Thursday, October 1, 2009

Research as a Vehicle for Addressing the Real World Problems - Examples & Lessons Learned

Presenter: Dr. Jennifer Mankoff
Time: 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Room: Tucson G-J

Dr. Mankoff works in the area of Human-Computer Interaction at the Carnegie Mellon University. Her talk included some real world examples/cases in which she has used technology to solve the problems. She is interested in addressing critical social problems by leveraging interactive technologies to empower people. Her goal is to lower the floor for developers and evaluators to create empowering technology by making it easier to evaluate and build applications that are accessible and usable, both on and off the desktop.

She explores ways to leverage technology to address her own problems. As a result she invented a circular keyboard! That was her first publication! She shared some lessons that she learned during the process of solving real world problems.

The first lesson that she shared was that the failure points are potential research problems. That's where the synergy between real world and research is. That's how you can create an impact because nobody has solved that problem earlier. She stressed that accessibility is important-who are you enabling or disabling with your design?

Dr. Mankoff mentioned that interesting problems are often multidisciplinary. There is probably someone who would consider your problem core research. Find them and work with them. Collaboration is hard, but valuable.

She mentioned that a good idea should not be ignored. Start your project and do not worry about the resources. She believes in giving things/situations some time - let things sit and build up. For example, if your peers don’t believe in your idea, engage others in your research - running a class where students look to your colleagues for mentors, etc. Watch them (students and colleagues) publish in an area they themselves were questioning. She believes in being agile and in getting out of the lab to identify the real world problems. When you are working on real world problems, make it a personal endeavor.

She concluded with the last lesson which was "pass-it-on"...

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