Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Advisor I: Personal Life of Jack Carroll

Jack was born right in Pennsylvania and grew up in New York. He graduated as a bachelar of mathematics and bachelar of information sciences from Lehigh University, where his father was a professor. He got his Phd degree of psychology in Columbia University. Then he spent 18 years (1977-1994) in IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where he managed the legendary User Interface Institute. In 1994, he became the head of the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. Since 2003, Jack has been the Edward M Frymoyer Chair Professor and the co-Director of the College of IST's Laboratory for Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning. 

Jack's wife, Professor Mary Beth Rosson, is also the co-Director of the Laboratory for Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning. They met at IBM and worked and collaborated since then. In HCI field, there are two very well known couples, one is Jack and Marybeth, the other is the Olson couple in University of Michigan. Interestingly, both of them received the CHI Lifetime Achievement Award. Jack and Mary Beth had a daughter, who is currently an undergraduate student in the Department of Sociology at Penn State. They have a lovely dog Kerby, who usually accompanies Jack while he is jogging.

Jack likes music. His favorate star is Bob Dylan. He played guitar since 13 years old. He also played the harmonicon while playing guitar just as Bob Dylan does. The left one of the following two pictures is Bob Dylan, the right one is Jack playing in a band. Guess which one is Jack. ;-)

* The 1st, 2nd, and last picture are from:

Friday, September 19, 2008


"Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.

Such are the differences among human beings in their sources of pleasure, their susceptibilities of pain, and the operation on them of different physical and moral agencies, that unless there is a corresponding diversity in their modes of life, they neither obtain their fair share of happiness, nor grow up to the mental, moral, and aesthetic stature of which their nature is capable"

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

Familiar with the words above? Yes, they are in the banner hanging beside the grand stair in IST building. I loved it at the first sight of it in the first day I am here last year when I even had no idea about the diversity of IST.

If you ask me what's IST's flavor. Miscellaneous, I would say. Is miscellany a kind of flavor. Why not? Good cook makes delicious blend, bad cook only run into a mess. That's the difference. And IST SHOULD be specialized in platforming the mixture of diverse ingredient, catalyzing for the chemistry, and creating intellectual synergies. Well it is an innovative experiment highly challenging. Sometimes we pain, sometimes we gain. Steve helped kick off, then he lost his way, or ist lost its way.  The only thing we are sure is, IST is on the way.

The I-T-P triangle is usually leveraged to CONCEPTUALLY integrate the fragments. Everyone is assumed to be able to find his or her place in the triangle. However, obviously people have not be integrated into a unity, or they need not to.

It seems to me the basic unit is each professor's lab. Then these professors assemble to have a formal center or informal collaboration. It is a very flexible and effective way in my opinion. If we can have synergy, if professors feel comfortable, if students feel comfortable, then that's OK. 

I am in Dr. John M. Carroll's Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning Lab. But actually I am not very clear where the HCI or CSCL is in the tiangle. Conventionally, HCI is in the people-technology edge, but isn't HCI concerned with information? As for me, I also work in the CiteceerX Group, which must be in the technology node. But funny I have little knowledge about technology. I would say I am interested in the social and psychological issues in information world. I know my position clearly. But I don't feel comfortable if you just place me in the People node. :D

Anyway, why creeping in the triangle? Just find resource, and do what you are interested in!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The I-School

According to Wikipedia, an I-school is an academic program "committed to understanding the role of information in human endeavors and nature". I-school conducts research into the fundamental aspects of information and information technology and into the relationships between people, information and technology.

An I-school is distinguished from traditional programs first because of its interdisciplinarity. I-schools usually involve endeavors from various traditional disciplines such as computer science, psychology, sociology, engeering, education, management, and so on.  Actually interdisciplinarity itself is not the purpose. The purpose of a program is and should always be effectively addressing specific problems. I-school address problems around how information and communication technology could support and facilitate human's well-being. This vision is vast, and sophisticated, which cannot be addressed by any single discipline. By involving scholars from different disciplines together, we can create intellectual synergies which even might be  unexpected. 

I-school by its nature breed an environment of innovation and open-mindedness. With experts with different perspectives working together, we can easily run into collisions of our prototypings; we sparkle innovative ideas; we are no longer confined in certain horizontal; we learn from each other; and we address the problems better. In such a environment, people become open-minded, and bear more innovations.

Thirdly, even just thinking about we have the opportunity to rebuild a better scientific paradigm is thrilling. I-school is not just a collection of people from different perspectives. These perspectives should have chemistry; and then the I-school become an integrated organism. I-school should have its own perspective and philosophy. We now have a triangle of information, technology, and people. But that is far from enough. Actually as I-school develops, even the triangle may become outdated. Think about the case there is always a vetex in the tiangle where people in the opposite edge cannot reach! 

Last but not least important, I-school focus on addressing practical problems tangibly in real world! Information science maybe one of the few area where development of industry always go before development of academia. It is the constantly emerging problems in this information era that drives the development of information science. We can see what we do substantially change the world very quickly.

I personally love to be a part of an I-school. With this supportive platform, I can dream whatever I want to dream; my endeavers really matter to human; and I have the opportunity to do something big.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What drives me

I am dedicated to an academic adventure in studying social and people aspects in information science. In the new information era, business models and social practices are in constant transition as a result of the proliferation of information technology. So topics such as how social practices will evolve, how technology could adapt to and facilitate these new practices, and how such infrastructural changes will create new challenges as well as possibilities are really fascinating to me.

I would love to be a professor in academia to study these things. Mediation itself is the best reward for me. I have talent in doing so, and I dream to be one of the best theorist in information society.

Who am I academically

I am now a second year PhD student in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University. I am in the Computer Supported Collaboration and Learning Lab and Center for Human Computer Interaction under the supervision of Dr. John M. Carroll.

My research interests lie at community informatics and related social & psychological issues. I am exploring supporting the academic collaboration in CiteceerX as a research assistant with Dr. Lee Giles' lab. I am investigating social tagging and recommender systems, and now is writing a paper for that. I am also interested in applying social theories in the information society, for example, I am using the theory of constructuration to explain the dynamics in online community. I also investigate social capital and social ties in virtual environment.

Prior to my PhD study, I had worked as a research & development engineer at IBM China Research Lab since 2003, where my research topics mainly concerned with supporting collaborative activities of knowledge workers. For example, I studied interfaces to help coordinating interruptions in workplace; I focused on activity centered project management for two years.

When I was in the Department of Psychology at Peking University, I spent two years in the Brain and Cognitive Science Center and studied phonological processing of Chinese. I did my dissertation in Personality and Social Psychological Lab on cultural differences on thinking styles and their influences on conflict management styles.

Who am I personally

Shaoke means "young scientist" in Chinese. This moniker seems to be true, when he graduated from university several years ago at 19 years old, and joined IBM as a HCI researcher. However, he is worried whether he need to change his name when he is no longer young. :D

He is a vagrant all his life. He left home to attend the middle school at nine years old. Eversince, he has not stayed in the same place for more than four years. He is so grateful he has met so many great people everywhere, and so many memorable things. He loves the saying "O ever youthful, O ever weeping" from "The Dharma Bums".

He is kind of buddhist, who believes a soul of buddaha hides in everybody. He has a variety of interests, but is good at few. He played soccer since 1996. He also plays other things such as pingpang, tennis, basketball, and i-go. He practiced aikido for several years when in Beijing.