell.

Live Theatre Events

A number of live theatre events have been presented at international conferences, and have been very successful at facilitating audience discussion. For example, a video was made of a presentation that featured a old couple attempting to use smart house technology at the Computer Human Interaction Conference in Florence.

  • Living in a Smart House: from “Requirements gathering with diverse user groups and stakeholders”, M.Morgan, M.R.McGee-Lennon, N.Hine, J.L.Arnott, C.Martin, J.Clark and M.Wolters, ACM SIGCHI Conf on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2008) Extended Abstracts, Florence, Italy, 7th-10th April 2008, pp.2597-2600. ACM Digital LibraryVimeo
  • Live Theatre was also performed at a keynote presentation at AAATE Conference 31st August 3rd Sept 2011.(“Accessible and Personalised Self- Service Terminals” A.F.Newell, M.E.Morgan, J.Nelson Peebles, I. Wotherspoon - sponsored by Technosiite) Maastricht, Holland.