Ph.D. Research Reception

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
4:10 pm - 8:00 pm
202 South Hall

Selected Ph.D. Research Presentations

Selected Ph.D. Research Presentations

Join us as Ph.D. students from the School of Information share their innovative research with the community.

The Ph.D. program at the School of Information draws doctoral students from a wide array of disciplines whose interests and approaches are as varied as their backgrounds. Though they all take technology as their object of study, our Ph.D. students approach the topic from many different angles — economic, political, social, legal, ethical — in an effort to understand the present impact and future development of information technology.

At the Ph.D. Research Reception, each doctoral student will share their research in a 15-minute presentation, with an additional 5 minutes for questions.


4:10 – 4:15 pm   Introduction by Professor Coye Cheshire
4:15 – 4:35 pm   Nick Merrill
4:35 – 4:55 pm      Richmond Wong
4:55 – 5:15 pm      Shazeda Ahmed
5:15 – 5:35 pm     Anne Jonas
5:35 – 6:05 pm   Break
6:05 – 6:25 pm     Elaine Sedenberg
6:25 – 6:45 pm     Noura Howell
6:45 – 7:05 pm    Sarah Van Wart
7:05 – 8:00 pm      Reception with wine and hors d’oeuvres  


From Scanning Brains to Reading Minds
Nick Merrill

This study aims to surface narratives, and anxieties, around brain-computer interfaces among the group that will most likely build them. We report on how 8 entrepreneurs and tech professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area engaged with a working BCI (Brain-Computer Interface). As the sensing technology behind BCIs becomes cheaper and more widespread, we look to these BCI “outsiders”' as a group likely to shape the future of consumer brain-computer interface.

Interrogating Biosensing Privacy Futures with Design Fiction
Richmond Wong

Emerging biosensing technologies present new questions about privacy and surveillance, although anticipating the specific contours of emerging privacy issues is difficult to do in advance, given the diversity in sites where biosensing is occurring and can potentially occur, and given new emergent meanings and interpretations of biosensed data. I discuss the use of design fiction – conceptual designs and yet-to-be-realized objects existing within a narrative or story world – as a way to interrogate multiple biosensing futures. By creating design proposals that explore connections between present and future realities and imaginaries, these designs open a liminal space between ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ for further exploration. I reflect on how this process allowed us to critically engage issues of surveillance and privacy, and how this mode of engagement allowed us to explore entanglements between ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ worlds, drawing connections between sensing technology in popular culture, research, and commercial development.

From “Information Islands” to an “Information Supermarket”? Recent Developments in China's Social Credit System
Shazeda Ahmed

This presentation is an overview of a series of ongoing research projects on China's emerging social credit system, a behavioral data-driven effort to rate Chinese citizens, companies, legal institutions, and government services on how "trustworthy" they are. Low scorers are publicly blacklisted and barred from certain activities, and high scorers are awarded with perks. Current developments in the system's nationwide rollout, findings from preliminary user interviews, and future approaches to researching social credit will be discussed.

Making Sense of Regional Blocks Online
Anne Jonas

Despite the vast and long-standing hopes that internet use might produce a “borderless” world, governments, civil society groups, transnational companies, and web users all complain of increasing regional fragmentation online, fearing that the Internet is “breaking up into loosely coupled islands of connectivity,” as claimed by a recent World Economic Forum report. This project, supported by the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity and the National Science Foundation, documents a particular sub-set of such balkanization, “regional blocking” implemented by commercial entities, especially e-commerce, travel, and dating sites. Unlike widely discussed firewalls and content censorship instituted by state governments, these limitations on access and engagement with websites based on country-level geolocation are the purview of corporate actors’ strategic choices. This research explores the perception and consequences of regional blocks by those subject to them and those sanctioning and implementing them. I argue that such restrictions, in both blunt and nuanced forms, threaten to entrench and increase global social and economic inequalities as daily life is increasingly funneled into consolidating digital platforms.

Responsible Information Sharing & Gathering: Research, product development, and mystery (!) uses
Elaine Sedenberg

Elaine will present her work on information sharing and gathering, and the underlying motivations, mechanisms, and ethics beyond these exchanges. She will begin by briefly discussing previous work in public health and cybersecurity, robotics, and biosensors, and lead into her current dissertation work on private sector data use and sharing.

Tensions of Data-Driven Reflection: A Design Study of Real-Time Emotional Biosensing
Noura Howell

Biosensing technologies are increasingly enrolled in personal emotional reflection. To critique a common approach of algorithmically interpreting biosensory data into discrete affective categories, and explore alternatives, we designed, implemented, and deployed a technology probe: Ripple is a shirt with patterns that change color responding to the wearer’s skin conductance. 17 participants wore Ripple for 8-20 hours over 2 days of daily life. Participants’ experiences and interpretations around Ripple highlight tensions of biosensing for personal reflection. While some participants appreciated the ‘physical connection’ Ripple provided between body and emotion, for others Ripple fostered insecurities about ‘how much’ emotion they had. Although as designers we attempted to foster critical questioning of biosensory data by making Ripple’s display highly ambiguous, participants rarely questioned the data or its relation to their feelings. Drawing from biopolitics to speculate on the data’s seeming authority, we suggest lenses that could aid biosensing designers in considering ethical implications.

Situating Computing: Using Data APIs, Real-World Examples, and “Everyday” Web Contexts to Motivate Learning Among High School Students
Sarah Van Wart

Given the extent to which networked platforms mediate communication and information access among youth, it is important to give young people the conceptual tools and resources to help them reason about these systems. As such, we designed a 5-week summer internship for high school students, hosted at the I School, to help them learn about some of the platforms and services they regularly use. In this talk, I will describe our learning goals, our approach to supporting these goals, and some of the perspectives that students took from the internship. I will then suggest a set of initial design principles, based on our findings, for helping youth learn some of the social and technical dimensions of networked platforms.

Last updated:

November 16, 2017