The Graduate School
G-1 Communications Building
Seattle, Washington 98195-3770
The Mary Ann and John D. Mangels Fund
March 6, 2013 | 6:30 p.m.
Kane Hall, Room 120
You do not need to be an alum of the University of Washington to attend or register.
Powered in partnership with the UW Alumni Association
Computing for Social Justice and Sustainability
Computational sciences provide us with a powerful array of technologies for visualization, simulation and analysis. But their power is more often at the service of military and industry than the visions of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. From complexity theory and nanotechnology to DIY sensors and crowdsourcing, there are exciting possibilities for not only applying computing to problems in social justice and sustainability, but using those challenges as drivers for new innovation and research.
About Ron Eglash
Ron Eglash is an American cyberneticist, university professor, and author. He is best known for his research on the relationships between under-served cultural groups and modern technology, such as the use of fractal patterns in African architecture, art, and religion; algorithms in Native American material and spiritual practices; and the "appropriation" of technologies by urban youth subcultures. His educational background includes a Bachelor's degree in Cybernetics, a Master's in Systems Engineering, and a Ph.D. in History of Consciousness, all from the University of California. A Fulbright fellowship enabled his postdoctoral field research, which was later published in the book African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design, and more recently appeared as his TED talk.
Much of Dr. Eglash's research applies these findings to the development of information technologies for teaching children math and computing through simulations of indigenous and vernacular cultural practices. He explains that the simulations do not impose knowledge from the outside, but rather translate the ideas already present in the cultural practices to their equivalent form in school-taught math and computing. Examples include transformational geometry in cornrow braiding, spiral arcs in graffiti, least common multiples in Latino percussion rhythms, and analytic geometry in Native American beadwork. His approach is one of many attempts to draw the inspiration to learn out of students' own cultural backgrounds.
Dr. Eglash's NSF-funded "Triple Helix" project expands this approach of merging social justice issues with technology innovation to other practices: for example the development of sensors for environmental pollution in low-income communities, and the use of cell phones for HIV prevention. Other research involves exploring the ethnic identity of "nerds"; and examining how the "bottom-up" egalitarian principles found in many indigenous cultures could be applied to self-organization in modern society in fields from economics to political science.
His current position is Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he has taught courses on Science and Social Theory, the History of Information Technology, and a design studio for the Product Design and Innovation program.
- UW Graduate School
- UW Alumni Association
- Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program