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HCII Seminar Series - Amy Ko

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Amy Ko

Amy J. Ko
Professor, The Information School, University of Washington, Seattle


Newell-Simon Hall 1305

Video link


The Sujeath Pareddy Memorial Lecture and HCII Speaker Series Presentation

Talk: "Searching for Justice in Programming Language Design"

From its earliest days, computing has been an eclectic project of capitalism, war, colonialism, and white supremacy. Its central Western values of utility, efficiency, rationality, and mathematical beauty have enabled sweeping changes to culture and communication, but also amplified some of the worst parts of these oppressive systems. At the heart of many of these forces are programming languages, which deeply embed many assumptions about their users: English fluency, normative ability, a devotion to speed, and an inexhaustible interest in computing. These assumptions create a culture of computing that structurally excludes vast parts of humanity from participating. In this talk, I describe some of my nascent efforts to design and implement the opposite: an anti-capitalist, multicultural, accessible programming language that: 1) embraces identity-inclusive narratives about what computing is; 2) embraces all natural languages in its syntax, documentation, and tooling; 3) uses computing power to reduce complexity rather than increasing it in the name of efficiency, and 4) reimagines editors to work for any input modality. Throughout, I’ll provide live demonstrations of these gestures toward programming language justice, pointing to alternative visions for how computing might work. I’ll also reflect on the many tensions in trying to reconcile these many forms of justice in a single design.

Sujeath Pareddy Memorial Lecture

Sujeath Pareddy was a PhD student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute from 2018 to 2022. He brought his passion for computing systems and physics to bear on hard, long-standing challenges in accessibility for people with disabilities, while inspiring all of those around him to innovate in big ways that were practically useful to people. We wish to remember Sujeath by selecting an expert in the field of accessibility education to share their work in this dual-purpose presentation:  The Sujeath Pareddy Memorial Lecture and HCII Speaker Series Presentation. 

For those attending this seminar in person, please plan to arrive early and be seated no later than 1:25 p.m.

Speaker's Bio

Amy J. Ko is a Professor at the University of Washington Information School and an Adjunct Professor at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. She directs the Code & Cognition Lab, where she and her students study CS education, human-computer interaction, and humanity's individual and collective struggle to understand computing and harness it for creativity, equity, and justice. Her earliest work included techniques for automatically answering questions about program behavior to support debugging, program understanding, and reuse. Her later work studied interactions between developers and users, and techniques for web scale aggregation of user intent through help systems; she co-founded AnswerDash to commercialize these ideas. Her latest work investigates effective, equitable, and inclusive ways for humanity to learn computing, especially how data, algorithms, APIs, and AI can both empower and oppress. Her work spans more than 120 peer-reviewed publications, with 11 receiving best paper awards and 4 receiving most influential paper awards. She is an ACM Senior Member, a member of ACM SIGCHI, SIGCSE, and SIGSOFT, and a member of the SIGCHI Academy, for her substantial contributions to the field of human-computer interaction. She received her Ph.D. at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in 2008, and degrees in Computer Science and Psychology with Honors from Oregon State University in 2002.

Speaker's Website