Speaker Bios and Abstracts

Thursday March 2nd from 9:00am – 11:45am

We have four exciting talks lined up from our guests at the workshop to start off the workshop. Here’s more info about the guests and their topics. You can find the full workshop agenda here, the work session details here, and if you’re interested in attending any or all of these talks, we’d appreciate if you fill out a quick form here.


Digital Storytelling in the Wild: From Storykit to Digital Junior Rangers
Allison Druin, National Parks Service & University of Maryland
Thursday March 2, 9:10am-9:45am, Torgersen Hall room 1100

“I want to hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”
“I want to go to Death Valley National Park without an airplane or car.”
“I want to wander the Channel Islands and know who else is there.”

These are the words of children in and about our National Parks. For the past 14 years I have worked with colleagues in the National Park Service to bring the power of digital tools to our storytelling experiences. From our national monuments to our wilderness parks, digital stories can be shared by our rangers and child visitors. How we enhance our visitor experience is something my research team in Maryland, and now my group in the National Park Service has been exploring by building new tools, but more importantly by bringing children into the design of new technologies. In my talk, I will share the design-thinking methods I used at Maryland and brought to the National Park Service. I will present the lessons we’ve learned from our early work in mobile technologies, and our more recent exploration of the Jr. Ranger Program. Augmented Reality, Semantic Zooming, and mobile interface issues will be highlighted.

Allison Druin has been a Professor, Lab Director, Associate Dean, and Chief Futurist at the University of Maryland, College Park.  She is currently on leave from the University of Maryland to work as Special Advisor for National Digital Strategy for the National Park Service where she is leading service-wide strategic planning, and implementation of digital development, use, and preservation at National Parks across the country. Her personal research focus has been on the design thinking methods we can develop and use in designing new computational learning experiences for children. These design thinking methods have been used by researchers from around the world in industry (e.g., Google, Nickelodeon, Pearson International), government organizations (e.g., the U.S. National Park Service, the Office of Science, Technology and Policy in the White House, U.S. Library of Congress), and universities (e.g., University of Washington, MIT, Carnegie Mellon) These methods have been used by Dr. Druin’s teams to create digital libraries to mobile storytelling. She has received numerous awards for her research: the 2016 CHI Academy, the 2014 ACM Distinguished Scientist Award, and the 2010 SIGCHI Social Impact Award. She co-chaired CHI 2016, the largest CHI gathering to date with over 3,800 attendees. See https://ischool.umd.edu/faculty-staff/allison-druin for more details about Dr. Druin.

Getting Nowhere Slowly: Learning from a Thousand Miles at Walking Pace
Alan Dix, University of Birmingham
Thursday March 2, 9:50am-10:25am, Torgersen Hall room 1100

On 14th April 2013 I set out from Cardiff walking and on 28th July, three months, one thousand miles and three million footfalls later I returned to Cardiff, the town of my birth and youth.  In Little Gidding, T. S. Elliot wrote:
” the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”

I am not sure whether I know Cardiff any better for the experience, but there is certainly a learning in the slow and continual foot pace.  The leg is a complex pendulum, a metronome that eats calories, time and space impartially.  The glorious mid-Wales ridge, buried in six foot of snow only weeks before I passed sun-soaked in April; the deflated once-communities of north-east Wales that sense would have had one pass quickly by; the bulk of Wylfa’s spent-nuclear cathedral framed in dead forest; and the now absent childhood ice cream kiosk – all are equally sampled, endured – the passage of path time and wear of body reflecting the change and decay of industrial edifice and limestone coast.

“You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report.”

While the poet can accept undissected, if not unspoken, the knowing that is in the heart and soul, and the body repair the hurt of sole, the academic must transform this depth of knowing into interlinked ideas, transferable concepts, and actionable items. Yet in the end it is not simply the finding of nuggets amongst dust, but once they are organised, lined up, ordered, categorised, and cast into journal papers, to still recall as you touch each one the place it belongs in the soil, for each grain of dirt is gold dust.

Alan Dix is a computing professor at Birmingham University and researcher at Talis Ltd., working on most things that connect people and computers. He is first author of a widely-used human computer interaction textbook. From mid-April to July 2013 Dr. Dix walked the complete periphery of Wales, over a thousand miles. The walk was a personal journey, but also a technological and community one, exploring the needs of the walker and the people along the way. He is continuing to work on writing and collating data, toward addressing a dual practical and academic agenda: to explore through personal experience the information technology needs of the walker with particular focus on the use and limitations of mobile technologies in areas where mobile phone coverage is at best patchy, and to work with local communities in order to understand how information technology might address their needs, and if not, what fundamental challenges this raises for research.  See http://alanwalks.wales/ for more details about Dr. Dix.


“My Maps, My Music, My Everything”: Smartphones, Technology, and Ways to “Take a Break from this Life” on the Pacific Crest Trail
Ellie Harmon, Encountering Tech
Thursday March 2, 10:30am-11:05am, Torgersen Hall room 1100

It’s hard. I was not expecting it to be so derailing to settle back in. I don’t know how you found it? I was like, this is taking a lot longer to settle back in than I was hoping.
— Francine, former Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hiker, approx. 6 months post-hike

After completing a long-distance hike, thru-hikers’ “re-entry” to mainstream society is often characterized by dramatic difficulty. Whereas the six-month hike felt “blissful” and “the right kind of hard,” the return to civilization triggered feelings of stress, over-commitment, and a “not taking care of yourself” level of intensity.

Scholarship on wilderness, nature, and hiking often focuses on things like the ‘restorative’ aspects of wilderness (especially for over-technologized city-dwellers), and frequently laments new encroachments of technology on a sacred and otherwise-defined place. Technology threatens the peace, authenticity, and separation that characterize nature as distinct from a hectic and overwhelming contemporary life.

Yet, the long-distance hikers I met on my 2013 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike – part personal journey and part ethnographic research project – all carried smartphones on their 2600-mile backpacking adventure through the wilderness of the American west. Their use of these and other technologies did not preclude profound experiences of the natural world, nor did their technology use prevent them from experiencing their “on-trail” life as a restorative, blissful, and wholly alternate reality than their prior or later life “off-trail.”

In this talk, I describe how the particular computing technologies of the present day – smartphones, GPS beacons, digital maps – are part and parcel of a thru-hike. I examine the ways that the thru-hike is produced and experienced through these and other technologies. On the trail – as in other settings – technologies shape the landscape of possibility for human action in diffuse and indirect ways. Rather than embodying certain values for better or worse, I argue that computing technologies are part of the context in which values and culture are continually (re-)produced. I end by reflecting on the implications of ICTs for the subjective experience of a long-distance hike, and the opportunity such an event offers for “tak[ing] a break from this life.”

Ellie Harmon is an ethnographer, researcher, writer, bicyclist, and hiker. She hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 and the Appalachian Trail in 2008, writing about her experiences as part of her dissertation and professional papers. She has a PhD from UC Irvine, where she conducted ethnographic research about constant connection and digital disconnection, and she completed a postdoc at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She currently researches and writes about people and technologies as a freelance consultant through her company, encountering.tech. Past projects explored new technologies in the context of philanthropy and social change, microbial science, and everyday life. See http://ellieharmon.com/ for more details about Dr. Harmon.


The Case of Hunters in the American Midwest: Examining and Designing the Resonance of Artifacts in Nature
Norman Su, Indiana University
Thursday March 2, 11:10am-11:45am, Torgersen Hall room 1100

In my talk, I will describe a keystone issue of many subcultures, the tension between ethos and practice. An ethnographic study over two years interviewing and observing hunters in the American Midwest will serve to illustrate this tension. For hunters, this ethos is encapsulated in the doctrines of fair chase. Fair chase, for instance, demands that hunters must not have an improper advantage over animals. Yet, the actual practices of hunters in different communities (e.g., communities revolving around different weapons or professions) reveals a series of opposing points of view on what  practices exemplify fair chase. The intersection of technology (extant and to be designed) with this keystone issue presents interesting challenges. With my studies in other subcultures, I will discuss how designs may shift from addressing the notion of a specialized user in a domain to designs that transform themselves and deeply resonate with individuals and their subculture as a whole.

Norman Su is an assistant professor in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington, where he is a member of the Human Computer Interaction Design (HCI/d) group. Dr. Su studies our relationship with technology and how this relationship has and can be changed. In particular, he works to understand how different subcultures have reconciled themselves with our present age, an age where digital technology is nearly inescapable. He has studied a wide range of “users”: from corporate nomadic workers and knowledge management practitioners to hardcore video gamers and Irish traditional musicians. Recently, he has examined the dialetics of fair chase practices of hunters through interviews and observations of hunters in the American Midwest. Dr. Su did a postdoc at University College Dublin, and completed his PhD at the University of California, Irvine. See http://www.normsu.com/ for more details about Dr. Su.

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