iAffiliates Day focuses on technology's role in changing world

Friday, April 28, 2017
Student Capstone presentation
Student Capstone presentations were part of iAffiliates Day.

“Digital transformation” was the theme as dozens of iSchool corporate and community partners, faculty, staff and students attended the 2017 edition of iAffiliates Day on Thursday, April 27, at wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ (the Intellectual House) on the UW campus.

Mike Cowden, general manager at Slalom Consulting, and Heather Andersen, managing director at Accenture, opened with a joint presentation on how sustainability has become a key strategic issue for technology companies. With the world’s population expected to grow to 10 billion by mid-century and consumption of resources growing even faster than the population, Andersen and Cowden pointed to the need for technology to tackle the issues.

“Every company is becoming a technology company, so the opportunity is great to join the technology workforce and contribute to solving some of these problems,” Cowden said.

That was followed by a presentation, led by iSchool faculty, on how public libraries are thriving as social spaces for civic engagement. Maria Garrido, a research assistant professor with the Technology & Social Change Group, and Susan Hildreth, professor of practice, discussed how the world’s libraries are designing programs and services to promote civic dialogue. They were joined by Master of Science in Information Management student Daniel Kapellmann, along with Valerie Wonder and Orlando Lugo of the Seattle Public Library.

Brian Lent
Brian Lent, CTO of HERE Technologies, delivered the keynote address.

Brian Lent, chief technology officer at HERE Technologies, delivered the keynote address on the evolution of maps into a digital representation of the entire physical world, and the sheer amount of data that this will require.

HERE is working to build an “index of reality” – a 3-D, real-time view of the world. Beyond roads and trails, Lent said, “We want to push the boundaries and add new elements of the real, physical world.” That would include geographic features, wildlife migrations, internet-connected devices and, ultimately, people.

iSchool Assistant Professor Jevin West followed with a presentation about his new course, “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data,” which has struck a chord with students at the university. West gave some examples of the ways half-truths and misrepresentations become accepted as facts, and talked about the need to teach people how to sniff out “BS.”

iSchool students served as the closing act, showing off a few of the projects they are working on for Capstone, the final project in the Informatics, MLIS and MSIM programs. Their programs involved gathering data for self-driving cars; collecting data on users’ behavior surrounding commercial music services; and unlocking public data.

iAffiliates Day is part of the iAffiliates program, which engages community partners with iSchool faculty, researchers and students. Organizations can sign up as premium partners and develop customized engagement strategies that provide benefits for partners and help support the iSchool. To learn more, or to ask questions about the program, email iaffiliates@uw.edu.

See more photos from iAffiliates Day on our Facebook page.