UI officials study human relations, technology


Officials from across the country, along with University of Iowa professors and graduate students, are working together today to showcase one issue — how to connect people to digital technology.

“It’s really about the work between people who understand digital technology, and can create digital technology, but do so by working with people across many different fields,” said Juan Pablo Hourcade, an associate professor at the University of Iowa’s Department of Computer Science.

The symposium, hosted by the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, will focus on demonstrating a human-centered approach to technology.

The speakers at the event will give examples of how they use digital technology to benefit people in other fields, such as the arts.

“The event will include panels of UI artists, scholars, and researchers whose work falls under the broad umbrellas of informatics, but who represent less expected areas including projects from the arts and humanities,” said Teresa Mangum, the director for the Obermann Center.

Celine Latulipe, a keynote speaker from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, works on creating novel ways for people to interact with computers and computer technology.

“The work that I do tends to be about building tools than can be worked by artists,” Latulipe said. “A lot of work that I’ve been doing has been with dance and creating technology for performances.”

Latulipe also uses technology to create new ways for people who work in the arts to collaborate, and tries to harness technology to support the creative process.

Hourcade said he hopes to interact with visitors and other professors on campus throughout the symposium which will continue on Saturday.

“We wanted to provide some ideas of how this might happen in particular with people from the arts, humanities, and education [fields] who may not immediately see a link between what they do and informatics,” Hourcade said.

Hourcade said when one thinks of informatics, one typically thinks about computers and other such technology, but through this upcoming symposium, the goal is to make informatics a more human centered concept.

“This growing, multi-disciplinary area within the larger field of informatics intersects with narrative, the arts, collaborative, learning, dance, diversity, social justice, movements, values sensitive design, visual thinking, and more,” Mangum said in an email.

Speakers from a multitude of these respective fields will be in attendance.

Geb Thomas, an associate professor of mechanical industrial engineering at the UI, will speak at the event.

“It’s important that we get together, share our ideas, and learn from one another,” Thomas said.  

Mangum said this is a  ‘working symposium’ and will hopefully foster ideas for the future as well.

“In addition to discussing their current research, our speakers will engage the audience in exploring current trends in the fields of human-computer interaction and informatics,” she said. “As digital technologies become increasing ubiquitous in our lives, how they are designed can have significant impacts on society.”

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