research opportunities

Design can no longer be seen as a solitary endeavor where a designer, through pure force of talent, improves a product or service, and then hands it off to a community of use. My research empirically examines design practices and develops technology to support creative individuals, groups, and crowds. We explore if (and how) online crowds can provide value for design — through guided exploration of concept spaces, by providing formative feedback to student designers, and by collaboratively solving ill-defined problems. Our research seeks to deepen our understanding of how the creative process works, to improve design practice for teams, and to teach design more effectively to larger audiences.

Currently I have several projects with opportunities for new PhD students, as well as masters and undergraduates. If you apply to the HCII PhD program, please mention my name in your application. Masters and undergraduate students can participate in an independent study or apply for funding through the SURG program. For more information beyond the descriptions here, please feel free to contact me by email (spdow at cs dot cmu dot edu).

Strategies for Crowdsourcing Complex Design Work
Micro-task markets provide employers unprecedented access to a highly scalable, yet largely unskilled workforce. As a result, paid crowdsourcing tasks typically only leverage basic cognitive abilities, such as classifying images. More complex tasks such as writing an essay or designing an advertisement are difficult to crowdsource because workers generally lack the advanced skills necessary to perform such work. How can we leverage instructional methods — including scaffolding, examples, critique, and apprenticeship — to affect work practices within typically "flat" crowdsourcing platforms? Our techniques seek to transition workers from novice into more expert roles so they can collectively achieve complex and professional visual designs.

As part of this 3-year NSF-funded Social-Computational Systems (SoCS) grant, we seek PhD applicants with backgrounds in social computing, online work, and design methods. The research team will develop Web technologies for collaborative design and run online crowdsourcing experiments. This work will be conducted in collaboration with Bjoern Hartmann, Maneesh Argawala, and their students from UC Berkeley.

Engaging Students in Innovation Education through Crowd-Based Technologies
Industry relies on higher education to prepare students for careers in innovation. Fulfilling this obligation is especially difficult in classroom settings, which often lack authentic interaction with the outside world. Online crowdsourcing has the potential to change this. How can online crowds affect student learning and motivation in the classroom? While crowds can potentially provide diverse, scalable, and nearly immediate feedback, this input can also be noisy and ambiguous. Our research explores the benefits and limitations of crowd feedback and seeks to create a socio-technical infrastructure to enable simple, frequent, and valuable interactions with external crowds.

For this 3-year NSF-funded CyberLearning grant, we seek PhD applicants with a background in innovation education, instructional methods, and crowdsourcing. Our research team will develop and study crowd-supported classroom interventions for innovation education. This work will be conducted in collaboration with Liz Gerber and her students from Northwestern University.

spdow at cs dot cmu dot edu     CC0