Aran and his pursuit of subjunctivity



I'm Aran Lunzer.  From October 2011 to September 2017 I was a member of Alan Kay's team at Viewpoints Research Institute (which is being wound up in autumn 2017), researching future directions for personal-computing software. The focus of my work there, and in general, is on how to build appropriate 'subjunctivity' features (q.v.) into a software platform.

Until March 2011 I was a Research Associate Professor at the Tanaka Laboratory in Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.  This lab had been my home for roughly 12 of the 14 years since my arrival in 1997 (much of the missing two years - 2002/3 - was spent at the University of Copenhagen).

In an altogether earlier life (before discovering, for example, the joys of not shaving), I worked in an interesting and unusual outpost - now gone - of IBM United Kingdom Laboratories, Hursley.

My recently updated CV tells the whole story.

I come from Britain. More specifically, I was born and brought up in England (one of the countries within Britain), but I started saying Britain once I moved overseas and discovered a pervasive misconception that England is the name of the whole place. It had been around the time that I started my PhD studies at the Department (now School) of Computing Science of the University of GlasgowScotland (another country within Britain), that I properly realised just how offensive that misconception is [page by Paul Dourish].



The bread-and-butter part of my life is as a researcher in HCI: human-computer interaction. In particular I develop interfaces that help users explore alternatives in input-output applications (in domains such as retrieval, simulation, and artefact design).  A major motivation behind this work is the feeling that users too often blindly accept the first results that emerge from a piece of black-box software: Google Search is a classic example.  Instead I'd like users to think "If this software were tuned slightly differently, or I had asked a slightly different question, would I still be seeing the same results?".  In other words, I want to encourage an interest in subjunctivity.  This theme is described in more detail here.


I have greatly enjoyed my many years of living in Japan, including the initial experiences in getting to know the place. A lot of my time in the early days went into learning to read Japanese, to give me access to the local research work and - more challengingly - to some of the local literature. Along the way I passed the 1st kyu (i.e., the highest) level of the national Japanese Language Proficiency Test, which seems a worthwhile qualification to have.


I'm also keen on the Japanese philosophy and martial art called Shorinji Kempo, which I started learning at the Glasgow University Dojo, and have continued at other clubs within the British Shorinji Kempo Federation and in Japan. Although I suspect that I'm not destined for heroic levels of fighting proficiency, having made it as far as 2nd dan I feel at least that I have some knowledge to pass on to beginners. And it's a lot of fun. One thing that I particularly enjoy about Shorinji Kempo is that the senior instructors are so friendly and entertaining (as well as being good at what they teach), and that they seem to get kinder and more humorous the higher their rank - one great example being my teacher at Hokkaido University, the 7th-dan NOSAKA Masashi sensei. This isn't just happy coincidence; the spirit of helping others while having fun yourself is a fundamental part of Shorinji Kempo's brand of Buddhism.

If you'd like to get in touch...

Mail me at:

aranlunzer at gmail dot com

Last updated: October 2017