16th Circle International Conference

Last week saw the 16th Circle International Conference – with digital intelligence as its theme – take place in Cheltenham and Gloucester, hosted by the University of Gloucestershire School of Business and Technology. There were over 60 delegates, from across four continents, with an excellent mix of established academics and doctoral candidates attending. The topics considered ranged from “the significance of online communication tools among generation Y” to “genome sequencing services for personalized healthcare in Germany” and covered almost everything in between! Staff and doctoral researchers from UoG were strongly represented – with Matt Barr, Sam Copland, Martine Garland and Martin Wynn, among others, presenting research that addressed unethical fashion buying, digital utopias, income diversification and IT strategy in SMEs.

Professor Kim Cassidy (Harris) charmed the conference with her engaging, keenly observed and thought-provoking keynote. She challenged the delegates to consider if the ‘digitally obsessed’ consumer really exists and if they do to what extent are retailers really responding. Examples of approaches that retailers have yet to really bottom included that everyday favourite – self-scanning, with its now ubiquitous catch phase ‘unexpected item in bagging area’. Where work was perhaps more developed was in the use of emotional facial micro-responses by the Bank of New Zealand to help consumers better understand their relationship to money and its management. This captures the use of the digital to improve outcomes for customers rather than simply offer operational gains to the retailer.

After two days of events, the formal element of the conference culminated in a very successful industry panel gala event – organized and run by undergraduate events management students, with contributions from students in business and in music courses. The panel: Ben Hau, Head of Marketing, Marketing Gloucester; Nigel Jobson, Commercial Director, Maybe; Andy Jones, Head of Capability, Strategy and Training at the Institute of Risk Management; Eleanor Trimble, Nudge Insights UK – discussed issues at the digital frontiers of business technologies. Nothing was off the table – the trade-off between privacy and the desire for services that rely on knowing who you are (down to facial-recognition and tailored advertising), to the problems of identity theft in terms of trust-based identification systems that drive bitcoin, to the benefits of trying on shoes with augmented reality!

Whatever the application or issue, the conference brought together a diverse range of views on business technology and offered researchers and industry specialists a space to share and debate what the future holds – for consumers and firms alike.

Dr. Philippa Ward and Dr. Louise Reid

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