David McDonald to chair HCDE; new HCI faculty bring data visualization and design expertise

The ‘i’ in iSchool means information, but for many of its current and incoming faculty, the ‘i’ also stands for the interactions people have with technology and information.

Human-computer interaction (HCI), a strategic area for research and instruction at the iSchool, makes it easier for people of all ages to use digital technologies to accomplish their goals.

New hires Jessica Hullman, Jaime Snyder and Jason Yip are adding HCI expertise in data visualization and digital youth — areas identified as important for iSchool growth. They join several other HCI researchers, including Andy Ko, Jacob Wobbrock, Batya Friedman, Wanda Pratt, William Jones, and David Hendry as the iSchool expands the range of course offerings and research projects to meet student and commercial demand.

Data visualization techniques help to communicate information clearly and effectively to users through graphical means. Hullman’s research focuses on the broad use of information visualizations for communication and analysis. Snyder focuses on social aspects of visualization practices, and ethics and values in the design of visualizations. The iSchool's Social Media Lab uses data visualization extensively to help people understand virality and the impact of Twitter traffic on social movements. 

Insights into how the next generation consumes information through interactive technology will improve future information systems and tools. Yip examines the intersections between the learning sciences, child-computer interaction, and STEM education. 

Associate Professor David McDonald, an HCI-related faculty, will be leaving the iSchool to become chair of the Human-Computer Design and Engineering (HCDE) program. McDonald studies mass interaction in Wikipedia, and technology and media use in the home. The move will reinforce the interdisciplinary ties between the iSchool and HCDE, and within the DUB Group in general, the multi-departmental group dedicated to research and teaching in HCI.

The iSchool has earned a reputation for conducting award-winning research in HCI. Its first startup spinout, an HCI-based startup AnswerDash, founded by Professors Jacob Wobbrock, Andy Ko, and then Ph.D. student Parmit Chilana (now professor at University of Waterloo) provides software that enables online businesses to deliver instant contextual answers to their users, increasing sales and lowering customer support costs.