Texas iSchool Assistant Professor Amelia Acker Receives Research Travel Award

Sandlin, Anu  |  Apr 29, 2019

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Assistant Professor Amelia Acker
Faculty News
Amelia Acker
travel award
Software Preservation Network
cultural heritage organizations
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In February, Assistant Professor Amelia Acker was awarded a research travel award as part of an initiative coordinated by the Software Preservation Network (SPN) to foster practice-based community around software preservation.The project titled, “Fostering a Community of Practice: Software Preservation and Emulation Experts in Libraries and Archives (FCoP),” involves establishing a community of practice in software preservation and emulation within libraries, archives and museums.

Supported by the Institute for Library and Museum Services [IMLS grant RE-95-17-0058-17], research using the FCoP Travel Award is expected to complement the efforts of the FCoP project and SPN more broadly, which seeks to bring software preservation into mainstream digital preservation practice (addressing specific legal, metadata and technical preservation and access challenges).

In selecting a candidate for the FCoP Research Travel Award, the FCoP team looked for proposed research that advances understanding of practice through the lens of one or more categories: Standards Development and Sociology of Standards; Information Infrastructure; Capacity Building and Economic Sustainability of Public Institutions; Cross-institutional and Cross-sector Alignment (Collective Impact); Information and Technology Policy; Legal Advocacy for Cultural Institutions; and Social Impact of Public/Private Partnerships.

Based on the goals of the FCoP project, SPN announced that Acker would receive the $5,000 travel award. “We are thrilled for Dr. Acker to join the FCoP Project team and we look forward to sharing more about the process and outcomes of her work with the FCoP project cohort!” they said.

We are thrilled for Dr. Acker to join the FCoP Project team, and we look forward to sharing more about the process and outcomes of her work with the FCoP project cohort!

The goal of the Research Travel Award is to fund travel to observe and document different organizational approaches to software preservation and emulation. The award will allow Acker to visit a number of current sites at libraries, archives, and museums to observe software preservation workflows, metadata development, and digital stewardship teams. 

“I am excited to be joining the FCoP project team as the recipient of the research travel award!” said Acker. “As part of this generous support from IMLS and the Software Preservation Network, I’ll be able to continue my research on the complex, changing, and contested roles of digital preservation in society.” 

Acker expects to start working on this project over the summer. Over the next two years, Acker will visit current FCoP project sites to observe how software preservation practices are applied in different stewardship contexts and cultural heritage organizations. “Georgia Tech’s retroTech Lab, University of Virginia Libraries, Guggenheim Museum, and the Living Computers Museum + Labs are a few of the places where I will do fieldwork,” she said. Acker plans to interview team members and research how administration and technical workflows, preservation standards, and metadata documentation are developed and deployed across different work sites.

“We know that cultural heritage organizations are currently engaged in a variety of new and emerging software preservation services—from metadata workflows to emulation as a service. But what we don’t know is how the unique environs of a cultural heritage organization and the people that make up these teams impact the theories, workflows, and applications of software preservation and emulation in different ways” said Acker. “What can libraries, archives, museums, LIS researchers and educators learn from these different workplace contexts? How do values, ethos, and unique community traits manifest in different places and shape software preservation practices? I can’t wait to find out!” 

The Social Preservation Network shares Acker’s fervor when it comes to answering these questions. “We look forward to the outcomes of Dr. Acker’s research,” they said.

To follow Acker’s work, or to read more about the research she will be conducting as a part of her FCoP Travel Award, visit the FCoP Research Field Reports page or her website.

New faculty member studies child development and immersive media

Ferguson, John  |  Feb 05, 2018

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Jakki Bailey
Jakki Bailey
Virtual Reality
Faculty News

The Texas iSchool is welcoming a new faculty member who specializes in immersive media and its influence on cognition, behavior and learning.

Assistant Professor Jakki Bailey joins the School of Information from Stanford, where she recently completed her PhD in Communication and was a research assistant at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

“I research people’s psychological and social experiences of technology and media, and I currently specialize in looking at virtual reality and immersive experiences, particularly in how they relate to questions of child and human development,” Dr. Bailey said.

Her studies of virtual reality are expected to contribute to the School of Information’s ongoing work in the disciplines of human-computer interaction and user experience. The Texas iSchool faculty’s interdisciplinary approach to information particularly appealed to her, Dr. Bailey added.

“What’s unique about the iSchool is all the different backgrounds and research that people do here,” she said. “There are historians and computer scientists and psychologists and traditional information specialists here, which is really exciting because you can’t ever approach a problem or experience life in one dimension.”

Dr. Bailey has already begun to create a virtual-reality lab at the iSchool and said she is looking for opportunities to collaborate both within and outside the school. In the future, she also hopes to make her projects as mobile as possible in order to connect with the Austin-area community through museums and possibly schools.

Studies in the social science of VR in relation to child development are still in their infancy, Dr. Bailey noted. Although the technology is not new, it has only recently become affordable enough for widespread adoption and research.

“This is the first time VR has been commercially available, and there are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered about children’s use and safety, how content interacts with hardware when you’re inside a game, and how that relates to learning outcomes,” she said. “In the projects I’ve done, kids have generally enjoyed the experience. They haven’t reported any type of emotional or physical distress.”

In her research, she has found that children respond to the "characters" in a virtual environment as if the characters are real, which also raises interesting questions, Dr. Bailey noted. “These are short interactions, so there’s still a lot to learn and a lot to understand about it,” she added. 

At Stanford, Dr. Bailey was the recipient of the 2016-2017 Sesame Workshop Dissertation Award. She earned her undergraduate degree in Communication and a master’s in Sociology, both from Stanford as well.

Her past research has included studying how technology affects behavior change such as through Internet-based programs to reduce the risk of mental disorders and leveraging VR to promote pro-environmental behaviors in adults. In addition to her academic research and service, Bailey has advised children’s media company executives on the psychological, social, and ethical implications of VR in youth’s lives.

Interim Dean Randolph G. Bias said he is “thrilled” to welcome Dr. Bailey onboard as the school’s newest assistant professor. “Dr. Bailey studies the effects of media-technology on human behavior. One recent research thread of hers is on virtual reality’s influence on children’s cognitive skills and social interactions. Thus, she not only adds linkages among our current faculty members’ interests, but will broaden our connections across campus, and beyond. We are fortunate to have her on our team.”

Nordquist appointed clinical associate professor

Ferguson, John  |  Sep 25, 2017

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Eric Nordquist
Eric Nordquist
Faculty News

The iSchool’s Eric Nordquist has been appointed clinical associate professor.

An industry veteran of the user-experience field, with an educational background in experimental psychology, Nordquist has served in a variety of design, research and leadership roles at large corporations such as Boeing, Dell, General Motors and Rackspace. 

Nordquist’s career has spanned building a UX team at a design center in Singapore to designing software on a next-generation military program for Boeing. He also designed software that assembly-line workers used to do factory jobs for General Motors, and most recently he was Director of UX at Rackspace, the world’s largest managed cloud provider.

Nordquist became an adjunct faculty member of the School of Information in January 2016. This fall, he is teaching three courses on usability, designing rich user experiences, and rapid prototyping and lean UX methodologies.

“I am thrilled that we have hired Eric as our first clinical associate professor,” interim iSchool Dean Randolph Bias said. “His real-world experience as a UX practitioner and manager in leading technology companies will serve our students well, as indeed it already has when Eric served us as an adjunct professor. The list of recent iSchool MSIS grads who would volunteer ‘I landed my cool job thanks to Eric’ is large and growing. Eric understands the UX world—no kidding—as well as anyone I know.”

Q&A with Eric Nordquist

What's your vision for working with iSchool students?

My primary goal is sharing my 16 years of industry experience leading various user-experience teams to better prepare the students wanting to pursue a career in UX. We recently heard back from an industry partner who interviewed several of our students how excited they were at the ability of our students to “hit the ground running.”

As the field of UX continues to adapt and grow and new methods and tools are released, I want to ensure our students are up to speed on industry trends. As a program, the iSchool also provides an awesome opportunity for students to draw on the expertise of a very diverse set of faculty members who bring new ideas and ways of solving UX problems that are not available in all programs.

How will the UX field change in the next 5 to 10 years?

As the popularity of UX exploded over the last several years, there have been a lot of programs and certificates to educate people in order to keep up with the demand. Some of these programs have not kept such a strict focus on behavioral data-driven approaches to solving UX problems, and that is starting to become an issue. I see the UX field, in particular user research, going back to a more data-driven approach, but with methods that allow for a quickening of the pace to keep up with more agile delivery methods.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the recognition that UX-trained employees make excellent product managers. One of the barriers of entry for UX students is a lack of business acumen. We’re trying to take advantage of this by offering our students exposure to the role of a product manager—for example, in my Lean UX course—so our students are exposed to this opportunity. 


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