“Data are stubborn and difficult.”

Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda examines the impact of digitalisation on our everyday lives. We talked to her about how we are responding to the new opportunities and what we are learning about the old as we reflect on the new.

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In Michaela Szölgyenyi’s cosmos

My cosmos is definitely Lake Wörthersee. It’s only five minutes from the university to the lido, and I swim a daily lap starting from the southern pier as long as the temperatures allow. Better a short swim than no swim at all! Much like other people take a coffee break, I take a swim break, usually in the company of two colleagues. I find this to be the perfect time-out to clear my head. I only realised that I am a total water person when I moved here in 2018. As a child I used to spend my holidays at Lake Attersee; my grandfather taught me to sail and I often spent hours snorkelling. These days, I only swim on the surface of the lake. In the winter I am drawn to the snow in the Carinthian mountains, where I have learned how to go on ski tours. Next summer, the plan is to go windsurfing.

Lake Wörthersee does have one disadvantage: There’s no breeze – at least compared to Lake Attersee. The freedom involved in sailing is similar to that associated with horse riding. That’s pure freedom. I don’t own a boat yet; the set-up costs are too high. But you never know what the future holds. In any case, I don’t want to generate a deficit artificially, but rather live according to whatever the present circumstances allow. I don‘t hesitate to make decisions; passively allowing things to unfold is not my style.

I am less good at other things. For example, furnishing and decorating a flat. The result tends to be rather linear and tidy. In other homes I really like the non-linearity. There is only one thing I insist on: my spider plants and spacious solid wood shelves for all my books. I love to read – and I prefer hefty novels in hardcover to short stories. My favourite book last summer was “Sixteen Words” by Bachmann Prize winner Nava Ebrahimi.

Professionally, I am kept pretty busy with research, teaching and with running the FWF doctoral programme Multiple Perspectives in Optimization. Ten of the 14 young researchers are women. I am particularly pleased about that. The discrimination of women and other injustices irritate me immensely. It was like that back in my school days, when I spoke up when I saw injustice and stood up for others.

The spirit that these young people bring to the Departments of Statistics and Mathematics is awesome and invigorating. Corona-related silence on the campus, which we have felt lately, is at odds with the university’s fundamental role as a place of encounter. While I am glad that international conferences can at least be held virtually and that there will be fewer of these ecologically problematic and exhausting trips in the future, I still believe that personal contact with other researchers is essential.

I like being around people and sharing a laugh with them. I get nothing out of being sulky for prolonged periods. Humour, sarcasm and the satirical website Die Tagespresse keep me amused. It’s only when it comes to real politics that I sometimes lose my sense of humour.

Music is as important to me as the water. I often listen to music; even when I’m working I’ll wear headphones. It’s mainly rock music from the 1980s – the Rolling Stones, Guns n’ Roses, Solid Gold. That said, the Spotify recommender system needs some improvement to fully cater to my tastes. Listening to music helps me to think. I’m also really good at staring into space. And at doing nothing … I’m very good at that.

Recorded by Barbara Maier

Zur Person

Born: 1988 in Linz

Job: Professor of Stochastic Processes and Head of the Department of Statistics

Education: Master’s degrees in Industrial Mathematics and Economics, and Doctorate in Mathematics at  JKU Linz, Postdoc at Vienna University of Economics and Business and ETH Zurich

Cosmos: Lido Klagenfurt, 12 October 2021

How will the pandemic change the way we work?

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The future of road transport lies in getting from A to B free of stress. Technology allows us to avoid congestion and respond to accidents and roadworks in a flexible way. Artificial intelligence based on logic systems steers traffic control systems, production plants or rail logistics of this kind. Researchers working on a project together with Siemens AG Austria have developed new approaches that allow a rapid response to new situations.

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Tracking down hate speech

We are still a long way off from developing artificial life forms that can understand and communicate with humankind on all subjects, according to Michael Wiegand, computer linguist at the Digital Age Research Center (D!ARC) at the University of Klagenfurt. He specialises in the detection of hate speech and tells us what algorithms need to learn in order to reliably recognise insults.

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“I enjoy thinking logically.”

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National debt and economic literacy in uncertain times

Economic events affect each and every one of us, yet many people regard economic issues as an impenetrable “black box”. Martin Wagner, Professor of Economics at the University of Klagenfurt, sheds light on the much-debated topic of national debt and stresses the importance of increased economic literacy.

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Robots as surgical assistants

Today, robotic systems are little more than assistants used to hold and aim surgical tools. A research team led by Jan Steinbrener and Stephan Weiss at the University of Klagenfurt is looking to develop new technological options to support surgeons in their work.

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Deploying autonomous robots to maintain ships’ hulls

Cleaning a ship’s hull currently takes around eight days and costs between 100,000 and 200,000 Euros.  A research team that includes Stephan Weiss and Jan Steinbrener from the Department of Smart Systems Technologies aims to use autonomous robots for this task.

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