As I grew up I was fascinated by technology and learning. I came from a family of educators – my mother was a scientist, and my father was a teacher so I guess that apple didn’t fall too far from the tree! I focused on technology at school, did a MEng in computer science at Southampton and I then found a job working as a computer programmer for a research project. I think the combination of doing my Masters plus working on a research project gave me a taste for academic research and science. I very much liked the idea of exploring new things and expanding human knowledge… rather than going to work for a company and making someone else rich!
One of my hobbies is fiction and storytelling. I was talking about this with a potential PhD supervisor, and he introduced me to the field of Narrative Systems Research. This is a place where storytelling and technology come together, where technology can be a medium for new forms of storytelling, and how we can train computers to understand stories and the nuances of storytelling. For a technologist who liked storytelling this was music to my ears! My doctorate, therefore, was on computational thematics - trying to teach computers to understand subtext, themes, and stories.
In 2016, after six years of being a research fellow with a variety of contracts and jobs I moved to Bournemouth University to take up my first permanent academic job as senior lecturer in the Department of Creative Technology. I had several job offers at the same time - but Bournemouth had some things which were particularly desirable for me. I spent a lot of time at Southampton in a traditional computer science department being a little bit of a black sheep. The other academics there were doing more traditional computer science like working on network connectivity or straightforward artificial intelligence. And then there was Charlie being this weirdo doing stuff with stories in the corner! I was always a little bit outside the loop. Bournemouth, however, seems to have a lot of respect for specialist research fields and true interdisciplinary research including the mixing of art and technology. That was one of the things that incentivised me to accept the offer.
Rather than doing technical research and a bit of teaching as I had done at Southampton my new job required me to adjust to having a substantial teaching load, needing to design new courses and curriculums and at the same time try to keep my research career going. It worked well and I did OK but was also challenging. I have been here six years now and submitted 20 funding proposals. I have had lots and lots of rejections of course – but finally this last year I had an EU Horizon bid for half a million accepted - LoGaCulture. I’d become very good at doing what I call ‘pocket money research’, where I do a little experiment with a couple of 100 pounds I get from the department, or a little study with my spare Friday. But, but there's only so much you can do with these tiny little threads. So, getting this proper funding means that now I can actually run all these big studies, I can develop these prototypes. Now I can do this, can do that. After a fallow few years I’m in a good place - really positive and optimistic.
Dr Charlie Hargood
Principal Academic in Games Technology
My time at BU has given me an opportunity to grow and develop – both as an educator, and a scientist.
Obviously, I've worked hard and I'm very proud of what I've achieved but no one does everything alone. I've learned a lot from people around me and I have had six mentors - three at Southampton and three at Bournemouth. I like to think of myself as the child of six academic parents. These are the people that have helped shape me and my career and I am very grateful to them.
At Southampton there were my two PhD supervisors and also the head of the research lab there who have mentored me my whole career. Here at Bournemouth, my mentors have been Christos Gatzidis, Wen Tang and Fred Charles.
Christos hired me and was my Head of Department. He knows the academic career structure very well. He's been very good helping me to understand how the organisation works, how the system works and that’s been really helpful in strategically managing my career and place in BU.
Fred is my new Head of Department. But also, he happens to be in the same field as me. Fred did his PhD research in Narrative Systems as well and we got jobs at Bournemouth at the same time. Fred is a bit further along in his career than me so it's been really good to talk to him, not just about research but also some of the scientific problems we face in our field. We can share ideas and approaches to different problems of our field, but also to have a senior partner who knows my particular research, and wants to face those same problems in technology and storytelling together is invaluable. Fred is also very kind, very friendly. He's a person that I feel I can always go and talk to on the level as well.
And then finally, there's Professor Wen Tang. When I first started at Bournemouth she was assigned as my mentor. We get on very, very well. We share some of the same aspirations for developing Bournemouth's academic research culture. We spend a lot of time talking about different research programmes, and we’ve been on research bids together. And we're both very motivated by the research part of the academic career and share a vision for a scientific approach to games and creative technology that we have been able to develop together.
I have been very lucky with mentors, but it also has to come naturally to some extent as well. I think it has to kind of naturally emerge rather than be an obligation. These mentors have all helped me grow and refine my approach to the academic career – helping to navigate the career structure, solve scientific problems, or offer patient advice on the challenges academia brings. Having a range of mentors has meant I can benefit from a full spectrum of experience and advice from different scientific and professional perspectives.
My time at BU has given me an opportunity to grow and develop – both as an educator, and a scientist. As an institution we really value the interdisciplinary work I have become an international research leader in and that environment, and the invaluable help of my mentors, has enabled me to reach this point with my career. Now with a fully-funded research project I am optimistic I will develop further.