Following are examples of current and proposed projects by faculty affiliates of the IVECG:

  • Walt Scacchi (Institute for Software Research), Jill Berg (Nursing Science), Tom Boellstorff (Anthropology), Yunan Chen (Informatics), Andre van der Hoek (Informatics), Alfred Kobsa (Informatics), Jung-Ah Lee (Nursing Science), Gloria Mark (Informatics) and Bonnie Nardi (Informatics) have formed a research team to study the informatics of serious games — games conceived for application and use in complex enterprise settings. The team is particularly interested in games involved with the advancement of scientific knowledge and informal science education, in home energy management and environmental management, as well as therapeutic applications of games to improve health.
  • Peter Krapp (Film & Media Studies) and Garnet Hertz (Informatics) propose studying the media archeology of video games in the context of usability design and ergonomics as they emerged with timelapse photography and motion study. From the current fashion for retro effects that emulate in software the limitations of older hardware on the one hand, and the legacy of failed innovations in the history of gaming on the other, they trace a resistance to the paradigms of usability and ergonomics in the development of game controls, of game narratives and aesthetics, and of game design. This makes computer games a useful foil for the standards of graphic user interface design revolving around hand-eye coordination, audiovisual perception and error detection. Where a typical human-computer interface is designed to accept and anticipate user error, games probe the limits of such interaction and punish error with loss of symbolic energy.
  • Tom Boellstorff (Anthropology) and Bonnie Nardi (Informatics) propose studying how persons with disabilities understand embodiment as avatars in virtual environments. Based upon a range of ethnographic methods including participant observation and individual and group interviews both online and offline, they will explore how experiences of movement, self-presentation and self-efficacy shape how disabled persons perceive themselves (and are perceived by others) as “disabled” when their avatar bodies are fully “able” in a virtual environment. They will examine differences between physical and psychological disabilities as well as temporary and lifelong disabilities. They also will examine the role of support groups and informal community among disabled persons in virtual environments. They will be open to the possibility of new kinds of disability that emerge in the context of virtual environments themselves (like a difficulty in typing on a keyboard that might carry great significance in online interaction). Finally, they will examine in what contexts persons with disabilities choose to reveal their disability to others online.
  • Over the past decade, observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background together with modern theoretical insights have provided for the first time an accurate statistical accounting of the initial conditions for structure formation in the universe. One of the most profound goals in astrophysics is to understand how galaxies evolved into the rich variety of objects that we see linking the cosmic web today. Though the fundamental physical laws that govern these processes are reasonably well understood, the evolution of universal structure is inherently non-linear and sufficiently complex that theoretical understanding is largely driven by the development and analysis of large numerical simulations. These simulations involve tens of millions of particles and solve the equations governing the evolution of dark matter, gas and stars in volumes that span millions of light years within an expanding universe. James Bullock (Physics and Astronomy) and Crista Lopes (Computer Science) are working together to use simulations of this kind in order to answer some of the deepest problems in galaxy formation: What explains the rich variety of galaxy types we see in the universe? How do galaxies acquire their fuel to form stars? What allows galaxies to keep forming stars for billions of years without exhausting their gas supply for fuel? As simulation output files become larger, the analysis of the data itself becomes a limiting factor in research results. Some specific problems of interest include developing connections between the observable universe (e.g., cold gas, luminous stars, hot plasmas, heavy elements) and the underlying matter that is more difficult to observe (e.g., warm gas and dark matter). Visualization techniques would inform the development of new statistics for quantitative comparisons between theory and data.
  • Magda El Zarki (Computer Science) and Patricia Seed (History) are developing an educational game that will introduce students at many levels to the immense diversity of African peoples and their interactions between 1400 and 1700. In teaching the history of the slave trade and the arrival of Africans to American shores, nearly all of the scholarship has focused upon the journey across the Atlantic and the dreadful fate that awaited the slaves once they reached the other side of the Atlantic. However, the people who were transported across the Atlantic were born into distinct societies, cultures, families and customs that had endured for decades and sometimes centuries. That part of the story — the immense diversity of the lives of Africans before they were seized and before they traversed the Atlantic — remains untold not only in our educational system in California but throughout the United States.