Namaste,
I'm Vish(al).

I am a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech. I study ways in which computing could contribute towards addressing problems of sustainability and socioeconomic development.




About

Research

I am a second-year Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech. I am advised by Dr. Neha Kumar as a part of the Technology and Design towards “Empowerment” (TanDEm) Lab, Georgia Tech and mentored by Dr. Bonnie Nardi from UC Irvine.

I am an engineer-turned-researcher, conducting research in the domains of Human-Computer Interaction for Development (HCI4D) and Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction (SHCI). I use ethnographic and qualitative methods to study the role of digital technologies in addressing the problems of sustainability (e.g., water scarcity) exaggerated by the problems of development (e.g., economic inequality). I take an assets-based human-centered design approach that leverages the assets, both tangible (e.g., tools and technologies) and non-tangible (e.g., skills, knowledge, capital), that are available to community members, individually and collectively, to design digital interventions to strengthen their capacities and build new capabilities to address the local problems of sustainable development themselves. Assets-based design is premised on the idea to minimize the introduction of new, unfamiliar technological assets to the community and maximize the utilization of available assets to build a more sustainable intervention.

I draw on feminist, degrowth, and post-development theory to co-create knowledge and technologies through dialog across borders of privilege and marginalization in order to promote sustainable and plural futures, instead of just relying on transferring knowledge from sites of great privilege to less privilege ones that often favors those in power and privilege under the guise of neutrality. I identify myself as situated in the One-Third World, from the vision of and in solidarity with communities in struggle in the Two-Thirds World.

Background

I grew up in Jammu which is a city in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The region is often in news largely due to the territorial conflict between India, Pakistan, and China and also because the place has suffered from a long term terrorist activities. For my undergrad, I moved to Chandigarh, another union territory, which serves as the capital of the two neighboring states of Punjab and Haryana. I did my Bachelor's in Computer Science and Engineering. Then, I moved to Bangalore, also known as the Silicon Valley of India, where I worked as a Software Engineer for around 2 years, before I moved to the United States for higher studies.

I graduated from UC Irvine in 2019 with a Master's in Informatics, where I worked with Dr. Bonnie Nardi. My master’s thesis focused on understanding social media use to raise public awareness and request participation in addressing crises of water scarcity and water pollution in Bangalore, India.

I have learned a lot from living in different cultures. Growing up in a terrorism prone area and then moving to places within India and to the US has provided me with various forms of cultural capital, particularly aspirational, linguistic, and resistant capital, helping me view and approach reality from a different perspective.



Recent News

May 2021: Joined Georgia Tech Graduate Student Government Association as the Chief of Staff.

April 2021: Passed my PhD qualifying examination!!!

Oct 2020: Joined Academic Integrity Committee and Students Honors Committee at Georgia Tech.

Sep 2020: Survived CHI 2021 submission deadline during a global Pandemic.

Aug 2020: Joined Georgia Tech Graduate Student Government Association as the Vice President of Conference Funds.



Research and Publications

1. Limits to Economic Growth in Computing (2019-ongoing)

I firmly believe in creating futures where the economy favors qualitative development, such as improvement in the quality of life (healthcare, lifespan, education, and so on), over-emphasis on quantitative growth, such as an increase in GDP or GNP. Creating such futures requires a cultural, political, social, and economic shift from how to produce more to how to redistribute what we have in new, fair, and democratic ways. Drawing from post-growth philosophy, I argue that the redistribution should occur between the rich and the poor (degrowth philosophy), the Global North and the South (post-development philosophy), and present and future generations (steady-state philosophy). My work aims to promote such futures by exploring how computing could be disengaged from economic growth, from its continual urge to grow, innovate – the cornucopian paradigm dominant in computing. How much ever user-centered computing might get, the cornucopian paradigm may always lead to unsustainable systems: A human-centered design is not necessarily humanity-centered.
Supervisors: Dr. Neha Kumar and Dr. Bonnie Nardi

Social Media During Slow Crises
Vishal Sharma
Department of Informatics, UC Irvine, 2019

2. Scoping Future of Digital Work: Understanding Sociotechnical Ecologies in Supporting Romance Industry (2020-ongoing)

I study how the romance industry successfully works in a complex human-technology frontier. Innovations in online technologies have changed employment in the romance industry, with new stakeholders and systems offering opportunities for self-employment. Authors can now independently sell their products but are responsible for all the work that traditional institutions (e.g., publishing houses) used to provide. To work at this frontier, authors use a considerable number of different tools, to sell, but also grow and maintain their audience of consumers. They also use these same tools to find other people to help them in their work, such as getting marketing assistance. This human-technology frontier is an ecology of people and platforms that the writer must be able use each part of, but also collectively manage the totality of the ecology to be successful. I investigate how do socio-technical ecologies (e.g., people and tools) support romance writers, what are the challenges, and what can this teach us about the future of digital work?
Supervisor: Dr. Beki Grinter

3. Analyzing Sociotechnical Ecologies in Promoting Online Safety and Inclusivity (2018-2019)

Indian matrimonial websites build on traditional cultural values of Indian arranged marriages rather than disrupting them. The sites offer a “safe space” to marriage seekers for searching potential spourses by helping family members stay involved in and watching over the matrimonial process. Here a safe space means an environment where the presence of a social network has the capacity to create safety, both social and psychological. The websites promote inclusivity by facilitating spousal search for persons from marginalized groups including the disabled, widowed, divorced, and HIV positive. I study: (a) how do matrimonial websites foster safety and inclusivity? and (b) how could we foster safety and inclusivity on social networking and dating sites?
Supervisor: Dr. Bonnie Nardi

Towards Safe Spaces Online: A Study of Indian Matrimonial Websites
Vishal Sharma, Bonnie Nardi, Juliet Norton, and A. M. Tsaasan
INTERACT 2019
Interaction Design for International Development Award 🏆



Contact

Feel free to message, email, or tweet at me with questions
about my work or ideas to collaborate!

My current local time is .

  +1 678 744 7670
  visharma@gatech.edu
Georgia Institute of Technology
85 Fifth Street NW
Atlanta, GA, 30332
USA