Technology is powered by people. From engineers to end users, individuals propel forward the innovations that support and sustain our civilization. Informatics delves into the strategy behind these innovations, exposes their inner workings and blazes a trail to stunning advances in technological capability. Through incisive analysis and inspired creativity, informatics is the building block of a successful modern society.
Ideas take flight
Whether it’s built by an individual at home, a small business or a corporate behemoth like Google, technology starts as an idea. Fleshing out that idea through design and development involves a multi-faceted process shaped by programming challenges, market competition and the ever-increasing scale of the systems we create. The Department of Informatics is a leader in addressing all aspects of technology production. Our faculty are expanding the horizons of technological possibility with projects like Calico, an intuitive, sketch-based software design environment for use on touch-based devices. A hallmark of design is the creation of many sketches detailing a wide array of potential options; these sketches are continuously modified and refined until an eventual solution emerges. Now in use in places such as the UCI Stem Cell Research Center for clinical trial design and Cooper for interaction design, Calico facilitates and amplifies this creative process to help designers everywhere imagine new possibilities.
Cultivating the crowd
The notion of “collective intelligence” is altering how we think about what it means to be creative. Crowdsourcing, hackerspaces and the constant evolution of new media enable brainstorming on a massive scale and emphasize the creativity of the group over individual invention. This phenomenon even extends to the scientific realm, where large, cyber-based research collectives partner to solve the most difficult problems. Unpacking the phenomenon, as well as crafting tools, advancing projects and shaping policy in this domain, is the province of informatics, and our department is world-renowned for leading the way. “Values in Design,” our annual, intensive summer workshop attended by graduate students in a range of disciplines and from around the globe, helps illustrate the centrality of our role. By bringing together tomorrow’s leaders in social theory, design, computer engineering and business, the workshop explores — through the building of prototypes — how values are being woven into the fabric of new technology infrastructures.