Thursday, March 11, 2010

Interview with Allison Druin and Ben Bederson

We recently had a chance to interview Allison Druin and Ben Bederson, winners of the 2010 ACM SIGCHI Social Impact Award. Allison is the current Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland and Ben preceded Allison in the same position. Ben and Allison have both conducted research on technologies with strong ties towards promoting peace and understanding. Below is a transcript of our interview.

HCI for Peace: Education and awareness of other cultures are often cited as precursors of peace. You have been a leader in giving children a voice in the design of technologies. You have also led, with Ben, the International Children’s Digital Library, providing free online access to thousands books in over 50 languages. What is your long-term vision for your work on giving children a voice in the design of technologies and promoting intercultural understanding?

Allison Druin: My long-term mission which I believe is shared by our whole research team in Maryland, is to create more design methods and technologies that can increase participation of children from all cultures. We are currently working on new “Distributed Co-Design” methods that can enable children in Haiti to add their ideas to a design problem being worked on by a group in Israel or Mongolia. We need online tools that can support this kind of distributed intergenerational design collaboration. We are just at the beginning stages of understanding what is needed. We believe though when this can happen, our technologies can give voice to all children from all cultures which is a critical first step in understanding what we all share and how we are different.

HCI for Peace: One of the most consistent findings in the literature on the causes of conflict is that fully democratic countries are less likely to participate in international conflicts and to have civil wars. What role can the human-computer interaction community play in supporting democracy by designing and evaluating computer-based voting systems?

Ben Bederson: There are two critical components to voting systems. The first is that they accurately record the voter’s intended vote. The second is that the voter believes that their vote was accurately recorded. Both are crucial. If citizens don’t have confidence that their vote is accurate (even if it is), then the voting system – and resulting outcome – is suspect, and can cause grave social problems. The HCI community must help ensure that not only are voting systems reliable, secure and accurate, but also that the voters understand and believe in them. This is a very important distinction because some of solutions that aim to solve security and accuracy issues are likely to decrease user confidence – by using complex cryptographic techniques. As always, the best solutions balance the needs of all stakeholders.

1 comment:

  1. How wonderfully self-serving for Dr. Druin to continue to promote herself as one to advocate for, and enhance, social impact.