UX Design Marks Its Spot as Growing Career Path for ATEC Students

nazir
Cassini Nazir, clinical associate professor in the arts and technology program and director of design and research for the ArtSciLab, trains students in user experience design. “If businesses exist in a digital space — be it a website, app, digital kiosk — they need to invest in good design,” he said.

From Dell Technologies to Capital One, companies that rely on the use of intuitive customer experiences are finding a wealth of talented designers among students and alumni from theSchool of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas.

The ArtSciLab — the school’s transdisciplinary research lab focused on the intersection of art and science — is immersing students into the field of user experience, or UX, design.

Cassini Nazir, clinical associate professor in the arts and technology (ATEC) program and director of design and research for the lab, said UT Dallas is emerging as a leader in UX education in North Texas.

“There’s a growing trend in more courses focused on user experience (UX) design and interaction design at colleges across the nation,” he said. “Many of these concepts have come out of human computer interaction concepts, but design research and UX have really emerged as disciplines in their own right. Industry has helped by investing in design researchers and user experience designers in their spaces.”

Nazir said more companies, both established and startup, are employing a design-centric ethos, cognizant of the role UX plays in customer relations.

The Design Value Index — an evolving metric that tracks the value of companies that meet specific design-related criteria — showed in 2014 that 15 design-driven companies had outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index by 228 percent over 10 years.

Several enterprise-level companies such as Intuit and Sabre want to work with the ATEC program to recruit talent, he said.

“UTD has really benefited from it because there’s a boom of businesses setting up offices in Dallas,” said Nazir, who is part of the Dallas Design Council. “Many of those companies have been hiring teams of designers, and we’ve been successful in filling those needs.”

Moon
Emerging media and communication senior Lina Moon was selected to be a part of Capital One’s inaugural Design Development Program, where she will spend two years learning about different fields such as interaction design and coding.

Clear Line to Job Opportunities

The lab has had students move into design positions at companies such as Sabre, Cisco Systems, AT&T, Siemens, General Motors, Fossil and J.C. Penney.

Debi Terry Ndindjock BA’13, a digital experience designer at Dell, first gained an interest in UX design while taking the interaction design course as a sophomore.

Ndindjock considered herself as purely a graphic designer, but she said she was intrigued by the psychological aspects of design, realizing UX design merges the two concepts.

“The turning point was when (design consultant) Stephen Anderson visited our class and spoke about his work,” she said. “I knew that was what I wanted to do. Since it is a relatively new field, we get a part in defining the industry as a whole.

“UX design requires such varied skills and education: visual design, writing, research and technology. You get to get in where you fit in.”

Cathryn Ploehn BA’14 said the same course — taught by Nazir — also propelled her into the field. Ploehn also served as designer for the ArtSciLab.

“Cassini’s enthusiasm was a gateway to taking further related courses, and finally a capstone in UX,” she said. “The application of the concept of empathy to design and development captivated me.”

Ploehn, who manages UX design problems and data visualization for Visionist Inc., said that developing a sense of empathy is fundamental to what makes user experiences successful.

“Really listen to what a person says to you both inside and outside of a user research setting,” she said. “Try to feel what it is like to be somebody else. Practice by exposing yourself to points of view beyond your comfort zone.”

For senior and UX Club president Lina Moon, there wasn’t an aha moment that led to an interest in UX design.

“I think being part of the UX Club as an officer and working in the ArtSciLab really gave me the confidence to pursue the field further, as it gave me a good support network and provided me access to more collective knowledge,” Moon said.

In July, Moon started a full-time position with Capital One’s inaugural Design Development Program.

The two-year program pairs students and recent graduates with a mentor who guides new associates through different fields such as interaction design and coding.

The growing demand for UX designers can be attributed, at least in part, to the growing demands of consumers of digital products. Nazir said designers often play the role of customer lobbyist, researching and voicing the needs of consumers to their business.

“Audience expectations of what constitutes a good experience are now much higher than they were in the past,” he said. “If businesses exist in a digital space — be it a website, app, digital kiosk — they need to invest in good design.”

EMAC Professor Earns System Teaching Award

Dr. Kim Knight
Dr. Kim Knight

Dr. Kim Knight, an assistant professor of emerging media and communication, has received the 2016 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awardfor her work and innovation in the classroom.

Knight has been a professor at UT Dallas since 2010, but her first foray into teaching was more than 14 years ago at California State University, Northridge as a teaching assistant under the tutelage of English professor Dr. Irene Clark.

It was there that Knight learned many of the strategies she still uses today.

“From the very beginning, Dr. Clark helped me frame the classroom as a space that should place students and their thinking at the center,” Knight said. “The classroom is a space where students arrive with a variety of experiences and learning styles; where their work is process-based and broken down into small steps with opportunities to revise and improve; and as a space with political and social dimensions that cannot be ignored.”

Knight received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature from Cal State Northridge, and she said her interest in new media and digital technology stems, in part, from her love of science fiction and fantasy literature.

“It wasn’t much of a stretch to go from literature about technology to writing that used digital technology,” she said. “As a first-generation college student, I was excited by the empowering aspects of networked technologies and their potential for opening up access, promoting amateur production, flattening hierarchies, and creating a more just and equitable world. My interest is in studying new media in all of its facets so that we can fulfill those promises.”

Knight’s work at UT Dallas focuses on how these objectives intersect with issues in new media such as privacy, ownership and diversity.

As an inherently dynamic subject, new media and technology can have its challenges for teachers, but Knight said what’s most exciting about the field is that working scholars and students are helping to define it.

“And yet, it resists ever being fully defined,” she said. “It also means that you can never keep up with everything that is developing on a daily basis. This affords the rich opportunity to invite students to bring their own knowledge of those developments into the classroom.”

Dr. Kim Knight
Dr. Kim Knight leads a Fashioning Circuits workshop at a STEAM-focused summer camp at Eastfield College. (Photo by Lauren Shafer)

Some of her most popular courses touch on viral media, writing in digital spaces and understanding how text, image and sound are used in digital spaces.

She said her favorite course to teach is Fashioning Circuits, which also serves as a research blog and digital humanities project.

“The grounding in social and cultural theory helps students understand the scholarly implications of something that some assume is a frivolous topic: fashion,” she said. “Fashion is about bodies and about culture. When you connect it to technology, it helps to make explicit that technology is also about bodies and culture.”

The course, which usually has a few students who don’t consider themselves creative or coders at the beginning, is an opportunity to explore the expressive possibilities of sewing, coding and electronics as media, she said.

The project also works with community partners to develop programming to introduce nonprogrammers to coding in a humanities aspect.

Knight, who received her PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, said her goal is to help her students develop into well-rounded and educated citizens who are ready to be critical participants in a democratic society.

“If I focus on helping students understand one technological platform, it does not serve them well,” she said. “Instead, it is important to help them develop an understanding of how technology, community, power and communication intersect so that they can ethically engage with the technology of tomorrow, regardless of what form that takes.”

 

Knight Examines Digital Viruses, Public Anxiety

The perceived threat of a computer virus attack can keep us in a constant state of anxiety, according to Dr. Kim Knight.

In her latest article, the EMAC professor contends that a preoccupation with living in a virus-free digital world affects how consumers behave online and offline.

Knight said that when people want to avoid a disaster — like a flu outbreak — from reoccurring, they try to identify and address all future scenarios to eliminate that possibility.

It’s a concept known as “premediation,” originally theorized by Dr. Richard Grusin, an English professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, as a collective experience with individual effects prompted, in part, by media and the way it handles outbreaks.

Knight studied the concept in the context of various apps, such as Google’s Flu Trends, FluNearYou and Sickweather, which track the spread of illness on a regional level using crowdsourced data from users or mentions of illness on social media.

While these digital tools exist to help mitigate anxieties over viruses, Knight said they can still be a source of “premediative” behavior. By constantly requiring new information and requesting updates from users, the software acts as a feedback loop, always reminding users of the possibility of infection.

Internet users and people who use illness-tracking apps are willing to share computing information and personal data with anti-viral technologies to assuage their anxiety, which could have unintended consequences.

Because the user surrenders ownership, the data can and will be exploited, she said. For Knight, the minimal public health benefits do not outweigh the privacy concerns.

Read her entire article atelectronic book review, a peer-reviewed journal focused on the arts, sciences and humanities through the lens of emerging digital media.

Study Explores How Trustful Online Gamers Are with Their Information

Dr. Rosanna Guadagno

New research from UT Dallas shows that players of massively multiplayer online games, or MMOGs, who are motivated by social elements of online play display more trust in fellow players and a greater willingness to disclose personal information, particularly when the players were members of participants’ guild.

In a recent pilot study, Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, associate professor of psychology and emerging media and communication, expanded upon a growing body of work that explores the idea of trust in player psychology.

“Since the early days of the internet, people have used the technology to meet and befriend strangers,” Guadagno said. “People have found spouses, long-lost relatives and have had many positive and negative experiences while disclosing personal information to the people we encounter online. MMOGs are one such unique online context in which people need the cooperation of others to achieve their game-related goals, regardless of whether they are achievement, social/relational or something else. Understanding the how and why people disclose personal feelings and experiences to other video game players is crucial to understanding the ways in which cooperation and trust form as players interact with each other and work toward both individual and group goals.”

Using player characterizations established by Nick Yee, co-founder of the game analytics consulting practice Quantic Foundry, Guadagno examined patterns in trust and self-disclosure among players of MMOGs. Yee characterizes “social” players as motivated by relationships and teamwork, while “achievement” players are considered their antithesis, valuing progress, optimization and domination.

Guadagno found that “achievement” players were less likely to trust and cooperate with other players, while “social” players exhibited higher levels of self-disclosure. Her study further demonstrated that players are more trusting of other players who are part of their guild — a group of players who share a common chat channel, group identifier and play together regularly, relative to players who belong to other guilds or are not in a guild.

Understanding the how and why people disclose personal feelings and experiences to other video game players is crucial to understanding the ways in which cooperation and trust form as players interact with each other and work toward both individual and group goals.

Dr. Rosanna Guadagno,
associate professor of psychology and emerging media and communication

The pilot study drew from a pool of 37 participants who were first asked to complete the Online Gaming Motivations Scale — developed by Yee and a team of researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center — to determine their motivation type. Participants also were assessed based on their willingness to share information, items and personal details with other players as a function of their group membership.

Guadagno said future research will consider factors such as inclination to attack others in understanding how and why people trust and disclose information to people they only know through the computer screen.

“Social science research has long demonstrated that there is often a disconnect between the way people report their past behavior and what an outside observer might report,” she said. “This is in part because people do not always understand why they behave a certain way and in part because of biases in the way we interpret and report on our past behavior. Essentially, people want to look good in the eyes of others. Together, this makes it difficult to be 100 percent certain that self-reported behavior is accurate. So assessing real gameplay in the future will allow my research team to record events as they take place and this will result in more confidence in our findings.”

The research was presented at the 16th annual meeting of the Association of Internet Researchers in Phoenix.

Unconventional Olympians: EMAC prof to present talk on media project

 

 

mecholympicsEMAC associate professor xtine burrough will present a talk for the Dallas Museum of Art’s Late Nights series on her Mechanical Olympics media project Aug. 19.

Launched in 2008, the Mechanical Olympics are a crowdsourced competition of athletic performances that reinterpret the Olympic Games as a series of amateur, hobbyist videos in competition for “likes” on YouTube.

“My initial intent for this project was to intervene on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website where anyone can perform the role of ‘Job Requestor’,” burrough said. “When I pose there as a requestor, I disrupt a virtual platform known for exploitative labor practices, and temporarily transform it into a mechanism for participatory art making.”

The videos have been purchased and collected from workers on Mechanical Turk, an online job board, and their efforts are submitted to burrough for inclusion into the series.

Burrough will also conduct a workshop and present a series of videos during her talk. Join her from 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. in the C3 Theater at the DMA.

xtine_preferredxtine is an associate professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at The University of Texas at Dallas.

 

Monitoring Digital Viruses Can Lead to Public Anxiety

 

kk-profile-picture-2013The perceived threat of a virus attacking a computer can keep users in a constant state of anxiety, according to Dr. Kim Knight, assistant professor of Emerging Media and Communication.

In her latest article, Knight contends that a preoccupation with living in a virus-free digital world affects how users behave online and offline.

Knight said that when people want to avoid a disaster — like a flu outbreak — from reoccurring, they try to identify and address all future scenarios to quash that possibility.

It’s a concept known as “premediation,” which was originated by new media scholar Richard Grusin as a way to explain social attitudes following the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent rise in security measures.

“I think Grusin would argue that premediation is a collective experience that has individual effects because it is so often prompted by media and the way it handles things,” Knight said. “The thing that’s most pernicious about premediation is not whether or not these predictions come true, it’s how it affects people’s behavior in the present.”

Knight studied the concept in the context of various epidemiological apps such as Google’s Flu Trends, FluNearYou and Sickweather, which track the spread of illness on a regional level using crowdsourced data from users or mentions of illness on social media.

While these digital tools exist to help mitigate anxieties over viruses, Knight said they can still be a source of “premediative” behavior. By constantly requiring new information and requesting updates from users, the software acts as a feedback loop, always reminding users of the possibility of infection.

“In the rhetoric used on their websites, these apps suggest that to be a good citizen is to report,” she said. “So, they position it as something very attractive; you’re joining a movement to take control of your own health. These sorts of arguments are very persuasive in making you feel like you’re doing something for the public good.”

Antivirus software works in a similar fashion; while the technology exists to stop the reproduction of computer viruses, users are still reminded of its presence through required updates and reminders.

For users who opt out of antivirus software, there is still a culture of required safe computer usage, she said.

“That anxiety becomes a persuasive mechanism to help people overcome what might be privacy concerns and other conflicts,” Knight said. “The idea that these apps prevent you from getting sick encourages you to share your location and to make these self-reports about your health, which can actually be inaccurate.”

Internet users and people who use illness tracking apps are threatened by the possibility of a virus, and they’re willing to share computing information with antiviral technologies to assuage their anxiety. Knight said this allows valuable data to be farmed by these technologies.

Because the user surrenders ownership, the data can and will be exploited, she said. For Knight personally, the minimal public health benefits do not outweigh the privacy concerns.

Read the entire article at electronic book review, a peer-reviewed journal focused on the arts, sciences and humanities through the lens of emerging digital media.

ATEC Professor Named Recipient of UT System’s 2016 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

Dr. Kim Knight, assistant professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication and Dr. John McClain Watson of Naveen Jindal School of Management – UT Dallas have been named recipients of the University of Texas System‘s 2016 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

medal-teachingEstablished by the Board of Regents in 2008, the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards complement a wide range of System-wide efforts that underscore the Board’s commitment to ensuring the UT System is a place of intellectual exploration and discovery, educational excellence and unparalleled opportunity.

The awards – each accompanied by $25,000 – are offered annually in recognition of faculty members at the nine academic and six health institutions in the UT System who have demonstrated extraordinary classroom performance and dedication to innovation.

ROTA candidates are vetted by peer faculty, students and campus presidents at their own institutions before advancing to competition at the System level. A selection committee of distinguished educators within and outside the UT System considers a range of criteria, including classroom expertise, curricula quality, innovative course development and student learning outcomes.

13432275_10153778391942476_4871653258190314430_nKim Knight is an Assistant Professor of Emerging Media and Communication at the University of Texas at Dallas. Her research broadly centers on the ways digital culture affects negotiations of power and the formation of identity. More specifically, her current work on viral media addresses the role of digital media as it circulates outside of broadcast paradigms and empowers or oppresses subjects in network society. She also has multiple research projects in progress on the topic of gendered identity and digital media. One of the fundamental strategies of her research methodology is to bring together the vectors of theory and practice. As such, her work uniquely blends traditional modes of scholarship with the production of theoretically-informed media objects.

Kim teaches classes in digital media theory, the shift from analog to digital textuality, viral media, wearable media, and race, class, gender, and sexuality in digital environments. Her classes center on the same hybrid approach of theorizing and making that underlies her research.

Kim writes and is editor-in-chief for the blog The Spiral Dance (http://thespiraldance.wordpress.com). The title is taken from the closing line of Donna Haraway’s influential essay “Manifesto for Cyborgs” and the blog critically addresses the intersections of media, technology, and gendered identity. In addition, she is the project leader, site administrator, and editor of Fashioning Circuits (http://fashioningcircuits.com), a research blog and public humanities project that addresses the social and cultural implications of the intersection between fashion and technology. In addition, the Fashioning Circuits project works with community partners to develop programming to introduce non-programmers to coding and making in a Humanities context. A book on Fashioning Circuits is under contract and forthcoming in 2016.

Kim is active in university and public service and is regularly invited to give talks on women and technology, social and wearable media, and Digital Humanities.

 

Prof Explores Vocabulary, Knowledge in Twitter Project

altered-pocket-dictionary02In her latest media project, EMAC associate professor xtine burrough used Twitter as a stage to explore the ideas of knowledge and the self.

“@IKnowTheseWords: A Twitterbot Textual Performance” details Burrough’s multi-year project aggregating and archiving all the words she knows in the form of tweets.

In an effort to quantify her existing vocabulary, Burrough programmed a twitterbot, an account that sends out automated posts, to tweet the Oxford English Dictionary’s “Word of the Day” daily. She’d then interact with the bot, informing the artificial user if the words were within her personal vocabulary.

Burrough said the project began in 2004 with a pocket dictionary and a bottle of Wite-Out. She would flip through the dictionary crossing out the words she didn’t know.

“I started the project in 2004 with the idea that I would transform a pocket dictionary into a uniquely personal artist book,” she said. “I had been thinking about how a person’s vocabulary is at once the tool she uses for self-expression and a cultural self-portrait. Put differently, a personal collection of words, or a wordhord, reflects the person activating and changing it. I wanted to see if I created a document of my wordhord I would be the same person between when I started the project and when it ended.”

Unsure of how to measure the project’s progress, Burrough stopped working in the dictionary a few months after started the project.

“The task of covering words was tedious and I couldn’t envision an end-game for the project,” she said. “What would happen to it? I was stuck on the conceptual problem of the work being such a static form of representation. So I put the project in a box, and that box has moved with me to every new apartment and house during the last 11 years. I found the dictionary again after I moved to Texas last summer.”

After attending a Feminist Maker Space session, led by Dr. Kim Knight and organized by the Feminist Research Collective at UT Dallas, Burrough wanted to revisit and improve her project by making it automated and accessible to the public.

“Rethinking this project as a continuous twitter feed, as a call and response between my bot and myself addressed the problem of the book as a static site of representation,” Burrough said. “Once I had found a way to rethink that missing element, the project came to life. In retrospect, a Twitterbot seems so obvious but I wouldn’t have though of it, or of revisiting this project, if I weren’t sitting in a Feminist Maker Space session wondering what I would do with a Twitterbot.”

The article is available online, and it was published by Persona Studies — a peer-reviewed journal that explores the construction of the public self through online culture, pop culture and everyday life.

The bot is active on https://twitter.com/iknowthesewords.

 

University Mourns Loss of Library Communications Manager, EMAC Alumna

Misty Hawley
Misty Hawley MA’13

The UT Dallas Eugene McDermott Library and colleagues across campus are mourning the loss of the library’s communications manager, Misty Hawley, who died Saturday of natural causes. She was 39.

Hawley MA’13 had coordinated the library’s communications needs since December 2013. During her tenure, the library expanded its hours and underwent extensive renovations in study and lounge areas.

Dr. Ellen Safley, dean of McDermott Library, said Hawley excelled in planning events that benefited faculty, staff and students.

“Misty’s writing and event-planning skills made everything better, and culminated in the recent Faculty Author Reception, which was widely applauded by those who attended,” Safley said.

Hawley also had served as assistant director of student media from 2010-2013, working with students at Radio UTD and UTD TV.

Chad Thomas, director of student media, said Hawley set high standards for students, who often looked to her for guidance in college, career and even relationship issues.

“She was a firm believer in tough love. And that clicked for so many students, who grew to see her as a mentor and advisor beyond the confines of radio and TV broadcasting,” Thomas said.

Nieves Reyes BA’14, former news director of UTD TV, described Hawley as an “incredible” woman whose door was always open to students.

She would be there for people when they needed help. Not only was she our advisor, but she was like a mother to me as well as everyone else at UTD TV and Radio UTD.

Nieves Reyes BA’14,
former news director of UTD TV

“She would be there for people when they needed help. Not only was she our advisor, but she was like a mother to me as well as everyone else at UTD TV and Radio UTD,” Reyes said. “She put us first, taking care of us in any possible way. She somehow brought us all together. We were family.”

Hawley, a native of Gladewater, Texas, earned bachelor’s degrees in broadcast journalism and political science at the University of North Texas. She worked 12 years as a TV producer before coming to UT Dallas in December 2010.

In fall 2013, she completed a master’s degree in emerging media and communication at UT Dallas.

Services are planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church, 300 West Upshur Ave., in Gladewater, Texas. Those who plan to attend the service should RSVP by 5 p.m. today, either by calling ext. 4328 or emailing betsy.clarke@utdallas.edu.

Celebrate Spring 2016 EMAC Graduates

EMAC Outstanding Capstone Finalists

Capstone_SP2016The Spring 2016 EMAC Capstone Celebration will take place Thursday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building. During this event, graduating students will share their capstone projects with the public and compete for outstanding capstone project awards. Following the formal presentations, audience members will get to engage with all students’ projects when all students share their work more informally during the showcase.

Congratulations to the ten undergraduate students nominated for the Outstanding Undergraduate Capstone award: Nil Arsala, Rafa Garcia, Brian McCollum, Leo Montemayor, Mashal Noor, Justin Ozuna, Katie Perez, Alexis Short, Allison Sparks, and Ryan Tyler. The four finalists, Arsala, Montemayor, Noor, and Tyler, will join our graduate students to make formal presentations and compete for the awards.

You may preview student projects using the following links, but we hope to see you at the Capstone Celebration to let our students impress you with their projects.

GRADUATE PROJECTS

 

UNDERGRADUATE MAJOR HONORS PROJECTS

 

UNDERGRADUATE PROJECTS