Monthly Archives: September 2022

NPR: “Rolling the dice on race in Dungeons & Dragons” (Aaron Trammell interviewed)

September 29, 2022

Dungeons & Dragons is one of the most popular tabletop roleplaying games of all time. But it has also helped cement some ideas about how we create and define race in fantasy — and in the tangible world. We take a deep dive into that game, and what we find about racial stereotypes and colonialist supremacy is illuminating.

Aaron Trammell is an assistant professor of informatics at UC Irvine, and he edits a scholarly journal about, “analog games” like D&D. He’s spent years studying the interplay between tabletop games and race. Aaron links the war gamer’s idea of historical accuracy to this adherence to all-white histories. … “They value things that are what they see as authentic. This becomes one of the big excuses of the fantasy war gaming community to not add more inclusive rules,” said Trammel.

Listen to the full podcast here:

Informatics Researchers Receive $1.2M to Improve Software Accessibility Testing Tools

September 26, 2022

Stacy Branham
Stacy Branham
Iftekhar Ahmed
Sam Malek

When Informatics Professors Sam Malek and Iftekhar Ahmed, and Ph.D. student Abdulaziz Alshayban, first studied accessibility issues in mobile applications, they found that close to 96% of the top 1,000 mobile apps in the Google Play Store had severe accessibility issues. In other words, they found people with disabilities — who account for approximately 15% of the world population — can’t properly use these apps. “Quite honestly, Iftekhar and I were shocked by the prevalence of accessibility issues in these popular apps,” says Malek. “After conducting additional studies with developers, we realized part of the problem has to do with the fact that developers (1) do not have a good understanding of accessibility guidelines and best practices, and (2) there are not many good tools available to help developers detect and fix accessibility issues prior to making their apps available on the app store.”

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Recrafting Computer Science: $1.5M NSF Grant Leads to New Course Offering

September 20, 2022

How can a loom, a device used to weave cloth and tapestry, enhance computational thinking and broaden participation in computer science in higher education? This question is at the center of a three-year collaboration between researchers from UCI and Carnegie Mellon University through a $1.5M grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The project, “Recrafting Computer Science: Fiber Crafting as Computational Thinking,” started in 2021 and is now launching computer science courses at CMU for fall 2022 and at UCI for spring 2023. The newly designed undergraduate computer science curriculum involves constructing and programming a robotic loom, offering a more tangible approach to computational thinking.

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ExperienceCraft: Creating a Custom Minecraft Server for Grieving Youth

September 14, 2022

More than 250,000 children in the United States have lost a parent or primary caregiver because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are 5.6 million children who, by age 18, will grieve the death of a parent or sibling. So there’s no question we need to create more thoughtful ways to support grieving youth. “You have to meet kids where they are,” says Courtney Dubin, chief program officer of Experience Camps, a nonprofit that supports grieving children through summer camp programs and other year-round initiatives.

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Ph.D. Student Nika Nour Awarded 2022 Google Fellowship to Explore Effects of Deepfakes

September 6, 2022

“I wasn’t even going to apply for this fellowship,” says Informatics Ph.D. student Nika Nour when asked about receiving the 2022 Google Fellowship. “I was so defeated because I had already received so many rejection letters from major tech companies and think tanks [that] I was this close to not applying.” In other words, Nour was “this close” to not receiving three years of paid tuition and fees; full funding for living expenses, travel and personal equipment; and guidance from a Google Research mentor.

Now, having secured this funding and support, Nour can hone in on her research into deepfakes — videos or images manipulated to misrepresent someone and present misinformation — and their effects on people and society.

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EdSurge: “Teaching ‘Digital Native’ College Students Who Understand TikTok — But Not Microsoft Excel” (Mimi Ito quoted)

It’s understandable that many educators perceive members of Gen Z to be internet-savvy. Young people often do have more advanced cultural fluency in an online environment, says Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist who studies young people and media technology at the University of California at Irvine. Their understanding of memes, social media platforms and other ways of communicating come from an adolescence where the default mode of socializing has been online.

“My generation, in those formative years where we’re building relationships and building our sense of self, we weren’t doing it through sharing memes or playing video games together,” Ito says. “That is a genuine advantage that young people have, because I think cultural fluency is really hard to be taught or pick up later in life.”

Read the full story at EdSurge.

Wired: “Trans Researchers Want Google Scholar to Stop Deadnaming Them” (Tess Tanenbaum quoted)

September 5, 2022

Picking her new name led Tess Tanenbaum to ponder many questions. Am I Josie or a Hanna? Should it sound similar to her previous masculine name? What will it look like as a signature? She began to walk around with a shortlist in her pocket. Ultimately she picked Theresa Jean, or Tess, because it made her full name sound like a pulp detective character or a superhero, and is reminiscent of her daughter’s middle name, Tesla. On July 4, 2019, Tess came out as transgender—her own independence day.

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