Nassim Parvin

Associate Professor

Member Of:
  • School of Literature, Media, and Communication
  • Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center
Email Address:
nassim@gatech.edu
Office Location:
TSRB 320
Related Links:

Overview

Personal Pronouns:
she/her/hers

Dr. Parvin (JafariNaimi) is an Associate Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech, where she also directs the Design and Social Justice Studio. Parvin’s research explores the ethical and political dimensions of design and technology, especially as related to values of democratic participation and social justice. Integrating methods of humanistic scholarship and design-based inquiry, her research answers pressing questions about the influence of digital technologies on the future of social and collective interactions. Her papers have appeared in premier publication venues in design studies, science and technology studies, and human-computer interaction.

Parvin has a lead editorial role in Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, an innovative open-access journal in the expanding interdisciplinary field of STS that recently received 2020 Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Infrastructure Award. She also serves as the associate director of Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center, an interdisciplinary research center funded by the Mellon Foundation; and the associate director of Ethics, Technology, and Human Interaction Center (ETHICx). Parvin’s teaching has received multiple recognitions inclusive of the campus-wide 2017 GATECH CETL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award. Her designs have been deployed at non-profit organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and exhibited in venues such as the Smithsonian Museum, receiving multiple awards and recognitions. Dr. Parvin received her PhD in Design from Carnegie Mellon University. She holds an MS in Information Design and Technology from Georgia Tech and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tehran.

Education:
  • PhD, Carnegie Mellon University
  • MS, Georgia Tech
Awards and
Distinctions:
  • 2017 Georgia Tech CETL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award
  • 2016 Ivan Allen College Teacher of the Year Award

Interests

Research Fields:
  • Digital Media
  • Media Studies
  • Science and Technology Studies
Issues:
  • Inequality and Social Justice
  • Community engagement
  • Digital and Mixed Media
  • Philosophy
  • Science and Technology

Courses

  • LCC-3206: Communication & Culture
  • LCC-3710: Prin-Interaction Design
  • LCC-6311: Visual Culture & Design
  • LCC-6340: Mixed Reality Exp Design
  • LCC-6650: Project Studio
  • LMC-3705: Prin Information Design
  • LMC-3710: Prin Interaction Design
  • LMC-3833: Special Topics in STAC
  • LMC-4102: Senior Thesis
  • LMC-6311: Visual Culture and Desi
  • LMC-6318: Experimental Media
  • LMC-6399: Discovery & Invention
  • LMC-6650: Project Studio
  • LMC-6748: Social Justice & Design
  • LMC-6800: DM MS Project Course
  • LMC-8001: Digital Media Studies
  • LMC-8801: Special Topics

All Publications

Journal Articles

  • Unintended by Design: On the Political Uses of “Unintended Consequences”
    In: Engaging Science, Technology, and Society
    Date: August 2020

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  • Look Up and Smile! Seeing through Alexa's Algorithmic Gaze
    In: Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: 2019

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  • Doing Justice to Stories: On Ethics and Politics of Digital Storytelling
    In: Engaging Science, Technology, and Society [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: 2018

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  • Our Bodies in the Trolley’s Path, or Why Self-driving Cars Must *Not* Be Programmed to Kill
    In: Science, Technology, & Human Values [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: July 2017

    The discourse around self-driving cars has been dominated by an emphasis on their potential to reduce the number of accidents. At the same time, proponents acknowledge that self-driving cars would inevitably be involved in fatal accidents where moral algorithms would decide the fate of those involved. This is a necessary trade-off, proponents suggest, in order to reap the benefits of this new technology. In this article, I engage this argument, demonstrating how an undue optimism and enthusiasm about this technology is obscuring our ability to see what is at stake and explaining how moving beyond the dominant utilitarian framings around this technology opens up a space for both ethical inquiry and innovative design. I suggest that a genuine caring concern for the many lives lost in car accidents now and in the future—a concern that transcends false binary trade-offs and that recognizes the systemic biases and power structures that make certain groups more vulnerable than others—could serve as a starting point to rethink mobility, as it connects to the design of our cities, the well-being of our communities, and the future of our planet.

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  • MRx design and criticism: the confluence of media studies, performance and social interaction
    In: Digital Creativity [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: October 2015

    © 2015 Taylor & Francis.In this article, we bring together the lenses of media studies, performance studies and social interaction offered in the other essays in this special issue and discuss their collective contribution towards a more nuanced understanding of MRx. We illustrate this capacity by a brief critical review of a recent MRx environment: Mégaphone. We suggest how the lenses can also contribute to a design vocabulary for future MRx experiences.

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  • MRx as a Participatory Platform
    In: Digital Creativity [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: October 2015

    Facilitating and supporting various modes of social interaction has been part of Mixed Reality (MR) design experiments and discourse over the past twenty years. But what vision of social interaction is sought and advanced through Mixed Reality environments? In this paper, I identify two dominant ways that social interaction is envisioned in MR designs, broadly construed as material and political, and illustrated through a series of examples. I further draw on them to highlight the potentials, boundaries, and limitations of each with regards to the kinds of social interactions that are sought and cultivated through the integration of digital media on physical space. I suggest that as MR becomes mainstream, it is important to go beyond these visions to consider whether and how MR environments might connect with the economic, social, and cultural specificity of local sites to meaningfully serve the always evolving social needs and purposes of their communities.

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  • MRX: an interdisciplinary framework for mixed reality experience design and criticism
    In: Digital Creativity [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: October 2015

    © 2015 Taylor & Francis.We explore design strategies for mixed reality (MR) in relation to Milgram's definition, which has been central to its development in the past 20 years. We argue for the need to rethink the technical focus of this definition in order to capture the experiential dimensions of MR and offer a humanistic framework for a growing class of experiences that we label MRx. We list three characteristics of MRx applications (esthetic, performative and social) and provide a context for the three subsequent articles in this special issue.

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  • Values as hypotheses: design, inquiry, and the service of values
    In: Design Issues [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: October 2015

    Editors’ Summary: "For all designers, no matter what methods or processes they use, values are essential. Nassim JafariNaimi, Lisa Nathan, and Ian Hargraves take on this crucial topic in their article “Values as Hypotheses: Design, Inquiry, and the Service of Values.” They refute the separation of values and action, arguing instead that values are to be discovered and affirmed within action. Following philosopher John Dewey’s ideas, the authors posit that values are hypothetical until they are confirmed through design actions. They refute the belief that moral values are either unchangeable truths or “local expressions of individual and group preferences,” favoring instead a philosophy of plurality that lets values emerge from pragmatic encounters with situations. Their approach is an extremely helpful response to the sticky question of whether values that are pre-ordained and fixed can be integrated into design practice.”

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Conferences

  • Collective Intelligence or Groupthink? Engaging Participation Patterns in World without Oil
    In: Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: February 2015

    © 2015 ACM.This article presents an analysis of participation patterns in an Alternate Reality Game, World Without Oil. This game aims to bring people together in an online environment to reflect on how an oil crisis might affect their lives and communities as a way to both counter such a crisis and to build collective intelligence about responding to it. We present a series of participation profiles based on a quantitative analysis of 1554 contributions to the game narrative made by 322 players. We further qualitatively analyze a sample of these contributions. We outline the dominant themes, the majority of which engage the global oil crisis for its effects on commute options and present micro-sustainability solutions in response. We further draw on the quantitative and qualitative analysis of this space to discuss how the design of the game, specifically its framing of the problem, feedback mechanism, and absence of subject-matter expertise, counter its aim of generating collective intelligence, making it conducive to groupthink.

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  • Interactive visualizations for teaching quantum mechanics and semiconductor physics
    Date: 2015

    © 2014 IEEE.Work in Progress: The theory of Quantum Mechanics (QM) provides a foundation for many fields of science and engineering; however, its abstract nature and technical difficulty make QM a challenging subject for students to approach and grasp. This is partly because complex mathematical concepts involved in QM are difficult to visualize for students and the existing visualization are minimal and limited. We propose that many of these concepts can be communicated and experienced through interactive visualizations and games, drawing on the strengths and affordances of digital media. A game environment can make QM concepts more accessible and understandable by immersing students in nano-sized worlds governed by unique QM rules. Furthermore, replayability of games allows students to experience the probabilistic nature of QM concepts. In this paper, we present a game and a series of interactive visualizations that we are developing to provide students with an experiential environment to learn quantum mechanics. We will discuss how these visualizations and games can enable students to experiment with QM concepts, compare QM with classical physics, and get accustomed to the often counterintuitive laws of QM.

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  • Designing meaningful participation: Analyzing contribution patterns in an alternate reality game
    Date: 2014

    Copyright © 2014 ACM.This article presents an analysis of participation patterns of an Alternate Reality game World Without Oil. This game aims to bring people together in an online environment to reflect and share insights about oil dependence. We present a series of participation profiles based on a quantitative analysis of 1554 contributions to the game narrative made by 322 players. We build on these profiles to suggest a preliminary outline of design challenges for building effective interactive learning environments that foster meaningful participation.

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  • Exploring the Character of Participation in Social Media: The Case of Google Image Labeler
    In: ACM Proceedings of the 2012 iConference [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: March 2012

    Social media are transforming interpersonal and social interactions, enabling new forms of engagement and participation. However, we know little about how the specific design qualities of social media affect social interaction in these environments. Considering the diversity of social media today, there is a need to engage with specific cases to discern possible patterns of relationship between designed characteristics of social media and the character of participation in them. To illustrate, this paper draws on a case study of the game, "Google Image Labeler." The design of the game is studied through a close reading of arguments made by its designers followed by an Internet study of what users and critics say about their interactions with the game. These studies, in conjunction with theories of social interaction by John Dewey and Robert Putnam, provide a foundation for a critical stance toward the quality of participation in this game that informs design theory and practice. © 2012 ACM.

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  • Breakaway: An ambient display designed to change human behavior
    Date: December 2005

    We present Breakaway, an ambient display that encourages people, whose job requires them to sit for long periods of time, to take breaks more frequently. Breakaway uses the information from sensors placed on an office chair to communicate in a non-obtrusive manner how long the user has been sitting. Breakaway is a small sculpture placed on the desk. Its design is inspired by animation arts and theater, which rely heavily on body language to express emotions. Its shape and movement reflect the form of the human body; an upright position reflecting the body's refreshed pose, and a slouching position reflecting the body's pose after sitting for a long time. An initial evaluation shows a correlation between the movement of the sculpture and when participants took breaks, suggesting that ambient displays that make use of aesthetic and lifelike form might be promising for making positive changes in human behavior.

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Other Publications

  • Play it seriously: Fostering innovative engagement with sustainability
    In: Interactions
    Date: 2015

    © 2015 ACM.During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama quipped in a debate-preparation session: "Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f-ing changed lightbulbs in my house. It's because of something collective" [1]. This candid quote illustrates the discursive tension around environmental sustainability: Though there is a sense that each of us needs to be personally engaged with issues of energy use and climate change, isolated individual actions are insufficient to address challenges that exist on a global scale. In the Anthropocene Age, when it is impossible to deny that humans are having a significant effect on the Earth and its viability for life, we need strategies that draw on collaborative endeavors to address problems at the societal and policy levels. Against this backdrop, we and many others in the HCI community feel a sense of responsibility to design approaches to sustainability that bring together the individual and collective, the short-term and long-term, to innovatively engage with the difficult work of creating sustainable futures.

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  • Meta-making: Crafting the conversation of values and design
    In: Interactions
    Date: July 2012

    Ingrid Erickson, Lisa Nathan, Nassim Jafarinaimi, Cory Knobel, and Matthew Ratto designed a workshop for the 2012 iConference in Toronto in February 2011, in order to understand synergy and integration. The team oriented the day to prompt reflection and conversation by way of active engagement. In the first exercise, workshop participants were invited to bring an enchanted object to the workshop, like a toy car, a phone, or any item to which they strongly ascribed some sort of value. To set the tone for the activity, they elected to share one of their own enchanted artifacts with the group. In random groups of five and six, seated around a hotel ballroom, attendees got to know one another by sharing stories of their chosen artifacts. The same working groups to imagine how their chosen artifacts might be associated with values other than those with which they had been originally connected. The products crafted by the participants exemplified a broad understanding of the relationship between values and design.

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