The Future of Information Alliance (FIA) is a campus-wide initiative facilitated by the Office of the Vice President for Research with participation from every academic college and co-directed by Professor Allison Druin, Associate Dean of the iSchool, and Associate Professor Ira Chinoy of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The Alliance will be a catalyst for transdisciplinary dialogue and research on evolving issues related to the role of information in our lives. By identifying shared challenges and encouraging innovative solutions, the Alliance seeks to facilitate a future in which information in all its forms can be an effective resource for everyone.
This program explored the movement of information generated in realms of scientific expertise across not only disciplinary lines but into the realms of personal life and public policy, where specialized knowledge can have enormous impact in such areas as health literacy, communication, food safety, and the environment. Questions asked during the presentation included: What are the challenges in translation from one information culture to another? Where are the opportunities? The program featured a panel of accomplished faculty members (Aldoory, Buchanan, Espy-Wilson, Palmer) who discussed these issues with "Visiting Future-ists" Chowdhury, Czerwinski and Russell.
This program explored both the promise and peril of an era in which free-flowing information raises issues of security, privacy, ownership, in which the response of governments has included both improved access and obstacles to transparency, and in which the use of social media has been been able to breach the walls erected by repressive regimes in some places but not in others. The program featured a panel of accomplished faculty members (Bederson, Khamis and Jaeger) with expertise ranging from e-government to mobile computing to the role of social media in the unfolding "Arab Spring." Following their presentations, the speakers discussed the issues of transparency and boundaries with "Visiting Future-ists" Chowdhury, Czerwinski and Russell.
This program cast a wide net -- from performance to art to entrepreneurship -- in considering the information-seeking and sharing activities involved in creative endeavors. Faculty members Elahi, Epstein and Wilson Smiley made presentations about what they saw as the role of information in creativity, and talked with "Visiting Future-ists" Chowdhury, Czerwinski and Russell about the challenges and opportunities ahead at the intersection of information, creativity and culture.
Presenters at the program were three “Visiting Future-ists”: Dan Russell, Google's "director of user happiness," who leads efforts to improve the effectiveness of web searching and keynote speaker at the campus-wide Future of Information Forum held in November 2010; Mary Czerwinski, who manages the research on human-computer interaction at Microsoft and focuses on information visualization, group awareness and lifelogging; and Abdur Chowdhury, former chief scientist at Twitter, who has been working toward improving the ability to separate "signal" from "noise" in the explosion of information on the Web. The Visiting Future-ists described their work in helping to innovate for the future information environment, and discussed the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. They also engaged the audience in brainstorming aimed at identifying information-related issues that can best be addressed through interdisciplinary research.