iAffiliates Day highlights iSchool collaboration with partners

Industry and community partners and iSchool faculty and staff attended the fourth annual iAffiliates Day on April 26, 2016. The event, a benefit of the iAffiliates program, provides a forum for organizations to learn about Information School research and explore areas for collaboration. 

Veresh Sita, Alaska Airlines’ chief information officer, discussed the ways the company leverages data to shave time off customers’ trips from check-in through baggage claim. Cutting a few minutes from each trip adds up to happier customers and hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for the airline.

Sita described how the airline is working to make a trip to the airport so seamless that a traveler can be checked in and arrive at the security checkpoint within 60 seconds of arrival. He also detailed how Alaska Airlines responded with a coordinated effort to bring home stranded travelers after a hurricane struck Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2014.

“It’s not just about big data. It’s about smart data,” Sita said. “It’s about connecting relevant information. It’s about being able to predict something and connect it through event-based systems to take some action on it.”

Jock Mackinlay, vice president of visual analysis at Tableau Software, demonstrated some of the impact and potential of data visualizations. He showed examples of how journalists at organizations such as the New York Times use visualization tools to find stories, and how the tools can help tell engaging stories about topics such as climate change.

“What you can do with visualizations when you’re telling a story is you can create this experience where people can go off and explore,” Mackinlay said.

The iSchool’s work in Myanmar was the topic of a talk given by representatives of the iSchool’s Technology and Social Change Group, the Jackson School of International Studies and the Tableau Foundation. Project team members described some of the discoveries and challenges of helping to usher the country to a modern information society after decades under a military dictatorship.

iSchool Associate Professor Hala Annabi, Ph.D. student Annuska Perkins and Microsoft researcher Meredith Ringel Morris presented an overview of their work to build and maintain more inclusive IT workplaces. In addition to gender and racial diversity, their efforts extend to people with disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum. Microsoft recently implemented an effort to recruit people who have autism and find the best ways to ensure they succeed.

iSchool students presented their work from a trio of Capstone projects – one each from the Master of Science in Information Management, Master of Library and Information Science, and Informatics programs. Their work includes a documentary film project meant to investigate how entrepreneurs of color in Seattle’s Central District are responding to economic and cultural challenges; an effort to engage public libraries and study their role in community health information and services; and an application that allows depression researchers to more easily visualize and analyze brain activity.

Those and dozens of other student projects will be on display at the annual iSchool Capstone event May 26 at the HUB.