Ganci’s study of ubiquitous computing attracts Springer Family Innovative Faculty Award

Aaron Ganci was selected by his peers for the 2015 Springer Award.(image: Herron staff)

Aaron Ganci was selected by his peers for the 2015 Springer Award.(image: Herron staff)

Whether you’re resentful of being monetized by your apps or unconcerned about the data you provide with your every keystroke, Aaron Ganci’s research findings will likely be relevant to you.

Ganci, assistant professor of visual communication design, has been chosen by his peers as the 2015 recipient of the Frank C. Springer Family Innovative Faculty Award. The award is Herron School or Art and Design’s most prestigious and largest faculty research prize.

Ganci’s specialty is experience design—a subset of visual communication—that he weaves into his students’ coursework. His curiosity led him to propose a research project that will examine the potential of ubiquitous computing, that is, the integration of data gathering technology into everyday objects, to “enable extremely powerful interaction experiences and a new breed of smart digital interfaces,” he said.

The burgeoning capability to gather data about users and their actions “will enable designers to achieve new levels of engagement, personalization and usefulness through digital interfaces,” Ganci predicted.

It is those kinds of interfaces that enable the bookseller on your device to make recommendations on what you might like to read, based on the types of titles you have already ordered, comments you have made about them and people with whom you’ve shared them.

Ganci said ubiquitous computing will impact many more facets of our lives. “Smart environments are growing exponentially. As this technology becomes more available in the mass market, connected environments—virtual and physical—will become much more prevalent.” A big part of what Herron Visual Communication Design graduates will be creating in the next five or ten years is experience design for all manner of digital interfaces.

Thanks to the Springer Prize, Ganci will do a deep dive into what this means for tomorrow’s designers through a very specific project that he was inspired to undertake by fellow faculty members Craig McDaniel and Jean Robertson.

In their soon to be published book, McDaniel and Robertson assert that a standardized alphabet has outlived its usefulness for expressive visual communication through text. They propose that people should have the ability to customize their own personal alphabet to better align with their communication needs.

Ganci will use this assertion as the basic premise for his work, integrating ubiquitous computing into a user interface that will make alphabetic translations passive and seamless. “This project is an important first step in understanding how and why designers might use this technology to create more engaging, personalized or useful experiences,” he said.

In the experiment, text translated into a personalized alphabet identified with a specific individual will be displayed on a smart wall in a room that can sense who is present. When the smart wall senses an individual is near, it will translate the displayed text to that person’s personalized alphabet. As more people begin interacting with the wall, only the area nearest them will translate. This will create a public-yet-personalized experience that would be impossible without ubiquitous computing technology.

The Springer family created the award to inspire Herron faculty members to expand their artistic, creative and scholarly work in memory of Frank C. Springer Jr., a long-time friend to Herron and beloved Indianapolis philanthropist.

Technology and Art Team’s website design contributes to spike in student visits at the Math Assistance Center

from left: Kevin Berkopes, Levi Hadley, Kelly Nauert, Josh Ragsdell, Miriah Remy and Patrick Burton in the MAC. (image: Herron staff)

from left: Kevin Berkopes, Levi Hadley, Kelly Nauert, Josh Ragsdell, Miriah Remy and Patrick Burton in the MAC. (image: Herron staff)

When a visitor walks into the IUPUI Mathematics Assistance Center—the MAC—housed in Taylor Hall at IUPUI’s University College, math anxiety does not come to mind.

It kind of looks like a party is going on at the United Nations. The place is full. Students are grinning and playing with markers on wall-to-wall white boards. There’s lots of excited conversation. Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that the white boards are full of formulas and math problems and that some of the students are teaching their peers.

This is a fresh approach to getting math help—not textbook driven, hierarchical, isolated or intimidating.

Of course the MAC’s executive director, Kevin Berkopes, Ph.D., looks for employees with high mathematical abilities to be the center’s mentors and tutors. He also makes hiring decision based on their personalities and communications skills. There are 22 countries represented by the 95 students he has on his payroll.

Berkopes is smart enough to know when he needs expertise he does not possess. He recognized that the MAC’s branding should convey its welcoming atmosphere, expressed in part through website design. He turned to students for help, in part to provide them with professional practice experiences, a hallmark of IUPUI.

He hired Herron School of Art and Design students Levi Hadley, Kelly Nauert and Miriah Remy—all juniors majoring in Visual Communication Design—and computer science students Patrick Burton and Josh Ragsdell. The five formed a team called META—MAC Experience: Technology and Art—to focus on the look and feel of MAC services, including the redesign of its website.

“Kevin is hiring mentors and tutors from across programs as well, in the hopes that their presence will make IUPUI students more inclined to seek academic support if they need it,” said Shannon McCullough, Herron’s director of admissions and student services. “Art and design is very mathematical, but a lot of art students fear it. He is really making efforts to ease that, and the MAC gets positive reviews from Herron students who go there.”

Not only that,” McCullough continued, “but for our students to have gained experiences in design and branding for a client, including building a website, as sophomores, what a resume builder!”

Berkopes said the team that brought his branding vision together, as well has his army of tutors and mentors is “a group of kids that are phenomenal in what they do.”

Remy characterized the website and other design projects thus far as “exciting and almost overwhelming at times. It is incredible to be able to say that I’m part of creating something that did not exist before. I have had a good time collaborating with Kelly and Levi on the design of the project. Working with Josh and Patrick to implement the design is great. I believe we have the perfect set of skills combined into one group.”

“As a designer, I judge almost everything I see, especially websites,” she said. “I want our interface to be the best that the users have seen. Overall, I have loved the opportunity to participate in such an interesting project, and I look forward to continuing it.”

Launched in summer 2014, the new website went a long way toward creating a virtual space that complements the MAC’s physical space and personality. Over a short time, the MAC has improved its service overall through a variety of initiatives, including synchronous online tutoring through the website. As of last semester, student visits had increased from 9,000 to 40,000.

The Future of the Arts and Humanities Roundtable: Keira Amstutz, William Blomquist, John Dichtl, Valerie Eickmeier, Jonathan Elmer, David Lawrence

Indiana Humanities LogoMarch 5, 2015 | 12:00-1:30
Location: Indiana Humanities, 1500 N. Delaware
Free tickets available soon (boxed lunches available for purchase)

Are the arts and humanities in crisis? What do financial cuts ultimately mean for arts and humanities institutions and their publics? What role should governments play in supporting the arts and humanities? What does the future look like for arts and humanities in this country and around the world? What functions do the arts and humanities provide in sustaining a democratic society?

This roundtable will discuss these and many other questions in this can’t-miss event featuring several of central Indiana’s leaders in the arts and humanities.

Keira Amstutz is the President and CEO of Indiana Humanities.

Dr. William Blomquist is the Dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Dr. John Dichtl is the Executive Director of the National Council on Public History and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in History in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Dr. Valerie Eickmeier is the Dean of the Herron School of Art and Design.

Dr. Jonathan Elmer is the Director of the College of Arts and Humanities Institute and a Professor of English at IU Bloomington.

David Lawrence is the President and CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis.

Taylor Symposium at IUPUI shares city’s religious diversity through performances

2015 Joseph T. Taylor Symposium Flyer

2015 Joseph T. Taylor Symposium Flyer

The practice of one’s religion isn’t limited to beliefs and sacred texts, according to contemporary religious studies scholars.

The 2015 Joseph T. Taylor Symposium at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offers participants the opportunity to explore Indianapolis’ religious diversity through performances inherent in the practices of various religious groups.

The symposium, “Encountering Religions Through Performance,” takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17, in the IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd.
“Much of the recent scholarship on religion has emphasized that religious traditions are not just about beliefs and texts,” said IU School of Liberal Arts professor Peter Thuesen, event co-organizer and chair of the Department of Religious Studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

“Religions are also expressed through performances. These performances may involve such activities as singing, dancing, drumming or chanting, but they can also consist of devotional rituals observed either publicly or privately,” Thuesen said.
Symposium presenters include:

  • Light of the World Gospel Ensemble
  • Mohamad Saltagi, an IU School of Medicine student who has memorized the entire Quran
  • Anil Bajpai, Hindu Temple of Central Indiana board of trustees member

In lieu of a luncheon speaker, Sancocho Music will perform and participate in a facilitated discussion. Sancocho is dedicated to researching and performing African-derived music and dance from Spanish-speaking cultures of the Caribbean.

“We’re thrilled with the lineup of speakers and performers. … And we’ve paired each guest with one of our own religious studies professors, who will serve as moderator and interviewer,” Thuesen said. “Each session will be like a mini introduction to what we study in the field of religious studies.”

The 2015 Taylor symposium is presented by the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI in partnership with its Department of Religious Studies. The annual event honors the late Joseph T. Taylor, the first dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, for his many contributions to the university and to the greater Indianapolis community. The event highlights topics of interest to urban communities, particularly communities of color.
“Indianapolis is a city of remarkable cultural diversity, but many local residents are unfamiliar with the range of religious groups represented here,” Thuesen said. “We hope through this year’s symposium to highlight the ways performance factors into several of the religious traditions that thrive in our city. In seeking to understand other people and traditions, we build community, which was one of Dr. Taylor’s goals as an educator.”

Morning symposium sessions, held in the theater on the lower level of the Campus Center, are free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested.

The noon luncheon will take place in Campus Center Room 450. Luncheon seating is limited and requires registration and pre-payment. Luncheon tickets are $35 each, if purchased by Jan. 26, or $40 after Jan. 26. Organizations are also invited to become table patrons for the luncheon ($550 for a table of 10).

For symposium registration and additional information, visit the Taylor Symposium website.

Digital Humanities Workshop: Caitlin Pollock, “Introduction to TEI”

February 11, 2015 | 12:00-2:30
Location: IUPUI University Library, Room 2120
Free tickets available below

Co-sponsored by the IUPUI Library Center for Digital Scholarship

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) sets the standards for text-encoding, born-digital editing, and digital humanities projects. It is the preferred format for granting agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities. TEI’s guidelines (TEI) define an XML format for textual materials represented in a digital form.

This workshop provides attendees with a hands-on introduction to basic text encoding with TEI. It assumes attendees have some basic knowledge of XML or other markup languages.

IUPUI professor provided key testimony in Nigerian oil-spill case settled for $83 million

Scott Pegg treks through mud, dead mangrove trees and previous oil spill residue to get to the site of a new oil spill in 2012.

Scott Pegg treks through mud, dead mangrove trees and previous oil spill residue to get to the site of a new oil spill in 2012.

In an out-of-court settlement announcement Wednesday, Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria agreed to a compensation package of 55 million pounds — about $83.4 million — for a Nigerian farming and fishing community damaged by massive oil spills in 2008 and 2009. An Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor had been among witnesses for the residents of Bodo, Nigeria, in their three-year legal battle.

According to a statement by Leigh Day, the London-based law firm representing the community of Bodo, 15,600 individual claimants will received a total of 35 million pounds, with the remainder of the settlement going to the Bodo community as a whole. Shell has also agreed to clean up the Bodo Creek, Day said.

Scott Pegg, chair of the Department of Political Science in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, has been actively involved in the life of Bodo for more than 14 years. As someone who has worked in Bodo for years and as an honorary chief in the village, Pegg said it was the least he could do to provide a detailed witness statement on behalf of the Bodo plaintiffs.

Pegg first visited the community in 2000 and returned a year later with his wife, Tijen Demirel-Pegg. The then newlyweds donated $2,800 of their wedding gift money to the Bebor Model Nursery and Primary School in Botor Village, Bodo. This money finished a roofing project and funded a cement floor for a five-classroom primary school building at the school that now serves more than 300 children.

The couple continued to raise money for the school, and in 2002 their work was formally incorporated into the work of the Indianapolis-based charity now known as Timmy Global Health. The Peggs’ work with the school in Bodo now includes providing boreholes for drinking water; boys’, girls’ and teachers’ toilets for better sanitation; and a pilot health program providing immunizations, health exams and deworming treatments to students at the school.

In 2002, the Bodo Council of Chiefs named the Peggs honorary chiefs in recognition of their contribution to the community’s educational development. In August 2005, Botor Village in Bodo dedicated the “Chief Prof Scott Pegg Road.”

Pegg’s written testimony, filed in the case before the High Court in London, used numerous pictures to document the story of Bodo’s transformation after the oil spills from a vibrant fishing community to a land of “environmental devastation as far as the eye could see.”

Of particular interest to the British lawyers representing the Bodo claimants were the many photographs Pegg had from earlier visits to Bodo before the 2008-09 oil spills. Pegg and people who visited with him often would go down to the waterfront and paddle out into Bodo Creek on a traditional fishing canoe for recreation. Pegg said he never envisioned that his “tourist photos” along the waterfront would actually be used to help document how green and verdant the mangrove forests in Bodo were before the oil spills.

Pegg, who holds a doctorate in political science, described himself as “sort of a perfect storm” as a witness in that the combination of his academic training and interests and his track record of publications on the oil industry in Africa, plus his local status as a chief in the village, made his testimony hard to discredit. At IUPUI, Pegg primarily teaches courses on international relations, war and conflict, U.S. foreign policy, globalization and African politics.

The IUPUI professor is proud of the fact that the Bodo case is the first major legal settlement where compensation has been paid directly to individual Africans and not just done through chiefs or community leaders. He believes the success or failure of the promised environmental cleanup of Bodo Creek will ultimately be even more important than the compensation itself. He also hopes the case will set a precedent and establish benchmark standards for oil companies to follow in dealing with other oil spills throughout the Niger Delta.

“Bodo has suffered and continues to suffer horribly because of the two massive oil spills that hit the community in 2008-09 and for which any kind of clean-up effort has still not yet started,” Pegg said in an email message to Timmy Global Health supporters and other friends. “Even if everything goes well with this settlement, the community faces a daunting list of challenges and problems.

“Still, this is a great day for the people of Bodo. As people who have supported them in various ways, I hope you can savor and enjoy this news as well.”

The Value and Values of Public Scholarship: Laura Holzman, Modupe Labode, Mary Price

Indiana Humanities LogoFebruary 24, 2015 | 12:00-1:30
Location: IUPUI University Library, Room 4115P
Free tickets available below

This event is co-sponsored by Indiana Humanities

The 21st-century research university is no ivory tower. It is a vibrant space that cultivates creativity and experiment — a space that encourages and supports multiple ways of knowing and doing. Public scholarship is an essential pillar of the 21st-century university, building bridges and partnerships between the institution and the many publics with which its members engage. This roundtable will engage with the following questions. What is public scholarship? What roles does it play in research, creative activity, and teaching? What misconceptions do people have about public scholarship? How should universities evaluate public scholarship in promotion and tenure? How does one become a public scholar?

Dr. Laura Holzman is an Assistant Professor and Public Scholar of Curatorial Practices and Visual Art in Art History in the Herron School of Art and Design and in Museum Studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Dr. Modupe Labode is an Assistant Professor and Public Scholar of African American History and Museums in History and Museum Studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Dr. Mary Price is the Faculty Development Director in the IUPUI Center for Service and Learning and an Associate Faculty member in Anthropology in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

“Selling Yoga” traces growing popularity of modern yoga from its counterculture roots

Dr. Andrea Jain

Andrea Jain, “Selling Yoga” Author

In the popular imagination of yoga practice today, gone are the visions of bearded, stoic old men seeking a transcendent state detached from ordinary, everyday life. Instead, most envision a room of spandex-clad, perspiring, toned women perched atop yoga mats in the pursuit of fit, beautiful bodies.

The popular “modern postural yoga” systems now practiced in urban settings around the globe represent a late 20th century break from premodern and early modern yoga systems that were usually tied to a particular all-encompassing ideology, philosophy, or worldview, according to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor Andrea R. Jain.

In her new book, “Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture,” the IUPUI professor examines the growing global popularity of modern yoga, which previously had been viewed as countercultural and oftentimes scandalous.

“Yoga underwent popularization when certain yoga entrepreneurs (more traditionally known as gurus) became strategic participants in the global marketplace and succeeded in selling yoga by successfully creating an intersection of yoga brands and dominant trends of consumer culture,” said Jain, assistant professor of religious studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Unlike premodern and early modern yoga systems, popularized yoga is not prescribed as an all-encompassing worldview or system of practice, but as one among many components of personal development that can provide increased physical beauty, fitness, and flexibility, along with such benefits as decreased stress. In other words, popularized yoga is often combined with various non-related worldviews and practices.

Fueling its popularization has been yoga’s intersections with the rising transnational consumer culture and its basic tenant that individuals can and should pick and choose practices, beliefs, and commodities that fit their own lifestyle preferences, Jain said.

Practitioners of contemporary popularized yoga see its products and services as a road to self-development in line with mainstream social values such as the dominant health and fitness paradigms.

However, Jain argues that yoga systems cannot be reduced to mere commodities—that yoga can, in fact, serve religious purposes even in its popularized varieties, and as such provides an avenue for studying ways in which religious systems adjust to contemporary consumer culture.

“Yoga is merely a case study. Even evangelical Christianity has succeeded in part by creating an intersection with consumer culture . . . evangelical pastors, for example, advocate for the importance of individuals choosing particular exercise or physical fitness regimens based on lifestyle preferences, therefore reflecting dominant themes in our consumer culture,” Jain said.

Modern yoga systems are no less authentic than premodern ones, since all yoga systems are ultimately specific to their particular social contexts, according to the professor.

“There never was a single, homogenous yoga tradition. Yoga has always been in transition as it moved across social contexts,” Jain said.

Published by Oxford University Press, “Selling Yoga,” is now available in paperback, hardback and as an ebook.