When we think about technology mediating human interactions with data, we often think about how it improves the practices of people’s usual activities, from making them more mindful of their daily movements through step-tracking devices, to improving capabilities to make informed business decisions using data-rich analytics in a digital dashboard. This talk explores how technologies can expand people to look beyond what they usually do: how can a zoomable interface spark wonder about aquatic insects to engage non-scientists in water quality monitoring, and how can a touchscreen inspire new questions about familiar objects to foster cross-cultural dialogues? I will present multiple projects integrating interactive technologies as mediators of informal, social learning and argue for the importance of technology’s role in provoking empathy, curiosity, and engagement to drive and expand interest in unfamiliar domains.
Jessica Roberts is an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. She holds a PhD in Learning Sciences from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a concentration in geospatial analysis and visualization and a B.S. from Northwestern University with a concentration in theatre design. Her research examines how people learn through, with, and about data in out-of-school environments such as museums and citizen science activities and how interactive technologies mediate social, informal learning experiences. Her work on the design of interactive learning technologies has won paper awards at CSCL and CHI, and her projects have been exhibited at venues including the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the New York Hall of Science.