January 22, 2010: Distinguished Lecturer Series: Martha E. Pollack - "Computing Outside the Box"

The University of Illinois at Chicago

Department of Computer Science

2009-2010 Distinguished Lecturer Seminar Series
UIC WISEST Visiting Scholar Program

Computing Outside the Box

Martha E. Pollack
University of Michigan
Thursday, February 18, 2010
11:00 a.m., 1000 SEO


National Science Foundation, with the intentionally ambiguous title "Computing Outside the Box." The phrase was intended to invoke the need both for innovative "outside the box" thinking in computer and information science, and for computational research that directly addresses problems that go beyond computers (electronic boxes) themselves. While computer scientists have always undertaken use-inspired research, the uses that have been deemed legitimate have often been limited to ones that directly involve computers. For example, designing more reliable operating systems or developing faster methods for database access have been seen as mainstream CS, while research motivated by other needs has sometimes been relegated to the status of "mere application." In contrast, information scientists have focused on the socio-technical dimensions of IT, with a particularly heavy emphasis on social issues. Increasingly, though, there are calls to change the perspectives of both groups, in ways that blur the distinctions between them and that recognize the value of combining rigorous technical insights with deep social analyses. A handful of academic programs-including Cornell's information science program and the University of Michigan's School of Information-have taken the lead in this transition.

I will discuss the challenges inherent in such a change in perspective, while arguing that it is nonetheless essential if our fields are to maintain its relevance. To ground the discussion, I will draw on examples of research that aims to develop computational systems that improve the greater good, for instance by assisting people with cognitive or physical impairments, by facilitating sustainable practices, or by increasing social capital. In particular, I will provide examples from my own research on assistive technology.In the fall of 2008, a workshop to discuss the future of computer and information science was held at the

Brief Bio:

Martha E. Pollack is Dean of the School of Information, and Professor of Information and of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has conducted research in many areas of Artificial Intelligence, including adaptive interfaces, temporal reasoning, automated plan generation, and natural-language processing. She is a pioneer in the application of AI approaches to the design of technology for people with cognitive impairment, a topic about which she testified before the United State Senate Subcommittee on Aging. Pollack is the President of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and is on the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association and the Advisory Committee for NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate. She is a fellow of the AAAI, and previously served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research. She has been active in programs to increase the representation of women and minorities in STEM fields, for which she was recognized with a Sarah Goddard Power Award.

Host: Barbara Di Eugenio

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