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GVU Center Brown Bag: Research and Engagement Grant Winners for Academic Year 2020-2021

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Sorting Through the Racks and CAPTCHAs: Exploring the Use and Regulation of Automation Tools by Communities of Online Fashion Resellers in Poshmark.com. Christopher Le Dantec (LMC), Robert Rosenberger (Public Policy), Sara Milkes Espinosa (LMC)

We are starting a collaboration between Digital Media and Public Policy that explores how gig workers’ labor is enmeshed with automation tools in Poshmark.com. Poshmark is an online reselling platform for secondhand fashion that offers a social retail model, like social media for secondhand clothes. This grant from IPAT and the GVU Center will allow us to carry out interviews with various workers that belong to the Poshmark ecosystem as sellers, as virtual assistants that fill the roles automation would otherwise do, or as the programmers that offer the automation tools. According to the company, most sellers and buyers are women in the U.S and Canada. As many other platforms of the gig economy, Poshmark has many sellers looking for supplemental income while others derive their earnings fully from their sales on the platform. The use of automation by the sellers is a complex issue because it is against Poshmark’s Terms of Service (ToS), yet the site design requires high amounts of tedious clicking and routine interaction to maintain product visibility. The interviews will allow us to better understand how the different resellers on Poshmark justify the use of automation and work along the boundaries of the ToS. We hope this will contribute to shedding light into the complex ways contemporary laborers are navigating a work landscape that increasingly includes automation.


Electrochromic Skin: Exploring the Design and Fabrication of Epidermal Displays for Somatic Data-Awareness. Sang Leigh (Industrial Design), W. Hong Yeo (Mechanical Engineering), Noah Posner (College of Design)

We explore an accessible and scalable fabrication method for soft printed displays—using a novel electrochromic material, PEDOT:PSS. The process could revolutionize existing forms of printed and wearable products; these include on-skin interfaces or textiles that can display digital information, and packagings, wallpapers or stickers that dynamically change their visual with minimal power consumption. We plan to deploy the technique in the form of a soft display microlab within the Interactive Product Design Lab (IPDL) at the College of Design, where students and researchers can create and customize printed displays using commercial inkjet printers and simple craft tools. We will explore various applications through design workshops involving students and researchers on campus, on the topics of epidermal health-tracking devices, smart packaging concepts for retail or food products, and apparels made with electrochromic textiles.


Healing Justice: Co-Designing for Black Communities. Susana Morris (LMC), Brooke Bosley (LMC)

During the summer of 2020, Black Americans faced a series of inequities from police brutality, to systemic racism, to COVID-19, all of which impacted Black communities at higher rates than other racial groups because of disparities in health and resources. Policies regarding defunding the police have been offered as solutions that could address racial inequity and injustice. Proponents of defunding legislation argue that reallocating funding from policing can allow funds to be reinvested in Black communities through entrepreneurship programs, mental health services, after school programs, and other resources that would offer community support. However, the language of defunding has faced much opposition, primarily because of misinformation and lack of clear explanation of what these policies truly mean for Black communities. As Black Media Studies Scholars, we seek to understand how this misinformation is trafficked on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Parler, and MeWe. The research project’s goals are threefold: to understand how proposed legislation on defunding the police tackles racial equity and justice, to analyze whether these defunding policies strengthen communities that are overpoliced (mainly Black neighborhoods), and to investigate how ideology online has impacted communities' perceptions around public safety.


COVID-19 and Child Maltreatment Through Two Different Lenses: Online Media and Official Administrative Reports. Diyi Yang (Interactive Computing), Lindsey Bullinger (Public Policy)

COVID-19 has profoundly changed all aspects of home and family life during most of 2020. Severe and sudden unemployment, school closures, and quarantining have created enormous challenges, particularly in the homes of children. Additional hardships may include public benefits office closures, limited hours for accessing essential services. These problems are also likely exacerbated among low-income families. Particularly in the lives of parents, social media plays a large role everyday life. For example, pre-pandemic, many parents used social networks and social media to exchange information, resources, and social support online. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the social distancing and lockdown orders have led to people spending even more time online. Given the current constraints with more traditional measures of child abuse and neglect (namely, fewer interactions with mandated reporters such as teachers), social media data can be leveraged to gain insight into how child well-being has fared during the pandemic. This research will combine social media data and administrative data on child maltreatment referrals to answer several research questions: (1) How has child exposure to violence changed during the COVID-19 pandemic according to social media data? (2) How do these online media data compare to administrative data on child maltreatment referrals? (3) How do these influences differ before and during the COVID-19 pandemic?


Developing a New Cellular-Based Sensor Platform for IoT/Smart Cities Projects. Russ Clark (Computer Science), Peter Presti (IMTC), Scott Gilliland (IMTC)

The networked LoRa-based processor board at the heart of the Sea Level Sensors Program has become a cornerstone of our IoT environmental sensing efforts. The field deployment and the data gathered is at the heart of a growing set of collaborations and projects across campus and in the community. Over the course of the project we have discovered a need for a low-powered cellular network-based sensor platform.  The goal of this work is to develop this new cellular platform that will fill a gap in our current toolkit for new projects and collaborations across campus and community partners.  The platform is designed to be easily modified, benefiting student projects and funded research alike. The resulting device will be customizable with a set of standardized off-the-shelf sensors to meet specific implementation requirements. Additionally, the targeted applications fit squarely in the UN sustainable development goals, especially that of Sustainable Cities and Communities, Good Health and Wellbeing, and Climate Action.


Going Pro: Bridging the Gap Between Georgia K-12 Students, STEM Education, and the E-Sports Industry. Laura Levy (IMTC), Sean Mulvanity (Bradwell Institute), Richard Catrambone (Psychology), Bryan Cox (GA Department of Education), Lien Diaz (Constellations Center)

Esports, or competitive video gaming, can be an effective way to motivate grade-school students in developing STEM skills and pursuing STEM fields. The most popular esports titles are team-based, placing high requirements on skills requiring communication, coordination, and compromise. Students excited by being a part of an esports team and community are likely to develop other skills, such as software and hardware engineering as well as web design and video editing, to supplement their play performance and contribute to their team in ways outside of playing the game. However, there remain barriers to entry for schools and students in implementing esports programs. While public sentiment on esports is changing for the positive, there can still be doubt and misunderstandings around the benefits for esports programs in school administrations, educators, parents, and students alike. Even for schools convinced by the beneficial impacts of esports programs, there can be confusion in how to navigate the evolving landscape of leagues, games, and equipment to purchase. Finally, and particularly for schools in rural Georgia, there is a lack of connection for schools and students with the state of the industry, which often manifests in misconceptions on what it means to pursue a STEM career in the games industry. This proposal focuses on rural and underserved communities in Georgia, to further the mission of service by Georgia Tech for educational outreach in the state. This project proposes a two part engagement with all virtual activities, to maintain safe best practices during COVID-19 while also maximizing our outreach to students that can benefit the most from this engagement but are located geographically far from Georgia Tech. Virtual interviews and focus groups with educators, students, and parents will inform the design and content of a virtual workshop with esports industry partners meant to help orient, educate, and provide resources for stakeholders across the state in the benefits and process of incorporating esports programs in K-12 schools.


Alone Together: Empowering Student Community Building and Content Engagement Through Digital Collaboration in Remote Learning. Laura Levy (IMTC), Anne Sullivan (LMC)

The landscape of education delivery has dramatically changed due to COVID-19 with students and instructors doing their best to adapt to virtual learning formats. The speed and extent of changes to remote instruction during COVID-19 have presented a number of challenges and, as a result, many students express feelings of disconnectedness and have difficulties engaging with material in a remote format. Additionally, virtual formats primarily rely on a narrow range of evaluative assessments that can prevent students from expressing full mastery of course material and magnify impacts of accessibility issues already existing in traditional classroom settings (e.g. access issues for students with cognitive or perceptual disabilities). Video conferencing can be intimidating for unconfident students or for those where English is not their primary language, and many students may not have stable enough internet connections to be able to use video, voice, or even know if what they are seeing is in real time. Therefore, we propose to identify and analyze existing digital tools and their best practices that can be adopted to improve students’ sense of community, increase course material engagement, and provide alternative ways to demonstrate mastery. This proposed work seeks to produce timely knowledge on platforms and practices that better support student course engagement and feelings of connectedness during remote education. While the impetus for this work is COVID-19, the outcomes of this work can be useful beyond the pandemic and we hypothesize that they will be generalizable to other forms of remote education and remote collaboration in the workforce.

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Schedule of Brown Bag Speakers Spring 2021