In my research, I seek to understand, design, and implement socio-technical systems that empower individuals and groups to contribute to knowledge production and community building. Socio-technical systems are complex information systems that closely integrate social dynamics and advanced technology. Online communities such as Wikipedia, health support groups, and hyperlocal platforms are examples of socio-technical systems. Socio-technical systems are highly embedded in all aspects of our lives, changing the way we create, seek and share information, the way we seek and provide social support, the way we collaborate to solve big societal problems such as community safety and well-being. My multidisciplinary research builds upon the theoretical foundations of computation, social psychology, organizational behavior, and education. I take an engineering approach, extending those theoretical foundations by conducting experiments and building processes and technologies to understand how these systems can be more effectively designed and implemented. My research particularly aims to answer three fundamental questions:

  1. What contributes to the sustainability of socio-technical systems that rely heavily on the contributions of individual users?
  2. How can we encourage participation of under-represented groups in socio-technical systems?
  3. What is the value of these systems for their users and beyond?

Socio-technical systems such as Wikipedia, online health support groups, and hyperlocal online platforms have been the driving force behind supporting millions of patients and their caregivers, facilitating contribution to free and open knowledge, and strengthening local communities. They play an important role in empowering individuals and communities to develop, produce, and share. With their abundant popularity and utilization, online communities influence the world.s population on a large scale. Naturally, there are challenges, shortcomings, and drawbacks to these communities, as well. My research focuses on studying these issues, from a socio-technical perspective. I am developing methods to study the complex nature of such systems and designing processes and tools to build more effective socio-technical systems.

Sustainability of Online Communities

Despite their proliferation into many aspects of everyday life, online production communities face a key challenge: how to sustain member engagement and willingness to contribute to the public good. For example, Wikipedia gains more than 1,200 new editors each week; however, 60% do not return after an initial editing venture. Indeed, Wikipedia has experienced a steady decline in active contributors since 2007, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of articles in Wikipedia are below the community standard for .good. articles. Retaining new editors after they join, sustaining the contributions of existing editors, and attracting new editors from underrepresented groups are top priorities inWikipedia.s strategic plan as well as for many other online communities such as health support groups. The goals of my research are to study volunteers. participation in online production communities, focusing on individual-level and group-level interconnected characteristics and community structures.

Encouraging Participation of Minorities in Online Communities

The challenge of sustaining contributions and maintaining a continuous stream of newcomers to online production communities, such as Wikipedia, is even more acute when targeting a diverse population of users. While it has been widely acknowledged that diversity plays an important role in the success of production communities, several studies have highlighted a phenomenon of gender imbalance in Wikipedia that indicates only around 15% of Wikipedia contributors identify as female and a very small percentage of Wikipedia contributions are made by female editors. It has further been documented that this gender inequality has resulted in quantitative and qualitative inequality in representation of topics more attractive to female readers as well as inequality in representation of biographies of notable women. Together with Prof. Saiph Savage at West Virginia University, we are investigating this challenge. We have been developing tools and processes to promote more diverse participation in online production communities

Online Communities beyond the OnlineWorld

While there is an abundance of digital traces of users. behavior in online communities, it has been an ongoing challenge to gauge the impact of online communities on their members outside of the online world as the offline traces are often invisible to researchers. In many cases, however, the goal of the online communities are to have an impact in the physical world and lives of their members. For example, an important goal of online health support groups is to provide emotional and informational support to improve the wellbeing of their members. However, it is a challenge to understand how the patients. online behavior relates to their well-being. Similarly, hyperlocal online communities that are dedicated to individuals within a specific locale, seek to improve the experiences of their members in the physical world, whether it is to better connect them to their neighbors, or help them to find particular businesses in their locale, or to offer them opportunities to attend events close to home. For such communities, while the online participation plays an important role in forming the online community, what members do in the physical world outside the digital realm is the primary goal of the systems. I aim to address the challenge of connecting online behavior to offline activities and behavior by developing (1) techniques and social processes to generate traces of offline behavior through boundary objects that can transition between online and offline worlds; and (2) computational models to predict offline behavior from online activities. I am particularly passionate about my research in this area, a relatively new research endeavor for me. I am dedicating a great deal of time and effort to develop this into a stronger research area.

Educational Games

Supporting individuals. learning and a sense of efficacy, particularly in foundational academic topics such as mathematics, is key to their sense of empowerment. In pursuit of my passion for building technologies to empower individuals, over the past year, I have started a new direction of research about educational games and how under-represented students in STEM can benefit from educational games. In collaboration with Prof. Bruce McLaren and Prof. Jodi Forlizzi at Carnegie Mellon University, I am conducting research on understanding the features and conditions that lead to the successes and failures of educational games

Social Navigation

In my PhD dissertation work, I studied the phenomena of "social navigation" in information spaces. Social navigation, defined as "navigation towards cluster of people", happens very often in the physical world. We tend to follow traces of other people especially those with whom we share goals, interest, and opinions. In my research, I studied how social navigation can be implemented in information space and how it affects users' behavior.