Where are you from?
Bangalore. Formerly the Garden City of India, it is a melting pot for people from all over the country. Thanks to the great weather and the number of technology jobs available, it’s also commonly called the Silicon Valley of India.
What is your educational and/or professional background?
My background is in Computer Science & Engineering and I worked as a software developer for some time before deciding to come to Georgia Tech to pursue my Masters in Human Computer Interaction. During my masters here, I fell in love with the open source hardware prototyping platforms, and used them to design several exertion interfaces for games, which eventually became part of my thesis as well. I graduated from the program in 2011, and joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a User Experience Designer. Designing, prototyping and testing CDC’s internal and consumer-facing applications gave me a holistic perspective on developing technologies for the masses. I joined the Digital Media PhD program in the fall of 2013 so I could take a more speculative and scholarly approach to designing civic technologies.
What activities are you involved with on campus?
I am part of the Public Design Workshop here at Tech, and work with my advisor Carl DiSalvo to conduct design workshops with various community partners within Atlanta. These workshops focus on different issues of concern related to food, data, and technologies that make up contemporary urban life. I have also organized design based learning workshops with participants from the Center for Puppetry Arts, the High Museum of Art and Boys and Girls clubs in Atlanta. Applying the Serve-Learn-Sustain model to the undergraduate course I teach (Principles of Visual Design) has allowed me to connect with local community partners and design projects that help meet theirs as well as the students’ needs.
Describe your interests in the digital media field.
I enjoy designing speculative technologies that impact civic life, while paying attention to issues of representation, participation and empowerment. Approaching problems from a design based research perspective, I build tangible software and hardware artifacts that bring ideas to life.
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on so far? Why?
My favorite project so far would have to be the work I did in the summer of 2016 as a Fellow with Data Science for Social Good, where I worked with the Westside Communities Alliance in Atlanta to develop the Public Safety Module of their Data Dashboard. The work involved working closely with our community partners to understand their needs and aspirations, which made us constantly reevaluate why we were building what we were. This work also gave me a good foundation to build my dissertation proposal on, which looks at how marginalized communities create, consume and use data within publically available data dashboards.
Why did you choose Digital Media at Georgia Tech?
I learnt about all the exciting research within Digital Media during my masters. The thing that drew me to it the most was the quality and diversity of people involved and the kinds of research they were engaged in. I was able to pursue my interests in design based research, technology and community engagement, all within the confines of a single lab. The fact that the Digital Media program is housed within the liberal arts college in an engineering university like Tech allows us to gain a unique humanistic perspective on a technological world. This program is a blessing to folks like myself, who have an interest in not only building technologies, but also understanding their social impact.
What are your ambitions after finishing the Digital Media program?
I’d ideally want to be in an environment that can afford the time and money to do design based speculative research. Only time will tell if that opportunity awaits within industry or academia.
Why would you recommend the Digital Media program to others?
If you aren’t intimidated by nerds and want to be involved in cutting edge research at the intersection of computing and liberal arts, Digital Media is the place to be.