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Sociotechnical Road Show

I’m off to Troy, NY tonight to wave the sociotechnical banner at an NSF workshop. I’ll be giving a short (~10 minutes) talk on Thursday afternoon, and I’m working on my talk notes. Some of you already know I like to give a different kind of talk – minimalist slides, helpful pictures and videos, lots of movement – but I’m not sure how such a talk with fly at this workshop. I chickened out in 2005 when I gave a talk about RideNow at the GROUP Conference, but I’m going for gold this week. The role of graduate students in these workshops is unclear to me, but it’s obvious that I have an audience I wouldn’t normally encounter.

Here’s the white paper I submitted. One of the organizers must have liked it because they invited me to come and talk during the doctoral student forum. I’ll be talking about how the data generated by wireless sensing technology may be used/studied for understanding the structural health of our civil infrastructure (think bridges). Real-time data about the health of a structure could be immensely useful for engineers monitoring its needs for repair, for rescue workers responding to a fire or other calamity, and researchers looking for ways to improve structures (and wireless sensing, for that matter). It’s pretty easy for me to get excited about studying how first responders and rescue workers would use such data and the information flows it produces, but I think I need to stay closer to engineers in this talk. We’ll see though, I guess.

I admit, I’m nervous about the workshop. Every list of invitees or participants that I’ve seen is incredibly male- and computer science-dominated. I’d rather not deal with gender and disciplinary politics at every turn, but such is life. I’ll try not to let the various layers of politics derail me this week. I’ve been given an interesting opportunity in being invited, but I’m not quite sure what that opportunity offers. I’ll follow up from Troy later this week.

So, what do you think ?

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