Humanizing the User: What We Can Learn From Those Marginalized by Technology and Data

Human-centered computing is focused on designing and improving our experiences with technology as well as expanding the types of people for whom those experiences are designed. However, this mission includes an implicit concession: people are marginalized by the technology we use in our daily lives. My research turns to extreme cases and those on the margins as a means to, first, uncover the existing practices and needs of those who are impacted by current designs, and second, to identify systemic ways that technology design limits the range of experiences and expressions that our technology can serve. In this talk, I share results from research on one form of marginalization -- the dead, and those impacted by their deaths. Based on research on memorialization, post-mortem data management, post-mortem interaction design, I discuss how studying edge cases can inform the design of more inclusive and compassionate technology. Building on this work, I argue that human-centered mission is constrained by a primary way we conceptualize people in technology scholarship and design -- as “users” -- and assert that we need to ask what, exactly, we place at the center of our scholarship and design.

Jed Brubaker is a Founding Assistant Professor of the Department of Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. He conducts research in digital identity, social informatics, social media, and infrastructure studies focusing on how identity is designed, represented, and experienced in socio-technical systems. By examining the relationships between social identity, digital identity, and identity data, his work helps us better understand the experiences, effects, and possibilities when technology mediates identity. He is best known for his research on digital afterlives, interactions with post-mortem data, and how to improve the management of accounts and personal data after we die.  His work has received numerous awards, been featured widely in national and international press, and directly informed the design and development of Facebook’s post-mortem solution, Legacy Contact. 

The Information Science seminar is a weekly talk series and gathering for the Information Science department and its extended community. Any faculty, students, and interested parties regardless of affiliation are welcome. The seminar will meet most weeks during Fall 2018 on Wednesdays at 1pm. Keep an eye out for future announcements!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 1:00pm to 2:00pm

Roser ATLAS Center, 102
1125 18th Street, Boulder, CO 80309