My work with the TanDEm lab at Georgia Tech investigates challenges in the social domain and carves them into HCI research questions, which we address via ethnographically informed design. My students and I study Technology and Design for ‘Empowerment’, unpacking how empowerment translates across geographic, disciplinary, and socioeconomic boundaries and designing so that individuals from underserved and under-represented communities are able to act, engage, and participate. Our work currently takes place in India, Bangladesh, Cuba, China, and Ecuador.

We lay the foundation of our work in new contexts by investigating <social, mobile, and/or visual> media practices of individuals in under-resourced communities to understand the motivations and mechanisms underlying their interactions with information and communication technologies. We then examine the <digital, new media> literacies acquired in the process and how learning occurs by drawing on existing practices. We apply these insights to domains in global development ~ with health as one focus. We study the generation of <physical, technical, information> infrastructures as well as their destruction and reconstruction when crisis strikes. An overarching thread in our work is of feminist HCI ~ that attends to values such as equity, advocacy, pluralism, and care.

Social Computing 4D: From Access to ‘Connectedness’

We study how people express themselves (or not) via Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, WeChat, and other social networking services, how they use audio, video, text, emoji, and how they get online using mobile phones, WiFi, 2G, 3G, in parks, in schools, in homes, or are limited to doing so at workplaces. Whether in Bangladesh, India, Cuba, or Ecuador, the need to connect socially with friends/family remains a dominant driving force for getting online. Sometimes the internet is banned by the government. In other contexts, it is prohibitively expensive. In general, it is simply a lot of work. My students and I study the mechanisms of internet access and the particularities of social media use to enrich understanding of the socially constructed meanings of these interactions and how they might be drawn on for design of equitable modes of online access, use, and participation.

EdTech 4D: In the Classroom and Beyond

As populations on the margins become familiar with mobile technologies, there is tremendous potential to explore towards introducing sustainable EdTech interventions – not only in the classroom but also beyond – into communities where other members may have interest and desire to learn, but with limited access. Refugee settlements are excellent examples. Working with schools in India, we have performed ethnographic research, using it to design and evaluate content curation tools for teachers. We are currently examining the challenges of integrating virtual reality-based learning/teaching in the classroom (in collaboration with Google Education), and with a special focus on augmenting social, technical, and information infrastructures. We are also exploring English-learning approaches that might be appropriate for this context, given the strong demand for it.

Global Health: Bridging the Knowledge Gap

Access to relevant, necessary, timely, and correct health information, appropriate development of workflows of frontline health workers and other community-based actors, sociocultural aspects of public health and behavior change — these are some of the areas my students, collaborators, and I study in the domain of global health. By leveraging existing technologic interactions and learning theories, we contribute a contextually relevant and effective approach to the design and deployment of health interventions. My projects focus on maternal and newborn health, child development, type-2 diabetes, and multiple efforts directed at HIV education, awareness, and integration.

Crisis Informatics 4D: Empowering Local, Informal Groups

In situations of crisis, people turn to technology for help, but in ways that are familiar to them, as opposed to devising entirely new, unfamiliar mechanisms of soliciting or providing relief assistance. My students and I are currently studying earthquake response efforts in Nepal and Ecuador in order to gain a situated understanding towards crisis response efforts in affected areas. Through a ground-up perspective, we aim to inform the efforts of local, national, and international organizations. We are also studying processes of reconstruction to understand how organizations might “build back better”.

Feminist HCI: Fostering Participation and Engagement

An overarching theme through our work is that of feminist sensibility, questioning whether those traditionally without power have agency to participate in matters concerning their own lives.  Though gender is a subject we have studied and unpacked, we also promote the agency of individuals and social groups who have been marginalized on account of socioeconomic differences, or subjected to social stigma for any number of reasons, including HIV. In addition, taking on a feminist HCI agenda implies for us a commitment to representation and diversity in all spheres of research – from the point of asking research questions to choosing a methodology and analyzing its results.