Designing the Digital Future: A Human-Centered Approach to Informatics

To many, informatics means big data. But as the 2014 Obermann Working Symposium, “Designing the Digital Future: A Human-Centered Approach to Informatics,” November 7-8, 2014, demonstrated, informatics technology intersects with narrative, the arts, collaborative learning, dance, diversity, narrative, social justice movements, values sensitive design, visual thinking, and more. Moreover, our guest speakers were especially committed to welcoming girls and women, diverse communities, and older people into the widening spheres of informatics.

Organized by University of Iowa Computer Science Professor Juan Pablo Hourcade and Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Director Teresa Mangum in co-sponsorship with the Iowa Informatics Initiative, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and departments across University, the second Obermann Working Symposium focused on the diverse forms informatics takes across arts, humanities, social sciences, and technological disciplines. 

Designing the Digital Future keynote speakers
During two days and with participants from across the University of Iowa and surrounding community, keynote speakers, local panelists, and the symposium organizers explored how -

·      to encourage more departments to participate in the informatics initiative

·      to assess campus resources for joint programming, courses, and research groups that engage not only science and technology, but also the arts, humanities, and social sciences

·      to clarify the opportunities, challenges, and obstacles faced by researchers in HCI and informatics, including funding; tenure and promotion; research and publication; curriculum, disciplinary differences, and institutional barriers


  • The symposium was actively Tweeted by participants and the Obermann HASTAC Scholars. Read the Storify compilation.
  • Participants in the Agenda Lunch contributed Power Point slides, which can be viewed here. 

Keynote Speakers

  • Lisa Anthony (Computer and Information Science and Engineering. University of Florida) - Gesture interaction with children for education, fitness, games​
  • Tamara Clegg (Education and iSchool, University of Maryland), “Kitchen Chemistry,” “Backyard Biology”—co-designing with kids on “life-relevant learning environments”
  • Celine Latulipe (Software and Information Systems, University of North Carolina-Charlotte) - Designing for the arts in light of gender, philosophy, neuroscience
  • Lisa Nathan (First Nations Concentration Coordinator, The iSchool, University of British Columbia) - Information practices for human thriving and global challenges, social justice movements and digital culture
  • Mary Beth Rosson (Associate Dean, Information Sciences and Technology and Co-Director, Computer-Supported Collaboration and Learning. Pennsylvania State University) - Scenario-based designs for informal and collaborative learning
  • Ron Wakkary (School of Interactive Arts and Technology. Simon Fraser University) - Everyday design and “ec(h)o-VUE: ecologies of play, learning and interaction in museums"

University of Iowa Panelists

  • Joe Kearney is the Associate Dean for Research & Infrastructure, and the Arts. His current research focuses on behavior, scene, and scenario modeling for virtual environments. He co-directs the Hank Simulation Lab that houses a virtual bicycling simulator.
  • Lawrence Fritts is a professor of Composition and Theory and directs the Electronic Music Studio.
  • Jim Elmborg is an Associate Professor in the School of Information & Library Science. He also directs the Public Digital Humanities Graduate Certificate program and serves on various committees related to Digital Humantiies on campus.
  • H.S. Udaykumar is a Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. He studies computational fluid dynamics and has worked on a Solar Cooker Project to help with the side effects of deforestation in India.
  • Geb Thomas is an Associate Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering who studies and researches human-computer interfaces.