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HCII Seminar Series - Gregory Abowd

Gregory Abowd

Gregory Abowd
Dean, College of Engineering, and Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University


Newell-Simon Hall 1305



"Ubiquitous Computing Considered Harmful: A Two-Act Story of Getting Things Right for the Wrong Reason"

I have been speaking and writing about the idea of an Internet of Materials for nearly a decade. It started as a way to rethink Mark Weiser's vision of ubiquitous computing in a more modern context, with the same hopeful zeal that Weiser presented in his writings from the late 1980s and early 1990's. I will summarize how that re-interpretation has inspired my work, and the work of a growing community, for nearly a decade. From those involved in the fundamental understanding of computation to those involved in the practical development and deployment of computation, the future seems bright. We are moving towards a world of increased ubiquity of computation. There appears to be no end in sight for the increased ubiquity of all things computational. From a technical perspective, this is wonderful. More recently, I have been forced to think about this vision through a different lens. When you reflect on the environmental impact of computation, and specifically the impact of how we manufacture, operate, and discard computational artifacts, there is an even more compelling reason to pursue the agenda of the Internet of Materials. This unending proliferation of computation is dangerous to the health of our planet. We MUST begin questioning a lot of the assumptions on how to make, operate, and dispose of computational objects. This is no longer a journey for the "visionaries" to play out their fanciful predictions for the future. It is a mandate to address the fundamental hazards of our current trajectory towards ubiquitous computing.

Speaker's Bio

Gregory D. Abowd is the Dean of the College of Engineering at Northeastern University, where he is also a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering with affiliate appointments in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. Prior to joining Northeastern in March 2021, Dr. Abowd was faculty in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology for over 26 years, where he held the titles of Regents’ Professor and J.Z. Liang Endowed Chair in the School in Interactive Computing. His research falls largely in the area of Human-Computer Interaction with an emphasis on applications and technology development for mobile and ubiquitous computing in everyday settings. His research has introduced innovations in the classroom, the home, for stakeholders connected with autism, and sustainable forms of computing in everyday life. He has been the founding Editor-in-Chief for two major journals and is the most highly cited researcher in HCI and ubiquitous computing in the world, according to (the second two are both his former PhD students). Dr. Abowd is a Fellow of the ACM and an elected member of the ACM SIGCHI Academy. He was a 2009 recipient of the ACM Eugene Lawler Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics. Dr. Abowd received the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award for Research from ACM SIGCHI. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Honors Mathematics (summa cum laude) from the University of Notre Dame in 1986 as well as a Master of Science (1987) and Doctor of Philosophy (1991) in Computation from the University of Oxford, where he attended as a Rhodes Scholar.