Bowes working hard in retirement

November 04, 2004, vol. 31, no. 5
By Barry shell



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For someone who took early retirement in 2000, John Bowes is working as hard as ever.

After 28 years in the school of communications at the University of Washington in Seattle, Bowes answered the call to come to B.C. to help start a new university called TechBC, now SFU Surrey.

In October he became the first permanent director of SFU's new school of interactive arts and technology (SIAT) in the faculty of applied sciences, following acting director Tom Calvert's recent retirement.

Bowes' research centres on technology, policy and the social effects of digital media. His publications cover topics such as internet commerce, minority access to media and technology transfer.

As SIAT's first director, Bowes sees program stabilization as the most immediate need. “We are the ghost of TechBC,” says Bowes. “All our programs have to be restructured to fit SFU's formal processes.” According to Bowes, the SIAT grad program is almost there and they are working on third and fourth year undergraduate courses now. There's a lot of good natured, back-and-forth between SIAT and SFU, but the process takes time.

The other big task is the appointment of faculty. Many, originally from TechBC, remain on limited term contracts. “We want everyone in SIAT who qualifies to be moved from this temporary status to regular, tenure-track positions, and that will take some months,” says Bowes. So far seven appointments have been made and by late fall Bowes hopes to have 11 more faculty appointments: nine tenure track and two lecturers. Later, a third wave of hiring will occur. It's quite a challenge. “Like rebuilding a building by taking out and putting back bricks without having the place fall down around you,” says Bowes.

On the research side, Bowes is part of a Social Science and Humanities Research Council three year study on eLoyalty - essentially the identification of design principles for web-based stores that ensure stable repeat commerce. Amazon.com has done this successfully. According to Bowes, developing trust is the first priority. After that, the website must give the consumer a sense of flow, playfulness, and entertainment.

As the new director of SIAT, Bowes is anxious to form ties with other faculties and schools. “We are inherently interdisciplinary,” says Bowes.

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