Reasoning computers

Wolfgang Faber

Wolfgang Faber’s work is concerned with exploring how to present meaning in such a way that it can be processed by computer. His research efforts are closely linked to artificial intelligence. He told us how machines can become more rational.

A layperson commissioning a construction firm or an architect to plan a house will describe various ideas: The house should have a cellar and a balcony, the interior spaces should be bright, and the roof should be flat. The expert will take this description and develop a proposal. According to Wolfgang Faber, professor of semantic systems, the same should apply to computers. “I would like computers to be used in a declarative manner. They should no longer be ‘slaves’ that follow imperative orders – we call this procedural –, but rather experts for certain tasks.” In other words, Faber wishes for rationally acting agents that develop proposed solutions for defined problems.

This ideal conception completely lacks the creepy aspect of artificial intelligence, which is often transported by the media, though Faber does go on to admit: “Yes, there are certain forces that strive to develop an artificial intelligence that operates in a human manner. But I ask myself: Why should I want this? I am not interested in creating artificial humans. Instead, I want to create a machine that is better able than we are at carrying out activities we find challenging.” One example of this is the processing of vast amounts of data: Computers can process greater volumes than any human can. Other, more emotionally shaped actions will still be difficult for computers to manage in the future, according to Faber. Searching for an example, we ask: Is it possible to use logic to describe humour to a machine?

Wolfgang Faber is sceptical and points to the field of sub-symbolic artificial intelligence, which employs simplified, artificial neurons and works on the assumption that it is not possible to describe every single thing logically and with the help of symbols. Meaning emerges from the interaction. Symbolic artificial intelligence, on the other hand, a field Wolfgang Faber feels more closely aligned with, comprehends the logical conclusion as the basis of its work. Here, meaning is carried by symbols.

The work of his research group involves many references to mathematics and philosophy. “We study declarative languages and address the question: How can we express knowledge in such a way that it can be processed by a computer? We invent languages and symbols that bear meaning, and we capture their properties, runtime behaviour, and resource consumption.” But these computer scientists do not remain purely on the theoretical level, they also perform programming. The ultimate aim is to develop machines that act rationally and reach reasonable decisions. To do this they must recognise data as such and information must be conveyed in such a way that they can comprehend it. Much of this already works in reality, but in relation to some aspects we are still at the very beginning.

for ad astra: Romy Müller

About the person

Wolfgang Faber is full professor of semantic systems at the Department of Applied Informatics. He is also a lecturer at the Faculty of Informatics of the Vienna University of Technology. From September 2013 to March 2018 he was professor of artificial intelligence at the School of Computing and Engineering at the University of Huddersfield in England.

Der Beitrag Reasoning computers erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

People need other people

Cornelia Sicher

Older people – especially in rural areas – often suffer from loneliness, which can subsequently become a health problem. The INTERREG project ECARE aims to tackle social isolation with the help of new digital communication options.

When speaking about the topic of e-health, Cornelia Sicher, a researcher at the Department of Public Management, likes to use terms such as “self-management”. The computer scientists with a doctorate in business administration sees the empowerment of the elderly as a significant opportunity to improve the health of the individuals affected in the long term. “Loneliness is a health problem. We want to help people to monitor themselves and to find their way back into society. The methods we use are integrated platforms, digital communication methods, coupled with social exchange, and neighbourly assistance”, she explains. Partners from Italy approached her with a request to test a new technological system, which works along these lines, offering older people more opportunities to communicate, a greater degree of self-organisation, and technical support in their daily routines. Cornelia Sicher’s team is responsible for conducting the accompanying research and has been tasked with measuring the social and economic effects of the new system. The development of corresponding measuring instruments and indicators commenced at the beginning of the year.

From February onwards, the first batch of households of people aged 65 years and above, living alone and at home, is gradually being equipped with the devices, namely with smart watches and tablets with specially designed apps. The target group is given specially tailored training. Cornelia Sicher tells us: “We want to supply the people with a high-quality comprehensive package. It’s not about simply strapping a smart watch around their wrist and placing a tablet computer into their hands. Rather, we want to understand: How do they live? What problems do they experience? How can help be provided to address their social isolation?” Sicher goes on to tell us that many young people migrate to the cities in Northern Italy, leaving the elderly behind in rural areas and – what is even more worrying – there are far too few beds available in homes for cases requiring care. Social isolation has the effect that people take less care of themselves, reducing how much they move, and giving up on numerous tasks. This is detrimental to their mental agility, physical complaints increase. The project will ultimately involve 80 participants from Treviso, 40 from Belluno, and 16 from Pordenone. Associated partners in Carinthia hope to acquire a further 10 to 20 households in order to test the new technological possibilities.

We ask Cornelia Sicher whether she feels that policymakers and players in the field of health care are doing enough to meet the challenges of demographic change and her answer is optimistic: “I have the impression that there is a lot going on. Here, too, there is interest in rolling out methods of this kind and offering a set of ‘social-meets-digital’ instruments in combination with support provided by a relief organization. After all: People need other people. What is more, the important question arises: Who is going to finance this?” Sicher and her team also see it as their duty to demonstrate that investments in systems of this kind will result in quality improvements and in lower consequential costs in the health sector in the long run.

for ad astra: Romy Müller

Der Beitrag People need other people erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

Psychologically healthy children are more likely to grow into healthy adults

All alone. The focus being on the upset little boy feeling lonely and looking sadly at the camera while his parents sitting on the couch and quarrelling in the background.

Nearly half of all mental illnesses have their origins in the early childhood years of the affected persons. In adulthood, these often emerge as chronic illnesses with negative consequences for the individual’s social life, economic productivity, and quality of life.

Heather Foran, what kind of problems do the children have that are at the centre of the intervention programme “Parenting for Lifelong Health”?
For the purpose of data gathering, we conducted interviews with parents of 2- to 9-year-old children. The focus is on social behavioural disorders such as the oppositional defiant disorder. Within their given environment, these children grow up with a certain risk and in many cases, they have already demonstrated conspicuous behaviour. Understandably, these difficulties cause the parents stress. The approach adopted by the programme is to work with families in a positive manner: In this way, the parents gain relaxation skills, stress management skills, communication tools, and much more besides.

What is the programme’s underlying idea?
There are many types of intervention that strive to use the work with parents as a means to prepare for children to grow up mentally healthy. The problem is this: Many of these programmes have complex license terms that are often associated with high costs. Consequently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has worked with numerous universities including Oxford and Cape Town to develop an alternative, which can be deployed specifically in the so-called low and middle income countries. The aim is to reach a greater number of people – covering the rural poorer regions as well – than is possible through the other programmes. The intervention has now been launched as a pilot project in Macedonia, Moldova and Romania.

What is your role?
We will be carrying out the accompanying research. Jointly with our partners we are responsible for the data management and data analysis processes. Our primary concern is to find out whether this intervention will have a long-term effect. We also hope to discover to what extent it (still) works efficiently. Particularly in countries such as these, the costs involved are a decisive factor, and it can make a real difference whether five or ten group session are needed to create an impact.

Are the involved parents open towards these kinds of interventions? After all, we are talking about very private problem areas in many cases.
I believe that this is a crucial questions, especially as it concerns a great many of these interventions. There is a huge gap between what is needed and the reach that such programmes tend to achieve. In the case of this programme, we discovered that it was not difficult to recruit families. Fundamentally, most parents want to be good parents. When they come up against difficulties, they are usually willing to accept help. It is important, however, that the support systems are designed in such a way that they can be accepted: they must not patronise, they must not stigmatise, and they must fit into the lifeworld of those affected.

Would you say that building trust is essential?
Yes, and this is especially true for the countries where this programme is currently being offered. Romania has a disastrous history as far as the out-of-home care of children is concerned. Here, it was particularly important to convince the parents that the work conducted within the scope of the programme is on “safe” ground. Our data shows that, prior to the intervention of the programme, many parents had never had the opportunity to discuss the conflicts and difficulties happening in their families in anything close to professional surroundings.

Looking beyond the concrete programme: From a general and international perspective, what is the approach to prevention and the gathering of risk factors in relation to psychological symptoms in children?
We know that integrated cooperation between general practitioners, paediatricians, school psychologists and other mental health care providers is essential to achieving good prevention outcomes. The more counselling and support are made available to families, there more problems can be prevented later on. As far as the health system is concerned it is also important to bear in mind that interventions that start later during the years of childhood and adolescence come at a greater cost. Basically, in my estimation, even in countries such as ours, we do not screen sufficiently for various risk factors – problems with alcohol, depression among parents, etc. – to be able to provide appropriate offers at an early stage.

The pilot-tested programme in Southeastern Europe is currently limited in its geographical scope. Is it possible to roll it out more extensively?
It is the aim of our accompanying research to generate data for the further development of the programme, so that it can also be deployed elsewhere – perhaps even more efficiently. For this purpose, we will also be taking a close look at the implementation process.

About the person

Heather Foran studied clinical psychology at Stony Brook University, New York. Prior to her appointment as full professor at the University of Klagenfurt (she initially started here with a short-term professorship in 2016) she worked as lead scientist on a DFG-funded project at the Technical University of Braunschweig. She held a position as visiting professor for clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Ulm University from 2014 to 2015. Heather Foran is a certified psychological psychotherapist in Germany and the USA. Her research interests include family and health, violence in families, parenting, healthy partnerships, depression, behavioural interventions, and public health.

Heather Foran | Foto: photo riccio

Programme for the mental health of children in Southeastern Europe

The project funded by EU H2020 is carried out as a cooperative effort involving nine institutions from eight different countries. It focuses on the prevention of mental illness during childhood. RISE (Prevention of child mental health problems in Southeastern Europe – Adapt, Optimize, Test, and Extend Parenting for Lifelong Health) aims to establish a systematic empirical process, which can be used to study the implementation, dissemination and sustainability of the parental counselling programme.

The basis for the research is the intervention programme “Parenting for Lifelong Health” (PLH) that has been specifically developed for framework conditions with limited resources and that has already been tested in other low and middle income countries. The research team will be conducting studies in three of Europe’s poorest countries located in the continent’s south-eastern regions.

The team based in Klagenfurt is taking the lead in the area of “assessment and data analysis”. Working closely with partners at the Technical University of Braunschweig and the University of Oxford, the Klagenfurt team will also support the overall project management.

Der Beitrag Psychologically healthy children are more likely to grow into healthy adults erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

When will we (finally) choose a better world?

Stephan Dickert & Alice Pechriggl

The world appears to lie in ruins: Climate change is making itself felt in environmental disasters. People in need are heading north; politics responds with nationalism. The concept of “do-gooders” bears negative connotations, although what we do need is people doing “good”; people who put their actions at the service of a better world. We spoke to the cognitive psychologist Stephan Dickert and the philosopher Alice Pechriggl about why it is so difficult to implement a change of mind.

Let’s take the example of climate change: Rationally, we understand that we need to change our consumption behaviour. And yet we do not choose the necessary actions. How do you explain this?

Stephan Dickert: I’m afraid I cannot offer you a single or definite answer. The contributing factors are certainly not mono-causal. Above all, I believe that it would be necessary to reward more environmentally friendly behaviour in the sense of an incentive strategy. Right now, it is far too easy to purchase more, to fly more, to use the car more. Humans need a decision-making structure that helps them to act “correctly” in terms of pursuing these goals. We can find relevant approaches in the idea of “nudging”, which comes from behavioural economics and gently attempts to guide our actions in the right direction.

Alice Pechriggl: I would start my explanation with the systemic, the political. There is no need to mince our words: We live in a profligate, capitalist system that persistently persuades us to want more and more. Part of this system is the idea that the individual feels responsible for the overall economic madness, even though he or she cannot possibly accept this responsibility. The system builds on the ruthless exploitation of the individual and of the resources of our Earth. Of course, we must also consider the cultural level, which differs widely across the globe: While we are already deeply immersed in the logic of wastefulness in these parts, resources are handled more carefully elsewhere, for the time being. We only need to compare the daily volume of packaging material used by a Senegalese and an Austrian household.

The system is man-made. Which human drivers are responsible, in your view, for turning us into such submissive servants of capitalism?

Pechriggl: It basically comes down to the tension between pleasure and pain. We need a culture for dealing with hubris, which is in every one of us, and which is being served endlessly by this system. It was not only the Greeks who were culturally aware of this propensity for arrogance, which – much like mortality – they addressed very thoroughly.

Dickert: Yes, we are dealing with the underlying principle of pleasure and pain. However, I also see distinct differences, to what extent one participates here and whether the two opposite poles – in the sense of pleasure and pain – might not also be served with the help of rewards. If abstinence were to be socially rewarded, it might be possible to incentivize it as pleasurable. Fundamentally, many of us are hedonists.

Pechriggl: Which would be a fine thing, if only the potentiation through hubris and system did not produce such tragic consequences.

Dickert: Staying realistic, let us consider what might be feasible: In my estimation, even if we lived in a perfect system that only pushed the “right” decisions, there would still be people who would not act accordingly. On the psychological level we are simply distinguished by the drivers that shape us. And yet, I also agree with you, Alice Pechriggl: Passing the responsibility on to individuals is challenging and does not solve our problems.

Pechriggl: If suddenly everyone were  to be found guilty of wasteful, barely social behaviour, this would render people even more dissatisfied and aggressive. Constant consumption, permanently boosted by the system, is unlikely to be overcome by this self-flagellation.

Is taking pleasure from limitation something that may perhaps be inherent to humankind, much as hubris is?

Dickert: I have to ask myself the question how this value is framed symbolically. If limitation is depicted as something positive, it might lead to certain kinds of behaviour in some circumstances. I must say, though, that I do not think it can always succeed.

Pechriggl: We should probably not refer to it as limitation, but rather as restraint. That sounds nobler and carries a different social significance. I believe that part of getting carried away is to restrain oneself afterwards with a certain sense of regret. We are dealing with a complicated process here.

The consequences of our actions – both ecologically and economically – are increasingly making themselves felt in the physical sense. If, looking at Europe, we find ourselves up to our necks in water more and more often due to floods, can this trigger more rational behaviour in us?

Dickert: Yes and no. I spent many years living in the USA, and there I found that all the evidence on climate change does not affect those people who do not want to change their behaviour. They simply find other explanations for the processes happening in nature. Of course, this behaviour can also be observed in other countries. On the other hand, we know from psychology that mental and real pictures before our eyes significantly drive our actions, and this is especially the case if we are emotionally involved. Seeing the global rise in temperature in the shape of a number has much less of an impact on us than when we ourselves feel extreme heat or cold. I do wonder, though, how long any change in behaviour based on these experiences might actually last.

Pechriggl: I share the view that a lot can change when we have a bodily experience of something. In most cases, several things need to come together: intellect, imagination, and the affective level must be addressed together in order to initiate far-reaching decisions. This was the case in Italy after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, for example. If the different levels do not coalesce and lead to a judgment and appropriate action, we remain on the level of unconscious action. This action may well be positive and liberating, but radical change needs more, namely decision-making processes that involve as many individuals as possible, so as to ensure that the decisions are also jointly carried by as many people as possible. That would be democratic action for the benefit of the demos rather than for capital or for the technocratic bureaucracy.

Dickert: Allow me to bring up the example of the 2015 refugee wave. The image of the dead boy on the beach moved Europe. It made us feel that we had to offer humanitarian help. This effect did not last; instead it was replaced by a subsequent emotional wave, in which empathy transformed into fear. We conducted studies in Germany at that time, which clearly illustrated, for example, the effects of the assaults that occurred in Cologne on New Year’s Eve: The willingness to help dropped sharply as a result of these kinds of incidents. Feelings of fear took over and they still serve as the basis for the electoral successes celebrated by the German AfD and other populist parties in Europe today.

If fear is such a powerful driver, is it not possible to also use it in a positive sense? Cigarette packets, for instance, are covered with shocking image to keep people from smoking.

Dickert: Looking back, the first thing people did was to place a second packet over the packet of cigarettes so they would not have to look at the negative image. Fear can be a motivator, but research has shown us that we do not tend to feel bad for long. The human system of regulating emotions is amazing: It will always find a way to protect itself, without having to introduce major behavioural changes. If you fan the fear, you must also offer a solution straight away that has to be as specific as possible.

Pechriggl: MDraconian consequences stir up a guilty conscience. In any case, I believe these threats are inappropriate, because they are excessively strict. This has been well researched and implemented, for example in studies on addiction. This radical approach, according to which a dry alcoholic should never take another sip, causes people to suffer. The paradigm was changed and now there is a more relaxed approach to the issue of relapsing.

In this globalized world, our small-scale and individual decisions have an impact on people elsewhere. Are we insufficiently caring and social to consider the fate of people far away from us?

Pechriggl: I think that the empathy we feel for people who live a long way away has grown substantially. This is linked to globalisation, to travel and to the media. However, empathy simply cannot keep pace with the waste and anti-social behaviour that has been further intensified by digitalisation. Concern is growing for our unique planet Earth and for “nature”, as well as for the future generations, but, as I said, the system is all-devouring and so are the lobbies.

Dickert: I would like to mention a thought experiment by Peter Singer, who explored scenarios like the following: Imagine that you are smartly dressed and on the way to a job interview. On the way there, you see that a child is in danger of drowning in a well. Do you stop and help the child, even though this will ruin your outfit for the job interview? Usually, participants in the experiment state that they want to help the child. If the child were to fall into a well somewhere in Africa, however, the willingness to help would be lower. What is not right in front of me does not trigger an immediate need to act. I also want to see the effects of my behaviour, and these are often unclear. Does anything really change, if I stop buying plastic bottles? This explains the common notion that if you cannot solve all the problems right away, you would rather not do anything at all. In decision research on prosocial behaviour we call this principle “pseudo-ineffectiveness”.

What do you do personally to make the world a better place?

Pechriggl: As a private individual I have a clear position on this: I did not ask for all these mechanisms of waste and I make every effort to participate as little as possible, and I do this without a guilty conscience when I choose to travel by car or by plane when taking a vacation. Certainly, one can always do better, but as we all know, better is the enemy of good. As a philosopher I write about these issues and I strive to initiate discussions and reflection processes with my students. Teaching and accompanying young people along their path is a beautiful and pleasurable experience for me, though it can be arduous at times to pursue a high level of quality in my work in the midst of a witless quantification mania.

Dickert: On the one hand, I try to make a difference through my research on the drivers of prosociality, although of course I realize that these scientific publications are only read by a fraction of the population. I gain a lot of satisfaction from mentoring students, who ideally go through an important maturing process and adopt a reflective, critical attitude during the course of their studies. If I can support them during this process, I do feel that I have made a contribution.

for ad astra: Romy Müller

Alice Pechriggl

About the person

Alice Pechriggl has been a full professor at the Department of Philosophy since 2003. She has spent time as guest professor, among others, at the Université Paris I (Sorbonne), at the interdisciplinary doctoral school for gender studies at the University of Vienna, and at the department d’Etudes Européennes at the Université Paris VIII (St. Denis). He current research focuses on philosophical anthropology, in particular gender anthropology, philosophy of politics and action theory as well as group-/psychoanalysis and social theory. Her main areas of interest in the history of philosophy are Greek antiquity and contemporary philosophy, especially French philosophy. The following publication appeared in 2018:  Agieren und Handeln. Studien zu einer philosophisch-psychoanalytischen Handlungstheorie. Bielefeld: transcript.

Stephan Dickert

About the person

Stephan Dickert joined the Department of Psychology in Klagenfurt as full professor of general psychology and cognitive psychology in 2018. He completed a Master’s degree at the University of Oregon in 2003, which was followed by a PhD in psychology in 2008. Before coming to Klagenfurt, he worked at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, Linköping University in Sweden, and the Institute for Marketing & Consumer Research at WU Vienna. He was appointed as Reader (Associate Professor) in Marketing at Queen Mary University of London, School of Business and Management in 2016. His research interests include applied cognitive psychology, decision research, business psychology, risk perception and consumer psychology.

Der Beitrag When will we (finally) choose a better world? erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

How we communicate with machines

Computertastatur und eine Hand mit Mobiltelefon.

Research on human-machine-interaction has advanced significantly in recent years according to computer scientist David Ahlström. He spoke to us about stumbling blocks and future potential for improvement.

David Ahlström, I am perfectly satisfied with the operation of my technological devices – smart phone, tablet computer, laptop – and cannot imagine what else might need to be done here. Is there any work left to do in your field of research?

Ahlström (laughs): That is a question I frequently put to my students. Why do we need the research area of human-machine-interaction, if it is already running so smoothly? But we must bear in mind that it was a long and arduous path to get where we are today. For the everyday user, many things appear to work easily and well. In the sphere of research, we are still aware of several stumbling blocks, which we must overcome. These are niche topics in many areas, but nonetheless addressing them may prove beneficial for many people.

Which directions are you thinking of?
The basic idea is this: The interaction between human and machine should be as seamless as possible. The device should understand the human. Going forward, it should become less and less necessary for the human to adapt to the technical demands of the machine.

These are extraordinary words from a computer scientist, who might be expected to be concerned primarily with technology. Where does this perspective come from?
I wasn’t particularly interested in computers, even back when I decided to study computer science. To be honest, I am still not very interested in them today. I regard them as tools that need to function. That is what I expect from them. Originally, I wanted to teach “technical crafts”, but when it was time to take the entrance examination at the arts university in my native country of Sweden, I decided to opt for the joint trip that marked the conclusion of my military service instead. And that is how I landed in computer science, temporarily at first, but I ended up staying. The interaction between human and machine is closely linked to visual communication. My artistic-cultural interests offered quite a good fit with the research field I later settled on.

Where do you still see stumbling blocks when it comes to using everyday devices?
Imagine, if you will, that you are walking along a street, with a child or a shopping bag in your arms, and with a watchful eye on the traffic situation, considering your next steps, and other pedestrians. Your smart phone rings. In this situation it would be helpful if you could answer the call without having to glance at your mobile phone. In other words, it would be great if you could simply swipe randomly across the screen to pick up the call. We could take this idea even further and claim that it should be sufficient to carry out a specific gesture in the vicinity of the smart phone, which would then trigger an appropriate reaction by the device. There are many areas where using gestures for control purposes might be useful.

What would this require?
Different sensors would need to be built into the device, for instance cameras capable of object recognition. Equipped with these, the device would be able to recognize my hands and the gestures I perform. The device would even be able to recognize which objects I, the user, am touching.

What could such a function be used for?
Let me give you an example: I recently moved into an older apartment, where the light switches and the electrical sockets are located in completely unfavourable positions. In the future, light switches will be replaced by a smart solution. This could involve small 3D strips with a certain pattern printed onto them. These are simply affixed to the walls in spots where I could really use a light switch. If I stroke my finger over such a 3D strip, the control unit recognizes that I wish to turn on the light. The device also knows that I would like to have the light dimmed to a certain brightness level. However, if my girlfriend strokes her finger across the 3D strip, the device knows her light preferences and switches the lights on with a different brightness level.

How does this work?
Certain sensors are required when conducting research in this area. We work with acceleration sensors, which can also be used to measure vibrations. If you were to tap your fingers on a table surface next to a mobile phone, for instance, the device would be able to detect the vibrations. The same applies when I run my hands over certain surfaces. When considering these developments, we must always ask ourselves why we want to build these applications: What is technically feasible, but at the same time: In terms of the human, what is possible, what is feasible, what is desirable, and what is practicable?

Are there any areas where it is not the technical possibilities that are driving the supply, but rather the needs of humankind?
Yes, this is especially true in the area of visual communication. When it comes to deciding what to show in which way on a display and which colours, symbols and contrasts to pick, the human usually serves as the starting point of the development process. A well-designed screen must clearly and unambiguously express what the machine requires from the human. This necessitates close collaboration between designers and future users, as well as numerous studies, where future users can test and evaluate different design proposals.

A large manufacturer of smart phones recently announced its intention to bring the holograms familiar to us from science fiction films to its mobile devices. Do you think this is realistic?
As far as these developments are concerned, we must ask ourselves: Do we want this? Why do we want it? It would make it easier, for example, to hold a meeting with people who are physically located on the other side of the world. If a room has been equipped with cameras on the walls or on the ceiling, these cameras are already capable of measuring with absolute precision where my finger is moving and which commands I am issuing. I think it will be somewhat more difficult to offer this functionality on mobile devices. In any case, the area of application is rather narrow: Do I really want to chat to my hologram mother in public? This issue is similar to voice control, which needs a certain – usually quiet, private – environment to be truly useful.

for ad astra: Romy Müller

About the person

David Ahlström is associated professor at the Department of Informatics Systems. He read computer science at the University in Stockholm, Sweden. After completing an ERASMUS exchange year at the University of Vienna and concluding his studies, he worked for Siemens in Vienna for two years, after which he came to Klagenfurt. In 2008 he received an eighteen-month Erwin-Schrödinger-scholarship from the Austrian Science Fund and joined the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He completed his postdoctoral qualification on the topic of human-machine-interaction in 2015. Ahlström has recently spent some time teaching and researching at the University of Manitoba (Canada). His current research is focused on graphical user interfaces, interaction mechanisms, interactive systems, graphics and design, and interaction design.

David Ahlström

Der Beitrag How we communicate with machines erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

Looking beyond the horizon. International Business and Economics

International Business and Economics

Starting this winter semester, the Faculty of Management and Economics will be offering a new English-language Bachelor’s degree programme, International Business and Economics. We asked the programme director, Dmitri Blüschke, a few pertinent questions..

What makes this degree programme so unique?

The most striking feature is that it is the first Bachelor’s degree to be taught entirely in English at the University of Klagenfurt. But there are other features that make it even more special: We have set ourselves the goal of achieving a balanced mix of domestic and foreign students, so that from the very first day, students get used to working and studying in an international setting.

Why is it so important to consider business and economics in an international context?

Quite simply, because this is the world we find ourselves in nowadays. On the one hand, with very few exceptions, modern businesses face global competition and operate internationally. Many companies started to see export markets as a core target a while back. This means that their employees increasingly come from different parts of the globe, raising the importance of intercultural skills. What is more, the trend (and – for some – the pressure) to keep up with digitalisation is advancing relentlessly. Taken together, this results in a strong demand for the employees of those international companies to contribute “new” qualifications.

What distinguishes this degree programme from a “traditional” degree in Business Administration?

Sound economic craftsmanship is still just as essential in the international context, which is why we have preserved the “traditional” Business Administration degree at the core of this programme, albeit with modifications. Added to this, we have placed particular emphasis on economic and methodological areas, to teach students more interdisciplinary and analytical skills. This is supplemented with sociological, legal, and intercultural content with international relevance. As a complete package, this degree programme provides students with the ideal preparation for a career with companies operating in the international sphere. Similarly, they are ideally qualified to continue their studies with a Master’s degree in the area of Business Administration. Students can gain in-depth knowledge in the area of their choice by combining specialisation subjects.

What interests should one have when applying for a place on this degree programme?

Applicants should be both able and keen to look beyond the horizon. How do economic relationships work in a global world, what drives companies to be successful in the international arena, how can one benefit most from a team of employees with different cultures and languages? Anyone who is interested in questions such as these, is spot on with this degree programme.

How can I prepare for the entrance examination?

Let me take this opportunity to reassure anyone who is interested in applying. The entrance examination looks at two subject areas: mathematics and general economic thinking. As far as mathematics is concerned, we want to be sure that people have at least a certain affinity for numbers. The normal school-leaving level is quite sufficient. The same applies to the economic topics. The test serves the purpose to check whether people have a good sense for this type of content. Both subject areas are covered by literature, which we have provided online (open access), so that people can take a look whenever they want to. In other words: Reading is the best way to prepare.

With this degree programme, nothing can stand in the way of your international career.

For more information please refer to:

Bachelor’s degree programme in International Business and Economics

Der Beitrag Looking beyond the horizon. International Business and Economics erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

Postdoctoral Assistant (tenure track) (f/m) at the Department of Public, Nonprofit and Health Management – code 628H/18

Stellenausschreibung Wissenschaftliches Personal |Foto: kasto/

Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt announces the following open position:

Postdoctoral Assistant (tenure track) (f/m)

at the Faculty of Management and Economics, Department of Public, Nonprofit and Health Management. This is a full-time position (initially limited to 6 years) with the option of negotiating a qualification agreement (Assistant Professor, tenure track, Upon fulfilment of the qualification agreement, the post-holder is promoted to tenured Associate Professor. Minimum gross salary for this position is € 53,255.- per annum (§ 27 Uni-KV B1 lit b), € 62,978.- after promotion to Assistant Professor (§ 27 Uni-KV A2) and € 68,285.- after promotion to Associate Professor. Starting date is as soon as possible.

Duties and responsibilities:

  •  Independent research in the field of public management and further development of the candidate’s scientific qualification to the level required for an associate professorship;
  • Independent and collaborative publication activities in international scientific journals;
  • Active participation in national and international conferences;
  • Preparation of grant applications and management of research projects;
  • Graduate and undergraduate teaching, participation in the executive programs of the department, examination activities and supervision of students;
  • Active engagement in the advancement of young scientists / new researchers;
  • Participation in administration and in university committees;
  • Participation in expanding international scientific and cultural contacts of the department;
  • Representation of the department towards public institutions and project partners in the public, nonprofit and healthcare sector.


Required Qualifications:

  • Doctorate / PhD in management studies with a focus on public administration/public management, obtained with distinction;
  • Outstanding research achievements and scientific publications in the field of public administration/public management;
  • Relevant international experience (e.g. academic experience or work experience in the field of public administration or public management);
  • Advanced English language skills.

Candidates must meet the required qualifications by April 10th, 2019, at the latest.


Additional Desired Qualifications:

  • Embedding in the international research community in the field of public administration / public management;
  • Experience in the main research areas of the department, i.e. public sector accounting, public budgeting, public financial management, or public personnel administration;
  • Teaching experience (at university level) and didactic competence;
  • Experience in administration of higher education institutions and committee work;
  • Experience in grant applications and project management;
  • German language skills;
  • Communication and presentation skills, ability to work independently.


German language skills are not a prerequisite, but it is expected that the successful candidate will acquire work-level fluency in German within two years. The nature of the position requires the successful candidate to relocate to Klagenfurt.


The university aims to increase the proportion of women in scientific positions, especially in leadership and therefore encourages qualified women to apply for the position. In case of equivalent qualification between a female and a male candidate, the female candidate will be given preference.


Persons with disabilities or chronic diseases who fulfill the requirements are particularly encouraged to apply.


The application must be submitted electronically in pdf format using the reference code 628H/18 via the link The application must be written in English and must include a cover letter, the curriculum vitae (with information about the degrees including date/place/grade, the experience acquired, the thesis title, the list of publications and any other relevant information), copy of the degree certificates and transcripts of the courses and any certificate that can prove the fulfillment of the required qualifications (e.g., a copy of the final thesis/dissertation, if such a thesis was required by the study program), information about courses held and, if possible, student evaluations of these courses. The application should also include details of three contact persons who can supply corresponding references. The deadline for applications is April 10th, 2019.

General information for applicants is available on Information about the Department of Public, Nonprofit and Health Management at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt is available on The Chair of the Department of Public, Nonprofit and Health Management, Prof. Paolo Rondo-Brovetto, is available to provide further details and in case of any queries related to the position via paolo.rondo [at] or  +43 463 2700 4131.

Short-listed candidates will be invited to an interview. Travel and accommodation costs incurred during the application process will not be refunded.

Translations into other languages shall serve informational purposes only. The English version of the application alone shall be legally binding.

Der Beitrag Postdoctoral Assistant (tenure track) (f/m) at the Department of Public, Nonprofit and Health Management – code 628H/18 erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

Students participate in debate workshop with British Ambassador

On Friday 22nd February, three students from the Alpen-Adria University (AAU), Magdalena Mitterberger (BA Applied Economics), Linda Valentin-Mullen (BA English and American Studies) and Neira Delalic (MA English and American Studies) participated in an English-language debate workshop hosted at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Vienna.

The workshop was organised by the British Embassy to give students studying in Austria an opportunity to broaden their understanding of debating and practise their public speaking skills in a friendly and professional environment. The workshop was convened by an experienced debater from the Oxford Union, who was previously a semi-finalist in the World University Debating Championships. Throughout the session, students learnt the foundations of debating excellence, including debate structure, how to deliver a convincing and confident speech and the importance of being a good listener.

During the afternoon, students worked in small groups and critically discussed a variety of contemporary topics such as zoos, academic streaming and the environment. For the final round of debates, students were divided into proposition and opposition groups and were given the motion “this house believes that individuals who are serious about fighting climate change should give up eating meat.” Students debated in front of a panel of judges, including The British Ambassador, Leigh Turner, EU Lobbyist and Head of the Austrian London School of Economics Alumni Society, Richard Lax, and Senior Lecturer at the AAU, Natilly Macartney. Students received constructive feedback from the panel and were each awarded a certificate of participation. Later in the evening, the workshop attendees had the opportunity to talk personally with the Ambassador and other members of staff working for the Embassy and enjoyed a range of drinks and sandwiches.

Engaging students in debates is important, because it gives students the opportunity to develop a range of valuable skills that they will need throughout their studies and in their future careers. Most notably, debating requires students to analyse and consider issues from multiple perspectives, this skill is becoming increasingly more important in a world where opinions can be shared instantly on social media and fake news spreads quickly. All the students who participated in the workshop said that their confidence increased throughout the day, and they now feel more positive about speaking in front of an audience.

Thank you to the British Embassy for organising this exciting event and for offering students in Austria an opportunity to better understand and engage in debating. 

Der Beitrag Students participate in debate workshop with British Ambassador erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

Sekretärin / Sekretär am Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik

Administratives Personal | Jeanette Dietl/

Die Universität Klagenfurt schreibt folgende Stelle zur Besetzung aus:

Sekretärin / Sekretär

an der Fakultät für Kulturwissenschaften, Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, im Beschäftigungsausmaß von 100 {c8db3f4443fb2f1c80e20e2e8420a201d47393e6b007c83f4847286f4b955a35} (Uni-KV: IIb, befristet auf die Dauer einer Karenzierung (vorauss. für die Dauer eines Jahres). Das monatliche Mindestentgelt für diese Verwendung beträgt € 1.939,60 brutto (14 x jährlich) und kann sich auf Basis der kollektivvertraglichen Vorschriften durch die Anrechnung tätigkeitsspezifischer Vorerfahrungen auf maximal € 2.122,40 brutto (R1) erhöhen. Voraussichtlicher Beginn des Anstellungsverhältnisses ist der 2. Mai 2019.


Der Beitrag Sekretärin / Sekretär am Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI

Reduced opening hours on state holiday of Carinthia: Mar 19, 2019

Öffnungszeiten Bibliothek | Foto: Andrea Bem

Tuesday, Mar 19 – state holiday of Carinthia: open from 08:30 to 16:00


University members have unrestricted access to the library‘s reading rooms.

Registration for the 24-hour library is possible via the campus system under “My settings” >> 24-hour library.
Please register at least one day before you plan to use this service for the first time. Accounts are activated every day at

Der Beitrag Reduced opening hours on state holiday of Carinthia: Mar 19, 2019 erschien zuerst auf University of Klagenfurt.

Source: AAU TEWI