Informatics Professor Emeritx Bonnie Nardi Receives 2020 Social Impact Award

February 21, 2020

Each year, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI) honors leaders in the field of human-computer interaction, and this year, Informatics Professor Emeritx Bonnie Nardi was one of two recipients of the 2020 Social Impact Award.

“I was honored and thrilled to receive the award,” says Nardi. “Any achievement is, of course, the result of collective effort, and I am grateful for the amazing colleagues with whom I have worked.”

The award recognizes individuals who apply HCI research to pressing social needs, and Nardi’s research into the political economy and sustainability has challenged the status quo, providing a new perspective on the role of computing in understanding and dealing with real-world limits. The Communications of the ACM paper she co-authored with a multidisciplinary group of researchers, including Informatics Professor Bill Tomlinson, delves into the relationship between fundamental planetary limits and computing research.

“The recognition the award brings signals our shared sense that sustainability is something we can’t ignore any longer,” she explains. “Alarms were sounded decades ago, outcomes are worse than predicted, and the situation is sobering,” she admits, “but optimism is a form of resistance, and hope is humanity’s signature strategy, always giving us a card to play, even under difficult circumstances such as those we face now.”

Finding ways to “reshape the computing research agenda” to build future sustainable systems will be the topic of discussion at LIMITS 2020, a workshop series Nardi and Tomlinson helped create back in 2015. The upcoming event will comprise workshops at both USC in Los Angeles and at the University of Bristol in the UK on June 21 and 22.

Nardi will also have an opportunity to give a talk about her work at CHI 2020 in April, a perk of receiving the Social Impact Award. Furthermore, she will receive an honorarium of $5,000 and a lifetime invitation to the annual SIGCHI award banquet.

At the 2020 banquet, Nardi will share the stage with Ronald M. Baecker, emeritus professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, who also received the 2020 Social Impact award, in part for recent research focused on technological aids for aging gracefully. Nardi also shares this recognition with her colleague Gillian Hayes, the Robert A. and Barbara L. Kleist Professor in Informatics who won the 2019 Social Impact Award for her HCI research focused on vulnerable populations, including children and under-represented groups.

Nardi adds this award to her collection, which includes a Lasting Impact Award for a paper on instant messaging she co-authored in 2000 as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Society for Socially Embedded Technology (EUSSET). In 2015, she received a UCI Celebration of Teaching Instructional Technology Innovation Award for an online course on sustainability. She hopes the Social Impact Award helps raise awareness about sustainability challenges. “I hope others are encouraged to address the issues in their own research.”

Shani Murray