Information Studies Theses and Dissertations

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    Building Virtual Friendships through Mirrored Gestures
    (2022) Oshiro, Miya Sanura; Leitch, Alex; Library & Information Services; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    During the COVID-19 pandemic isolation period, social gaming was an effective way for people to find connections and alleviate feelings of loneliness. However, the communication systems built within these games have limitations. In-game communication systems usually consist of emotes, predetermined avatar gestures, and simple chat features. Due to these limitations, critical social cues, such as nonverbal synchrony, are lost during these online interactions. This study evaluates the integration of nonverbal gesture synchrony in social games as a potential addition to existing communication systems to foster genuine social connections between players during online play. The game environment for this research study is an emote-based and a gesture-based version of the social game When comparing the two versions in structured game sessions, this study found an enjoyment preference for the gesture-based experience. However, after further discussion, it was determined that there was no overall preference for this experience over the emote-based design. These results revealed that when engaging with open-play games like the gesture-based system, some players felt vulnerable, experienced player distrust, and became more conscious of the interaction context.
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    Examining Technology Tools Used in Online Intergenerational Participatory Design Teams
    (2022) Wang, Ting-Hsuan; Subramaniam, Mega; Library & Information Services; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many intergenerational design teams were forced to pivot to online sessions and had to rely heavily on technology tools to facilitate these sessions. This thesis examines the technology tools used in two intergenerational participatory design teams and explores how these tools affect design participants (both children and adults) to execute participatory design techniques to their full potential. Through exploratory analysis of data collected from four sources (observation of participatory design sessions, participatory design sessions’ artifacts, semi-structured interviews with adult participants, and expert interviews), this thesis reports on three themes that emerged on how technology tools impact online intergenerational collaboration: 1) social ability online, 2) technical challenges, and 3) power dynamics in online participatory design sessions. To mitigate the barriers caused by technology tools, recommendations on the participatory design processes as well as design of technology tools used in online participatory design work are discussed, with the aspirational goal of achieving equal partnership in the intergenerational design process. The findings of this research would ultimately encourage further meaningful collaboration in online synchronous design teams of all ages.
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    (2022) Douglass, Courtney L.; Jaeger, Paul; Library & Information Services; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Information scholars, educators and librarians have grappled with defining the concept of information literacy for decades – at least as far back as the 1970’s – with the most prominent common thread being as a set of skills. In pedagogy and practice, what higher education currently calls information literacy is delivered more akin to research skills or the ability to effectively conduct and share research in its myriad forms. It is problematic that for so long the emphasis on research and academic skills has wholly devalued those sources deemed non-traditional by academic measures, including popular sources, pop-culture entertainment, and the power of observation. Ironically this emphasis on academic research skills diminishes the extreme societal impact non-traditional sources and stories have had throughout the information age in which we currently find ourselves. In this dissertation, I provide a curriculum map for the required courses in five Undergraduate Information Science Programs, with the dual purpose of aligning instruction practices and gaps with the aforementioned impacts as they determine what information literacy should mean, and encouraging iSchools to adopt and promote a socially constructed model of information literacy, which I am terming i-Literacy. This study demonstrates how iSchool undergraduate programs emphasize understanding that different information mediums are required based on audience, user needs, and the information problem, but may not highlight social and civic responsibility with information use and sharing. The map also shows a strong alignment between the seemingly antiquated ‘Bibliographic Instruction’ practices from the 1980’s and 90’s, and the current pedagogy based on the ACRL Framework.
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    “Just Like the Library”: Exploring the experiences of former library student assistants' post-graduation careers and perceptions of job preparedness as impacted by library work
    (2022) Ofsthun, Franklin; O'Grady, Ryan; Library & Information Services; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Career success is a major component of assessing student success, and at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), a small campus supporting nine state universities, post-graduation success is understudied. Students employed by USG’s Priddy Library are subject to a professional development (PD) program that emphasizes skill building, professional experiences, and career competencies. This thesis uses interviews from seven former student employees to determine what students retain from the program a year after graduation, to explore their feelings on early career experiences, and to determine what Priddy Library and USG can do to better prepare students for their post-graduation careers. Job satisfaction was most positively correlated with workplace social support and most negatively correlated with overwork. Participants felt overall positively about their experiences at USG and the library, and emphasized the role that social support played in their success. Participants identified many career competencies developed at the library that they continue to use in their post-graduation careers, most notably, customer service, communication, critical thinking, time management, and professionalism. Participants shared feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy despite degree and skill acquisition, indicating that more effort should be made to build students’ professional confidence.
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    (2022) Pradhan, Alisha; Lazar, Amanda; Library & Information Services; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Till date, research on aging in HCI has largely adopted human-centered approaches, such as user-centered and participatory design. However, recent research is beginning to question this “humanistic” focus in aging. Through this dissertation, I provide a case of adopting posthumanist entanglement perspective to understand the ‘more-than-human’ aspects of aging. Posthumanist entanglement perspectives [71]—previously adopted by HCI researchers in different contexts varying from creative design to technical areas such as machine learning and neural networks—attunes to the agency of nonhuman world in addition to the human world to account for how humans and their socio-material worlds are entangled. In Study 1, I investigate older adults’ ontological perceptions with respect to a popular emerging technology to examine the phenomena of “ontological uncertainty” (here, ontologies refer to how things exist and what categories they belong to). Although some researchers adopting entanglement perspectives in HCI argue that ontological uncertainty is posed by emerging technologies such as AI, IoT [71], we lack an understanding of when this uncertainty emerges, and why this matters. Here, the first study of my dissertation focuses on older adults’ use of emerging AI-based voice assistants, and contributes by providing an empirical understanding of the different factors that contribute to ontological uncertainty (e.g., location in house, time, user’s desire for companionship), and provides recommendations for designing voice technologies with ontological categorization in mind. In the next two threads of my work, I attune to the agency of nonhuman entities and how they shape reality associated with older adults’ use of emerging technology (Study 2), and when older individuals engage in designing emerging technology (Study 3). My analysis from Study 2 reveals how nonhuman actors such as materials and norms play a role in shaping older adults’ preference and use of voice technologies. My findings also reveal the salient ways in which voice assistants play an active role in mediating relations between older adults and their larger social world. These mediations are shaping our social practices around what it means to live alone, to give company, or to give and receive care. Finally, my analysis from Study 3— which adopts a posthumanist perspective to understand older adults’ engagement in design workshops— reveals the nuanced ways in which designs materials (both expected and unexpected) act in relation to older adults: from facilitating creative brainstorming, to limiting creative brainstorming, to leading to clashing of ideas, and contributing to non-participation in the design activity. My findings also reveal how older adults went beyond focusing on just the technology idea to account for the physical objects or the environment associated with both technology use and non-use, thus bringing to attention that technology cannot be seen, used, or designed in isolation, and exists within specific configurations of actor-networks. Overall, my thesis contributes by providing insights on the new directions that HCI researchers working on aging can take in terms of: a) taking into account the ways in which the nonhuman entities act and hold them accountable for undesired realities, b) designing emerging technologies that support meaningful relationships between older adults and their world, and c) move beyond designing technology in isolation to instead purposefully situate older adults in designing meaningful configurations of human and nonhuman entities (including technology).