Research + Teaching + Practice

Sketch for TAPoR 3.0 – privileging the collection.

As a practicing design researcher, teacher, and feminist I am passionate about the potential of design to serve those who are marginalized, vulnerable, or under-represented. I’ve designed interfaces to support humanities scholars in their work; to connect breast cancer survivors; to help protect wildlife in provincial parks; and to challenge marginalizing practices in the oil sands. I’ve volunteered design services with numerous not-for-profit organizations, including UNICEF, John Humphrey Centre for Human Rights and Freedoms, Nova Scotia Palliative Care Association, and the Nova Scotia Heart & Stroke Foundation. Concurrently, I am a strong advocate of self-actualization and believe that, in the words of one of our nation’s heroes, “it’s a good life if you don’t weaken.”(1) I am a designer in everything I do. I look at problems as opportunities to “[devise a] course of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”(2) Since 2005, I’ve collaborated on over 25 interdisciplinary design research projects, four of those had budgets in the millions, extending over longer periods (anywhere from two to seven years). Alongside my research practice, I’ve embraced my role as an educator at Mount Royal University. MRU has been the perfect home for me: we pride ourselves on small class sizes, on-going instructor development, and a focus on teaching excellence. I believe that the undergraduate experience is essential in establishing good intellectual and professional practices and, for over 15 years, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to teach students just entering these domains.

I have an Masters in Design (MDes) in Visual Communication and a PhD in Comparative Literature and Humanities Computing from the University of Alberta. I’ve co-authored more than 50 publications on data visualization, aesthetics, interaction design, interaction theory, and design for large text collections. I am the co-author of the book Visual Interface Design for Digital Cultural Heritage: A Guide to Rich-Prospect Browsing.

1. Downey, Gord. “It’s a Good Life if you Don’t Weaken.” The Tragically Hip. In Violet Light, 2002.
2. Simon, Herbert. The Sciences of the Artificial. 3d ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996. Print.

Keywords: Critical Design, Information Design, Data Visualization, Feminist HCI, Rich-Prospect Browsing, Human-Computer Interaction, Decision Support Systems, User Engagement, Design Strategy.

Current Projects

  • Visualization for decision support in multi-modal industry
  • Materialization of Text Analytical Experiences
  • Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE), which includes:
    • workflows as structured surfaces
    • the dynamic table of contexts
    • the paper drill
  • Graphical Representation of Collection Items
  • TAPoR: Text Analysis Portal for Research
  • Digital Humanities + Interaction Design Repository
  • Introducing Significant Design Change in Digital Humanities
  • Extending Rich-Prospect Browsing Theory
  • Critical Theory Approach to Visibility and Pluralism in Design

Graduate Advising

I am interested in working with graduate students on projects that deal with the theorization, design, prototyping, and testing of experimental information artifacts, interactive tools, and data visualizations.

The main focus of my research activities is in the design and development of interactive systems that enhance human access to information using visual and information design processes and techniques. I am driven by a user-centred approach and the belief that machines should help meet human needs, whether to entertain, educate, collaborate, make decisions, or complete tasks. The subject matter of these projects can potentially cover a wide range, and I welcome students who want to investigate a subject emergent out of their own interests and passions.

Many of the interfaces I have designed are experimental in nature. Experimental interface design typically proceeds iteratively, through a research life cycle that includes three phases: conceptual and theoretical work supported by sketches; prototyping informed by user study; and production and implementation, with further information provided by analysis of logs. The objective of this research is not primarily to implement current best practices, but rather to help invent the next generation of best practices.

I am particularly interested in design as theory reification, in critical design, and in feminist HCI.