Tapan Parikh is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, where his research interests include human-computer interaction (HCI), mobile computing, paper and voice UIs and information systems for microfinance, agriculture, health, governance and education. Tapan’s students have started several successful social enterprises, including Awaaz.De, Captricity, NextDrop, Acopio and MobileWorks.  He holds a Sc.B. degree in Molecular Modeling with Honors from Brown University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the University of Washington, where his dissertation received the William Chan Memorial dissertation award. Other recognitions include the NSF CAREER award,

TR35 Humanitarian of the Year, UW Diamond Award, and several best paper awards for his group’s research.

Title: Representation Technologies

Abstract: Information technologies are essential tools for the representation and communication of human knowledge. However, many groups are still inadequately represented on the Internet. My research group developed Avaaj Otalo, a phone-based voice message board allowing small farmers in rural India to ask, answer and browse agricultural questions and answers. Avaaj Otalo has been deployed for over four years, and receives hundreds of calls every week. I report on recent results from this deployment, including evidence of impact on farmer decision-making, reducing the use of less effective and potentially harmful pesticides, through a randomized controlled trial (RCT). While Awaaz.De illustrates the importance of designing appropriate user interfaces for representing knowledge from underrepresented groups, knowledge must still be translated to structured, quantitative forms for aggregation and policy decision-making. Local Ground is a data collection, mapping and information visualization tool that helps youth develop data skills by making connections between different representations of empirical phenomena. Students begin by collecting open-ended qualitative data, in the form of free-hand drawings, pictures and audio interviews. Based on these observations, students can design of structured data collection instruments for more systematic inquiry and analysis. These varioys forms of data are combined into narratives that can articulate youth perspectives to a variety of stakeholders. Local Ground has been used to involve youth the planning of a public park, ground-truth civic data about food access, and document air quality issues across the BART transportation system. Within these projects, I explore several themes in my work, including the design of more accessible interaction techniques allowing new populations to author content, the importance of bottom-up data for planning and valuating development projects, and how we can employ participatory computing technologies to improve human learning and agency.