Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Human-Centered Computing

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 18
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    Student conceptions about the field of computer science
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-11-07) Hewner, Michael
    Computer Science is a complex field, and even experts do not always agree how the field should be defined. Though a moderate amount is known about how precollege students think about the field of CS, less is known about how CS majors' conceptions of the field develop during the undergraduate curriculum. Given the difficulty of understanding CS, how do students make educational decisions like what electives or specializations to pursue? This work presents a theory of student conceptions of CS, based on 37 interviews with students and student advisers and analyzed with a grounded theory approach. Students tend to have one of three main views about CS: CS as an academic discipline focused on the mathematical study of algorithms, CS as mostly about programming but also incorporating supporting subfields, and CS as a broad discipline with many different (programming and non-programming) subfields. I have also developed and piloted a survey instrument to determine how prevalent each kind of conception is in the undergraduate population. I also present a theory of student educational decisions in CS. Students do not usually have specific educational goals in CS and instead take an exploratory approach to their classes. Particularly enjoyable or unenjoyable classes cause them to narrow their educational focus. As a result, students do not reason very deeply about the CS content of their classes when they make educational decisions. This work makes three main contributions: the theory of student conceptions, the theory of student educational decisions, and the preliminary survey instrument for evaluating student conceptions. This work has applications in CS curriculum design as well as for future research in the CS education community.
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    Feminist HCI for real: designing technology in support of a social movement
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-08-20) Dimond, Jill Patrice
    How are technologies are designed and used tactically by activists? As the HCI community starts to contend with social inequalities, there has been debate about how HCI researchers should address approach this type of research. However, there is little research examining practitioners such as social justice activists who confront social problems, and are using technology, such as mobile phones, blogging, and social media to do so. In this dissertation, I build on this knowledge within the context of a social movement organization working to stop street harassment (harassment towards women and minorities in public) called Hollaback ( I position myself as an action researcher doing research and building technologies such as mobile apps and a blogging platform to collect stories of harassment and to support activists. The organization has collected over 3000 stories and represents 50 different locales in 17 countries. Through a series of studies, I examined how technology impacts the organization, activists, and those who contribute stories of harassment. I found evidence that the storytelling platform helps participants fundamentally shift their cognitive and emotional orientation towards their experience and informs what activists do on the ground. My results suggest that doing activism using technology can help remove some barriers to participation but can also lower expectations for the amount of work required. I also looked at how different social media tactics can increase the number of followers and how traditional media plays a role in these tactics. My work contributes theoretically to the HCI community by building on social movement theory, feminist HCI, and action research methodology. My investigation also sheds light empirically on how technology plays a role in a social movement organization, and how it impacts those who participate.
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    Information sharing in a nonprofit network
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-08-08) Stoll, Jennifer
    The civil rights and other social justice movements, such as the fight against child sex trafficking are examples of an informal context where information and communications technologies (ICTs) have been actively applied in hopes of furthering social justice causes. But while we see that informally organized, grassroots groups have shown considerable interest in ICTs, the actual effectiveness of ICTs for these groups remains largely unknown. This is particularly so when combining both the complexity of the technology landscape and large grassroots interorganizational networks. Given the enormous challenge of social justice issues, there are pressing needs that go beyond connecting more just individuals to help nonprofits. A central need of nonprofit social justice organizations is the connection and coordination of many different groups into interorganizational networks (or groups of groups). In my research, I conducted an in-depth qualitative study of such a network engaged in fighting child sex trafficking. In doing so, I have identified some of the challenges of information sharing and coordination in this context. I gained insight into their information sharing needs and practices for connecting within an interorganizational network. I also conducted a design exploration by building a technology intervention to understand how ICTs can better accommodate the interorganizational needs of information sharing for connecting. My research findings point towards an initial framework in understanding information sharing technologies for informal interorganizational networks.
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    Informing design of visual analytics systems for intelligence analysis: understanding users, user tasks, and tool usage
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-07-02) Kang, Youn Ah
    Visual analytics, defined as "the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces," emerged several years ago as a new research field. While it has seen rapid growth for its first five years of existence, the main focus of visual analytics research has been on developing new techniques and systems rather than identifying how people conduct analysis and how visual analytics tools can help the process and the product of sensemaking. The intelligence analysis community in particular has not been fully examined in visual analytics research even though intelligence analysts are one of the major target users for which visual analytics systems are built. The lack of understanding about how analysts work and how they can benefit from visual analytics systems has created a gap between tools being developed and real world practices. This dissertation is motivated by the observation that existing models of sensemaking/intelligence analysis do not adequately characterize the analysis process and that many visual analytics tools do not truly meet user needs and are not being used effectively by intelligence analysts. I argue that visual analytics research needs to adopt successful HCI practices to better support user tasks and add utility to current work practices. As the first step, my research aims (1) to understand work processes and practices of intelligence analysts and (2) to evaluate a visual analytics system in order to identify where and how visual analytics tools can assist. By characterizing the analysis process and identifying leverage points for future visual analytics tools through empirical studies, I suggest a set of design guidelines and implications that can be used for both designing and evaluating future visual analytics systems.
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    Design and evaluation of a health-focused personal informatics application with support for generalized goal management
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-04-04) Medynskiy, Yevgeniy
    The practice of health self-management offers behavioral and problem-solving strategies that can effectively promote responsibility for one's own wellbeing, improve one's health outcomes, and decrease the cost of health services. Personal informatics applications support health self-management by allowing their users to easily track personal health information, and to review the changes and patterns in this information. Over the course of the past several years, I have pursued a research agenda centered on understanding how personal health informatics applications can further support the strategies of health self-management--specifically those relating to goal-management and behavior change. I began by developing a flexible personal informatics tool, called Salud!, that I could use to observe real-world goal management and behavior change strategies, as well as use to evaluate new interfaces designed to assist in goal management. Unlike existing personal informatics tools, Salud! allows users to self-define the information that they will track, which allows tracking of highly personal and meaningful data that may not be possible to track given other tools. It also enables users to share their account data with facilitators (e.g. fitness grainers, nutritionists, etc.) who can provide input and feedback. Salud! was built on top of an infrastructure consisting of a stack of modular services that make it easier for others to develop and/or evaluate a variety of personal informatics applications. Several research teams used this infrastructure to develop and deploy a variety of custom projects. Informal analysis of their efforts showed an unmet need for data storage and visualization services for home- and health-based sensor data. In order to design a goal management support tool for Salud!, I first, I conducted a meta-analysis of relevant research literature to cull a set of proven goal management strategies. The key outcome of this work was an operationalization of Action Plans--goal management strategies that are effective at supporting behavior change. I then deployed Salud! in two fitness-related contexts to observe and understand the breadth of health-related behavior change and goal management practices. Findings from these deployments showed that personal informatics tools are most helpful to individuals who are able to articulate short-term, actionable goals, and who are able to integrate self-tracking into their daily activities. The literature meta-analysis and the two Salud! deployments provided formative requirements for a goal management interaction that would both incorporate effective goal management strategies and support the breadth of real-world goals. I developed a model of the goal management process as the framework for such an interaction. This model enables goals to be represented, evaluated, and visualized, based on a wide range of user objectives and data collection strategies. Using this model, I was able to develop a set of interactions that allow users of Salud! to manage their personal goals within the application. The generalized goal management model shows the inherent difficulty in supporting open-ended, highly personalized goal management. To function generically, Salud! requires facilitator input to correctly process goals and meaningfully classify their attributes. However, for specific goals represented by specific data collection strategies, it is possible to fully- or semi-automate the goal management process. I ran a large-scale evaluation of Salud! with the goal management interaction to evaluate the effectiveness of a fully-automated goal management interaction. The evaluation consisted of a common health self-management intervention: a simple fitness program to increase participants' daily step count. The results of this evaluation suggest that the goal management interaction may improve the rate of goal realization among users who are initially less active and less confident in their ability to succeed. Additionally, this evaluation showed that, while it can significantly increase participants' step count, a fully automated fitness program is not as effective as traditional, instructor-led fitness programs. However, it is much easier to administer and much less resource intensive, showing that it can be utilized to rapidly evaluate concrete goal management strategies.
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    Supporting remote synchronous communication between parents and young children
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-04-04) Yarosh, Svetlana
    Parents and children increasingly spend time living apart due to marital separation and work travel. I investigated parent--child separation in both of these contexts to find that current technologies frequently do not meet the needs of families. The telephone is easy-to-use and ubiquitous but does not provide an engaging way of communicating with children. Videochat is more emotionally expressive and has a greater potential for engagement but is difficult to set up and cannot be used by a child without the help of an adult. Both telephone and videochat fail to meet the needs of remote parenting because they focus on conversation rather than care and play activities, which are the mechanism by which parents and children build closeness. I also saw that in both types of separation the motivation to connect at times conflicted with desire to reduce disruption of the remote household. To address some of these issues, I designed a system called the ShareTable, which provides easy-to-initiate videochat with a shared tabletop activity space. After an initial lab-based evaluation confirmed the promise of this approach, I deployed the ShareTable to four households (two sets of divorced families). I collected data about the families' remote interactions before and during the deployment. Remote communication more than doubled for each of these families while using the ShareTable and I saw a marked increase in the number of communication sessions initiated by the child. The ShareTable provided benefits over previous communication systems and supported activities that are impossible with other currently available technologies. One of the biggest successes of the system was in providing an overlapped video space that families appropriated to communicate metaphorical touch and a sense of closeness. However, the ShareTable also introduced a new source of conflict for parents and challenged the families as they tried to develop practices of using the system that would be acceptable to all involved. The families' approach to these challenges as well as explicit feedback about the system informs future directions for synchronous communication systems for separated families.
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    Mobile music touch: using haptic stimulation for passive rehabilitation and learning
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-03-30) Markow, Tanya Thais
    Hand rehabilitation after injury or illness may allow a patient to regain full or at least partial use of a limb. However, rehabilitation often requires the patient to perform multiple repetitions of motions. While absolutely essential to regaining usage, such exercises are not always mentally engaging or enjoyable for the patient. The loss or degradation of the use of the hands can cause considerable loss of independence. In this dissertation, we present Mobile Music Touch (MMT), a wireless glove paired with a computing device, such as a laptop, smart phone, or MP3 player. The MMT system plays a song, while also "tapping" the fingers using vibration motors to indicate the correct finger to use to play the song on a piano keyboard. Learning a new skill or activity without active focus, an idea called Passive Haptic Learning(PHL) may allow an individual to learn one skill through their sense of touch while performing another, unrelated activity. Most rehabilitation activities are active in nature, requiring the focused participation of the injured person. Passive rehabilitation is the idea that some technologies and activities may bring about beneficial changes without the active engagement of the injured person. In order to study the concepts of PHL and PHR, we propose the Mobile Music Touch (MMT) system. We show that using passive rehabilitation in conjunction with the active rehabilitation of piano playing will bring about a greater degree of improvement in the hands than that achieved using only active rehabilitation. This dissertation research makes three unique contributions. First, we demonstrate that Passive Haptic Learning (PHL) using just the sense of touch is feasible and provides a form of learning and reinforcement of learned skills and tasks. Second, we identify the attributes and design features of a glove suited for long term wear by persons who use a manual wheelchair for mobility. Third, we show that Passive Haptic Rehabilitation (PHR) is possible using vibrotactile stimulation of the hands in persons classified as tetraplegic due to incomplete spinal cord injury.
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    Glitch game testers: the design and study of a learning environment for computational production with young African American males
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2012-03-30) DiSalvo, Betsy
    The implementation of a learning environment for young African American males, called the Glitch Game Testers, was launched in 2009. The development of this program was based on formative work that looked at the contrasting use of digital games between young African American males and individuals who chose to become computer science majors. Through analysis of cultural values and digital game play practices, the program was designed to intertwine authentic game development practices and computer science learning. The resulting program employed 25 African American male high school students to test pre-release digital games full-time in the summer and part-time in the school year, with an hour of each day dedicated to learning introductory computer science. Outcomes for persisting in computer science education are remarkable; of the 16 participants who had graduated from high school as of 2012, 12 have gone on to school in computing-related majors. These outcomes, and the participants' enthusiasm for engaging in computing, are in sharp contrast to the crisis in African American male education and learning motivation. The research presented in this dissertation discusses the formative research that shaped the design of Glitch, the evaluation of the implementation of Glitch, and a theoretical investigation of the way in which participants navigated conflicting motivations in learning environments.
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    Building professional identity as computer science teachers: supporting high school computer science teachers through reflection and community building
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2011-11-14) Ni, Lijun
    Computing education requires qualified computing teachers. The reality is that too few high schools in the U.S. have computing/computer science teachers with formal computer science (CS) training, and many schools do not have CS teacher at all. Moreover, teacher retention rate is often low. Beginning teacher attrition rate is particularly high in secondary education. Therefore, in addition to the need for preparing new CS teachers, we also need to support those teachers we have recruited and trained to become better teachers and continue teaching CS. Teacher education literature, especially teacher identity theory, suggests that a strong sense of teacher identity is a major indicator or feature of committed, qualified teachers. However, under the current educational system in the U.S., it could be challenging to establish teacher identity for high school (HS) CS teachers, e.g., due to a lack of teacher certification for CS. This thesis work centers upon understanding the sense of identity HS CS teachers hold and exploring ways of supporting their identity development through a professional development program: the Disciplinary Commons for Computing Educators (DCCE). DCCE has a major focus on promoting reflection on teaching practice and community building. With scaffolded activities such as course portfolio creation, peer review and peer observation among a group of HS CS teachers, it offers opportunities for CS teachers to explicitly reflect on and narrate their teaching, which is a central process of identity building through their participation within the community. In this thesis research, I explore the development of CS teacher identity through professional development programs. I first conducted an interview study with local HS CS teachers to understand their sense of identity and factors influencing their identity formation. I designed and enacted the professional program (DCCE) and conducted case studies with DCCE participants to understand how their participation in DCCE supported their identity development as a CS teacher. Overall,I found that these CS teachers held different teacher identities with varied features related to their motivation and commitment in teaching CS. I identified four concrete factors that contributed to these teachers' sense of professional identity as a CS teacher. I addressed some of these issues for CS teachers' identity development (especially the issue of lacking community) through offering professional development opportunities with a major focus on teacher reflection and community building. Results from this work indicate a potential model of supporting CS identity development, mapping the characteristics of the professional development program with particular facets of CS teacher identity. This work offers further understanding of the unique challenges that current CS teachers are facing in their CS teaching, as well as the challenges of preparing and supporting CS teachers. My findings also suggest guidelines for teacher education and professional development program design and implementation for building committed, qualified CS teachers in ways that promote the development of CS teacher identity.
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    A cultural, community-based approach to health technology design
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2011-06-29) Parker, Andrea Grimes
    This research has examined how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can promote healthy eating habits amongst African Americans in low-income neighborhoods, a population that faces disproportionately high rates of diet-related health problems. In this dissertation, I describe the formative research I conducted to obtain system design guidelines and how I used those guidelines to develop two applications: EatWell and Community Mosaic. I also describe the results of the in-depth field studies I conducted to evaluate each application. Both EatWell and Community Mosaic incorporate the cultural construct of collectivism, a social orientation in which interdependence and communal responsibility are valued over individual goals and independence. As researchers have generally characterized the African American culture as collectivistic and argued for the value of designing collectivistic health interventions for this population, I examined the implications of taking such an approach to designing health promotion technologies. EatWell and Community Mosaic are collectivistic because they empower users to care for the health of their local community by helping others learn practical, locally-relevant healthy eating strategies. I discuss the results of my formative fieldwork and system evaluations, which characterize the value, challenge and nuances of developing community-based health information sharing systems for specific cultural contexts. By focusing on health disparities issues and the community social unit, I extend previous health technology research within Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). In particular, my results describe 1) a set of characteristics that help make shared material useful and engaging, 2) how accessing this information affects how people view the feasibility of eating well in their local context, 3) the way in which sharing information actually benefits the contributor by catalyzing personal behavior reflection, analysis and modification and 4) how sharing information and seeing that information's impact on others can help to build individuals' capacity to be a community health advocate. In addition, my work shows how examining cultural generalizations such as collectivism is not a straightforward process but one that requires careful investigation and appreciation for the way in which such generalizations are (or are not) manifested in the lives of individual people. I further contribute to HCI by presenting a set of important considerations that researchers should make when designing and evaluating community-based health systems. I conclude this dissertation by outlining directions for future HCI research that incorporates an understanding of the relationship between culture and health and that attempts to address health disparities in the developed world.