Context-aware computing utilizes information about users and/or their environments in order to provide relevant information and services. To date, however, most context-aware applications only take advantage of contexts that can either be produced on the device they are running on, or on external devices that are known beforehand. While there are many application domains where sharing context is useful and/or necessary, creating these applications is currently difficult because there is no easy way for devices to share information without 1) explicitly directing them to do so, or 2) through some form of advanced user coordination (e.g., sharing credentials and/or IP addresses, installing and running the same software). This makes these techniques useful when the need to share context is known a priori, but impractical for the one time, opportunistic encounters which make up the majority of users’ lives.

To address this problem, this thesis presents the Group Context Framework (GCF), a software framework that allows devices to form groups and share context with minimal prior coordination. GCF lets devices openly discover and request context from each other. The framework then lets devices intelligently and autonomously forms opportunistic groups and work together without requiring either the application developer or the user to know of these devices beforehand. GCF supports use cases where devices only need to share information once or spontaneously. Additionally, the framework provides standardized mechanisms for applications to collect, store, and share context. This lets devices form groups and work together, even when they are performing logically separate tasks (i.e., running different applications).

Through the development of GCF, this thesis identifies the conceptual and software abstractions needed to support opportunistic groups in context-aware applications. As part of our design process, we looked at current context sharing applications, systems, and frameworks, and developed a conceptual model that identifies the most common conditions that cause users/devices to form a group. We then created a framework that supports grouping across this entire model. Through the creation of four prototype systems, we show how the ability to form opportunistic groups of devices can increase users and devices’ access to timely information and services. Finally, we had 20 developers evaluate GCF, and verified that the framework supports a wide range of existing and novel use cases. Collectively, this thesis demonstrates the utility of opportunistic groups in context-aware computing, and highlights the critical challenges that need to be addressed to make opportunistic context sharing practical in real-world settings   

Thesis Committee:
Anind Dey (Chair)
Jen Mankoff
Steven Dow
Saul Greenberg

Copy of Thesis Document

Educational games have become an established paradigm of instructional practice, however, there is still much to be learned about how to design games so that they can be the most beneficial to learners. An important consideration when designing an educational game is whether there is good alignment between its content goals and the instructional behaviors it makes in order to reinforce those goals. What is needed is a better way to define and evaluate this alignment in order to guide the educational game design process. This thesis explores ways to operationalize this concept of alignment and demonstrates an analysis technique that helps educational game designers measure the alignment of both current educational game designs as well as prototypes of future iterations.

In my work thus far, I have explored the use of replay analysis, which analyzes player experience in terms of in-game replay files rather than traditional analytics data, as a means of capturing gameplay experience for the evaluation of alignment between an educational game’s feedback and its stated goals. The majority of this work has been performed in the context of RumbleBlocks, an educational game that teaches basic structural stability and balance concepts to young children. This work has highlighted that RumbleBlocks likely possesses a misalignment in how it teachers the concept of designing for a low center of mass to students. It has also lead to suggestions of design iterations for future implementations of the game. This work has shown that replay analysis can be used to evaluate the alignment of an educational game and suggests future directions.

In the proposed work, I plan to demonstrate an extension of replay analysis that I call Projective Replay Analysis, which uses recorded student replay data in new versions of the game in order to evaluate whether alignment has improved. To do this, I plan to implement two forms of projective replay: Literal replay, which replays past player actions through a new game version exactly as they were originally recorded; and Flexible, which uses prior player actions as training data for AI player models, which then play through a new game version as if they were players. Finally, to assess the validity of this method of game evaluation, I will perform a close-the-loop study with a new population of human play testers to validate whether the conclusions reached through virtual methods correspond to those reached in a normal playtesting situation.

This work will make contributions to the fields of human-computer interaction, by exploring the benefits of limitations of different replay paradigms for the evaluation of interactive systems; learning sciences, by establishing a novel operationalization of alignment for instructional moves; and educational game design, by providing a model for using Projective Replay Analysis to guide the iterative development of an educational game.

Thesis Committee:
Vincent Aleven (Chair)
Jodi Forlizzi
Jessica Hammer (HCII/ETC)
Sharon Carver (Psychology/PIER)
Jesse Schell (ETC/Schell Games)

Copy of Proposal Document

Please join in at the final presentations for the BHCI undergraduate's capstones project, including:

1:00 PMCollaboration U.
— Modules of an OLI course to teach collaboration skills

1:30 PM   —   Threat    
— A dashboard to help security analysts cope with a deluge of intelligence reports

2:00 PM  —  Earthlapse
— A museum exhibit to show the effects of global warming through satellite imagery

2:30 PM —  Artbytes
— A mobile app to build virtual reality art exhibits

3:00 PM —  Virtual Agents
— Ways for a virtual agent to collaborate with kids over 3D objects

3:30 PMSteelers
— An application to teach and test players learning a dynamic football playbook

How do people living in the midst of war use social media, and what can we learn from them to design the next generation of news technologies?  In this presentation, I start by narrating how residents of cities afflicted by the Mexican Drug War use social media to circumvent censorship imposed by powerful drug cartels. I show how people have created effective alert networks to generate real-time reports of violent events, and how some individuals have emerged as a new type of “war correspondent.” I end by presenting a number of civic tech systems we have developed inspired by this research.

Andrés Monroy-Hernández is a researcher at Microsoft Research, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. His work focuses on the design and study of social computing systems for large scale collaboration. His research has received best paper awards at CHI, CSCW, ICWSM, and HCOMP, recognized at Ars Electronica, and featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and Wired. Andrés was named one of the TR35 Innovators by the MIT Technology Review (Spanish), and one of CNET's influential Latinos in Tech. He holds a Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab, where he led the creation of the Scratch Online Community website.

In his current research project, “Primordial," Mickey McManus and his team are exploring the impact on design when three inevitable technology trends converge. Often called the “Internet of Things,” pervasive computing is a game-changer that's on a collision course with two complementary trends—digital manufacturing and machine learning.

In 2012, Mickey co-authored one of the essential field guides to the era of pervasive computing in his book, Trillions. He believes that these three trends, taken together, give us the ability to shift to an entirely new set of design and business paradigms for the first time in our history. The way we design for things, when they begin to wake up, is uncharted territory. If we don’t take into account our connected future and continue to design for disconnected things, we will design our way into irrelevance. The challenge we as designers face is how we surf these trends, what we do about them, and how the act of designing "things" will change. Those of us that figure it out sooner rather than later will have an unfair advantage, while others will be reactionary and surprised at each turn of the screw.

Mickey and his team hope some of us can not only survive the riptide, but also harness its power for good. Please join Mickey in a discussion about Primordial, ecological design and the nature of things.

Mickey McManus is a research fellow at Autodesk in the Office of the CTO, and Principal & Chairman of the board at MAYA Design, a design consultancy and innovation lab. He's a pioneer in the fields of pervasive computing, collaborative innovation, human-centered design and education. Mickey holds nine patents in the area of connected products, vehicles and services, and spearheaded the launch of MAYA's Pervasive Computing practice to help companies kick-start innovation around business challenges in a vastly connected world - where computing devices outnumber people.

In 2012, he coauthored the book Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology (Wiley) — a field guide to the future, when computing will be freely accessible in the ambient environment. Trillions was awarded the Axiom Gold Award in 2013 for best business book about technology and the 2013 Carnegie Science Award in the Science Communicator category.

Mickey speaks frequently about pervasive computing, design, and business innovation. He has lectured at Carnegie Mellon University, Illinois Institute of Technology, LUMA Institute, MIT, Princeton, University of Illinois, UC Berkeley, and UCLA. His work has been published in Bloomberg, Businessweek, Fortune, Fast Company, Wall Street Journall, and The Harvard Business Review.

Faculty Host: Jim Morris

Modern tourists visiting new cities are not content to simply stay in a hotel downtown and see famous sights. They want to get out into the neighborhoods of the city that they are visiting and understand more of the city’s culture and everyday life. However, current guides remained focused on statistics and points, so tourists are unable to understand and find neighborhoods they would enjoy.

I propose to build neighborhood guides based on social media posts to help people understand neighborhoods. These guides will have two parts: first, they will allow comparison between neighborhoods in a new city and neighborhoods they know; second, they will add context so travelers can understand why the neighborhoods are similar. These will enable people to understand how different neighborhoods feel, and contribute to our understanding of the city as a whole. Their effectiveness will be evaluated through quantitative studies of the comparisons and qualitative studies of the site as a whole.

This thesis will provide three research contributions. First, it will provide evidence that social media can help us understand cities better than simple demographics. Second, it will show how well social media reflects neighborhoods, and what aspects are best represented. Finally, it will contribute to our knowledge of tourist information search by the development of a five dimensional model.

Thesis Committee:
Jason Hong (Chair)
Jodi Forlizzi
Niki Kittur
Judd Antin (AirBnB)

Copy of Proposal Document

Crowdsourcing is increasingly important to software development today, through the asking and answering of questions on StackOverflow, competitions organized for design and development in communities such as TopCoder, and through freelancing enabled through online labor markets. In this talk, I’ll first explore how crowdsourcing is bringing software developers together in new ways to reshape how developers work, play, and learn.

One opportunity such models offer is parallelism, as decomposition into pieces enables work to be distributed to the crowd and completed more quickly. One might ask, just how far can complex, knowledge intensive work be decomposed? Could a crowd of developers build software entirely through self-contained ten-minute contributions? I will report on some of the work we have done to address this question. A core property of software work is its interdependence, bringing new challenges for scaling microtask crowdsourcing to domains where more explicit coordination between workers is required. Our work also raises fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge and context in software development, offering a new lens for investigating modularity in software development teams.

Thomas LaToza is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science in the Volgenau School of Engineering at George Mason University. He works at the intersection of software engineering and human computer interaction, investigating how humans interact with code and designing new ways to build software. He has served on various program committees and is on the Review Board of the Empirical Software Engineering Journal. He currently serves as guest editor of the IEEE Software Special Issue on Crowdsourcing for Software Engineering, serves as co-chair of the Seventh Workshop on the Evaluation and Usability of Programming Languages and Tools, and serves as co-chair of the Third International Workshop on Crowdsourcing in Software Engineering.

His work is funded in part through a $1.4M grant from the National Science Foundation on Crowd Programming. He holds B.S. degrees in psychology and computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. in software engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Gender inclusiveness in computing settings is receiving a lot of attention, but one potentially critical factor has mostly been overlooked: software itself. To help close this gap, we recently created GenderMag, a systematic inspection method to enable software practitioners to evaluate their software for issues of gender-inclusiveness. In this talk, we present the first real-world investigation of software practitioners' ability to identify gender-inclusiveness issues in software they create/maintain using this method. Our investigation was a multiple-case field study of software teams at three major U.S. technology organizations. The results were that, using GenderMag to evaluate software, these software practitioners identified a surprisingly high number of gender-inclusiveness issues: 25% of the software features they evaluated had gender-inclusiveness issues. We present these results and more, along with tales from the trenches on what it’s like to use GenderMag, where the pitfalls lie, and all the things we are still in the process of learning about it.

Margaret Burnett is an OSU Distinguished Professor at Oregon State University.  She began her career in industry, where she was the first woman software developer ever hired at Procter & Gamble Ivorydale.  A few degrees and start-ups later, she joined academia, with a research focus on people who are engaged in some form of software development.  She  leads the team that created GenderMag, a software inspection process that uncovers gender inclusiveness issues in software from spreadsheets to programming environments.  Burnett is an ACM Distinguished Scientist and a member of the ACM CHI Academy.  She current serves on three editorial boards, on several conference committees, and on the  Academic Alliance Advisory Board of the National Center for Women in IT (NCWIT). >

Web services have made many kinds of data and computational services available. However, to use web services often requires significant programming efforts and thus limits the people who can take advantage of them to only a small group of skilled programmers. In this dissertation, I will present a tool called Gneiss that extends the spreadsheet model to support four challenging aspects of using web services: programming two-way data communications with web services, creating interactive GUI applications that use web services, using hierarchical data, and using live streaming data.

Gneiss contributes innovations in spreadsheet languages, spreadsheet user interfaces and interaction techniques to allow programming tasks that currently require writing complex, lengthy code to instead be done using familiar spreadsheet mechanisms. Spreadsheets are arguably the most successful and popular data tools among people of all programming levels. This work advances the use of spreadsheets to new domains and could benefit a wide range of users from professional programmers to end-user programmers.

Thesis Committee:
Brad Myers  (Chair)
Niki Kittur
John Zimmerman
Margaret Burnett (Oregon State University)

Copy of Thesis Document

We have long believed that the way a problem is formulated is crucial to the way it is solved, and that innovative solutions often steam from reframing the problem. However, since problem formulation and problem solving are two intertwined phases that have been all but impossible to tease apart, our knowledge of problem formulation proper has hardly advanced in the last few decades. Recently, a new setting, namely open and distributed innovation, has allowed us to shed light on the problem formulation process and its impact on problem solving. This new model, in a clear juxtaposition to the standard one, suggests a distribution of the innovation process by decoupling the problem formulation process from the problem solving one. Little is known of these processes and how they are different from the traditional coupled problem formulation and solving process.

This paper explores the process that strategic R&D problems at NASA went through in both the coupled standard innovation process and the decoupled distributed one. I find a new process of “cross boundary problem formulation” that emerged in the decoupled model when R&D organizational members aimed to broaden the solution space outside their usual knowledge boundaries, to other disciplines and professions. Problems that went through cross boundary problem formulation had more successful solutions. Furthermore R&D members described the new process as the most important capability developed from their experiment with open and distributed innovation. This talk suggests a theoretical model of the cross boundary problem formulation process and its implications on innovation.

Hila Lifshitz-Assaf joined New York University Stern School of Business as an Assistant Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences in July 2013. She is also a faculty associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Professor Lifshitz-Assaf’s research focuses on developing an in-depth empirical and theoretical understanding of the micro-foundations of scientific and technological innovation and knowledge creation processes in the digital age. She explores how the ability to innovate is being transformed, as well as the challenges and opportunities the transformation means for R&D organizations, professionals and their work. Her dissertation included an in-depth longitudinal field study of NASA’s experimentation with opening knowledge boundaries through Web platforms and communities, resulting in a scientific breakthrough. Her work has received the prestigious INSPIRE grant from the National Science Foundation in 2015.

Her work has been presented and discussed at multiple conferences and seminars in leading global business schools including MIT, Wharton, Stanford, INSEAD, Bocconi, IESE, UCL, UT Austin, Columbia, Carnegie Mellon, Technion, Tel Aviv University, and Hebrew University.

Prior to academia, Professor Lifshitz-Assaf worked as a strategy consultant for seven years, specializing in growth and innovation strategy. She held related posts at a consulting firm and at a several corporate centers of large international firms in finance and telecommunications.

Professor Lifshitz-Assaf earned a BA in Management and a LLB in Law from Tel Aviv University, Israel, both magna cum laude, specializing in antitrust law.  She received an MBA, magna cum laude, from Tel Aviv University (exchange program with NYU Stern), where she studied strategy & entrepreneurship.


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