Increasingly, our everyday experiences are mediated by, and filtered through, diverse technologies that help us navigate the world. We can make purchases by mobile phone. Our health history is captured in expansive databases that are becoming accessible online. Informatics studies these phenomena, revealing patterns that inform our decisions and pioneering fresh approaches to the challenges and opportunities of our digital age.
Untangling the social network
Today, our social lives play out across a highly intertwined web of real- and virtual-world interactions. The implications are enormous, compelling us to reimagine our understanding of interpersonal relationships and to redefine our expectations of how they continue to unfold. Consider that social media now occupies a prominent place in everything from crisis response to commerce, public policy to scientific discovery. At UC Irvine, the Department of Informatics keeps its finger on the pulse of this movement, not only offering key insight into evolving practices, but also empowering individuals, companies, governments and others to anticipate and leverage these trends in the United States and abroad. One way we do it is through the Center for Social Computing. Funded by an initial investment from Intel, the Center conducts groundbreaking research that explores and builds new understandings of how digital technology is woven into everyday life in areas as diverse as political movements, urban space and consumer analytics. Wherever we turn, technology is changing how we engage with the world around us; knowing what this means — and how it affects us — is crucial.
Innovations that matter
In every country and across all walks of life, people encounter situations that make it challenging to care for themselves. Autistic children may have difficulty staying on task. Senior citizens may need assistance ensuring that they take their medicine and get appropriate exercise. For them and for countless others, technology holds tremendous promise in improving quality of life — and the Department of Informatics is at the forefront of exploring the role that it can play. Its Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction (LUCI) is a case in point. LUCI researchers have developed a system to help preterm babies get the best start possible, utilizing accelerometers to recognize a pattern of involuntary gestures that is highly correlated with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. After an initial trial that yielded a diagnosis accuracy rate of up to 90 percent, LUCI scientists have continued to hone their technique, offering the prospect of early intervention to millions of families worldwide.