Socio-Technical Environments for Community-Driven Design

The practice of design has been shifting from an expert-led endeavor towards community-driven processes—such as co-design, value-sensitive design, citizen-led science, end-user programming, DIY making, community-based participatory research, and lead-user innovation— that seek to empower diverse stakeholders. This project seeks to create novel socio-technical environments that amplify communities’ ability to address their own challenges. Towards this goal, our group founded the Design for San Diego ( initiative, an innovation challenge structured around the human-centered design process that seeks to solve complex civic problems by engaging hundreds of young innovators, domain experts, and key decision makers in San Diego. With support from the UCSD Design Lab, the City of San Diego, the Port of San Diego, SANDAG, the National Science Foundation, the Design Forward Alliance, and SCALE SD, the D4SD initiative has been successful at promoting diversity and equitable solutions for problems related to mobility, public health, sustainability, and housing. Students interested in getting involved in this project may send an email introduction and resume to Steven Dow.

Enabling Context-Aware Exploratory Search

Search tools provide access to the world’s largest repository of knowledge. However, when exploring vast new areas of information, people often struggle to articulate useful search terms: they have not yet learned domain-specific language that could help them translate their fuzzy goals into concrete queries. Current search tools are optimized to find particular information during a single session with a single user, and they lack access to the rich contextual workflows where information is used. Our project innovates novel computational and interaction techniques that attempt to more tightly integrate information foraging and sensemaking, including (1) recommending queries based on patterns and gaps in notes to help individuals get more familiar with domain specific language, (2) embedding different types of search suggestions within users’ sensemaking schemas, (3) leveraging users’ notes to highlight new information in web search results, and (4) supporting more effective collaboration on exploratory search by coordinating around shared representations. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved on this project, reach out to Srishti Palani.

Leveraging Metadata to Support Collective Ideation

To generate truly creative ideas, one needs to have extensive knowledge of existing ideas. The Internet gives access to many existing ideas, but they are typically not presented in relation to a newly proposed concept. In this project, we explore a more personalized strategy where we highlight the relationships — such as the conceptual distances, word associations, and analogies — between prior examples and a proposed idea by leveraging metadata and language analysis methods. Towards the goal of helping innovators more effectively explore and creatively contribute to a design space, we are developing a web-based design gallery and collaborative ideation tool. We are actively seeking collaborators to help us build, test, and refine social computing systems to support collective ideation. If you are interested in getting involved, send email to Tone Xu.

Facilitating Feedback Exchange for Creative Work

Our research explores how innovators obtain and make sense of diverse feedback from potential stakeholders or customers. We have developed numerous tools to support feedback exchange, such as scaffolding to help novices to perform design critique like experts, recruiting feedback providers through social media or online work forums, visualizing feedback to make sense of and prioritize changes for future iterations, and encapsulating prior designs and their feedback as an interactive gallery to support vicarious learning. The goal is to enable designers of all stripes to obtain authentic, honest, and knowledgeable feedback with clear and actionable steps forward. We are always on the lookout for smart undergraduates or master’s students to contribute to aid in development of interactive tools or help us run/analyze online experiments. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved on this project, reach out to Grace Yen.

Interactive Scaffolding for Civic Design

To develop more inclusive solutions for communities, we need to create and support design processes that allow more people to get involved. Participatory design and related approaches have opened up design to more people, but still largely depend on co-located meetings that create inequitable barriers for participation. Our research explores how tools for remote collaboration can be adapted to support community-driven design practices by developing interactive scaffolding that helps novices think and collaborate more like experts. We develop web-based tools that encourage members to articulate design-related information and to reflect on the problems, solutions, and stakeholders explored by others in a community. Undergraduates and master’s students who are interested in getting involved, please email your resume and a short description of your experience with web development to Dr. Stephen MacNeil.

Information Synthesis through Human-Machine Collaboration

Synthesis is the practice of integrating, organizing, filtering, evaluating, and compiling information such that it can be acted upon. Limitations on time, resources, and human memory place constraints on how much information can be synthesized by one person. This project explores how processes for synthesis may be distributed across people and augmented by machine learning techniques. We study how humans perform complex sense-making tasks like collecting, clustering, labelling, and re-representing unstructured information and we create workflows and tools to amplify this important and pervasive activity. Undergraduate or masters students who would like to aid in development of real-time interactive tools for collaborative synthesis and/or help us run experiments to test different approaches, please email your resume and a short description of your research experience to Steven Dow.

Forming and Strengthening Teams for Distributed Work

Effective and diverse teams can accomplish great things. However, forming and sustaining successful teams can be difficult, especially for distributed short-term work. Our research explores how we might form and strengthen small-group interactions through the concept of team dating, where people interact on brief tasks before working with a dedicated partner for longer, more complex tasks. We have conducted studies that show the efficacy of this approach and created tools to enable team dating in online and co-located settings like classrooms. Undergraduate or masters students who would like to get involved in developing tools to support team formation and group work, please email your resume and a short description of your research experience to Steven Dow.

Facilitating Civic Design through CommunityCrit (Archived)

While urban planning affects the public, most people do not have the time or expertise to participate in the process. CommunityCrit in an online platform that offers “micro-activities” to help community members make meaningful contributions without significant time commitment. In order to lower the barrier for the public, CommunityCrit reduces urban planning documentation into quickly consumable excerpts, and works on a variety of devices. Many online tools solicit public input, yet typically limit interaction to collecting complaints or early-stage ideas. CommunityCrit extends status quo by offering activities that engage community members in elaborating and evaluating urban design ideas. The system provides a window into the planning process for the public, empowers them to contribute, and supports diverse levels of skills and availability. If interested in this research, email Narges Mahyar.

Collective Planning (Archived)

This project explores how social computing system can enable groups of people to collaborative plan for future events. The goal is to combine preferences and constraints from all stakeholders so that people feel engaged and have a better overall experience. As a concrete example, this project has create a series of software interfaces called Cobi, which seeks to engage an entire academic community in planning a large-scale conference. Cobi elicits community members’ preferences and constraints, and provides a scheduling tool empowering organizers to take informed actions toward improving the schedule. The project ended, but if you are interested in talking about the ideas, please reach out to Steven Dow.

Interpreting Behavior with Crowds (Archived)

Social science research often relies on coding of video or other data for subjective events. This can be very time consuming and labor intensive for a single individual. This project aims to allow researchers and other analysts to quickly and easily interact with large sets of video data to identify and mark subjective events by crowdsourcing the interpretation process. We have shown it is possible to make quick calls to crowd workers, then aggregate their solutions. Ongoing work aims to allow even more robust interactions, enabling users to have a ‘conversation’ with their data using the crowd as an intermediary. This research project ended, but if you are interested in talking about the ideas, please reach out to Steven Dow.