Monday, January 27

UCLA center hosts event on social impact of digital technology

In its first event, the UC Digital Cultures Lab hosted three workshops for high school students using digital tools to relate to social issues they face. (Diana Chen/Daily Bruin)

The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Ramesh Srinivasan was a Design | Media Arts associate professor. In fact, he is an associate professor in information studies.

University of California professors held a workshop Saturday for high school students to develop ways to ease communication across cultural barriers like linguistic and socioeconomic ones.

The UC Digital Cultures Lab, a UCLA research center founded last spring, hosted the Saturday workshops at Augustus F. Hawkins High School. The center, the only one in California that involves scholars from across the UC system, aims to examine how different cultures and communities use technology.

Ramesh Srinivasan, an associate professor in information studies, said he founded the center because he was inspired by how people used digital tools like social media to mobilize and expose corruption during the 2011 revolution in Egypt.

Ung-Sang Lee, the center’s coordinator, said researchers will study intersections of technology and culture by working with specific California communities. The center will host a series of workshops in UC cities.

Lee said each community workshop will feature projects relevant to the community’s culture. For example, Saturday’s workshop centered around topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement and using more formal language to communicate with those outside the community.

High school students participated in three different workshops, led by UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Merced and UC Davis professors, and produced infographics or digital art to visualize their suggested solutions.

Srinivasan said organizers hoped to demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of community-based thinking around technology.

“(We need to) move past the myth of us, as professors, having all the answers, and see learning as more of a collaborative effort,” Srinivasan said.

One workshop gave students the opportunity to create artwork using spray paint, cameras and other media to convey how they felt about what could be done to solve social issues.

Srinivasan added he thinks it was important the event was held at the high school because participants were able to immerse themselves in the community and the environment they are studying.

“We want to focus on schools and communities that tend to be marginalized by traditional systems of politics, labor, economics and culture,” he said.

Mark Gomez, a history teacher at Augustus F. Hawkins, said the event emphasized a collaborative approach to learning while giving students an opportunity to engage with UC scholars.

“(I’m hoping this event will) establish a lasting relationship between the center and the schools … and lend a voice to our students and their experiences,” Gomez said.

Srinivasan said he would like to see the program expand globally and to have more UCLA students volunteer to brainstorm, work events and develop social media.

The center’s staff members will host another event in April to discuss how drones are used in different communities – some use drones for military purposes, while others sell them commercially. Srinivasan said he thinks the uses affect how community members view drone technology.

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