ASU students will be empowered by “technofluence”

July 16, 2021

Pavan Turaga, director of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, wants students to consider the implications of technology

Students at Arizona State University’s Transdisciplinary School of Arts, Media, and Engineering will be trained in “technofluence,” a concept adopted by the school’s faculty and new principal, Pavan Turaga.

Turaga, an associate professor at the school and also at the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, had served as interim director of the school, a collaborative initiative between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The school, with about 400 students, will expand to the new Creative Futures initiative in downtown ASU Mesa, which will open in 2022.

Turaga answered some ASU News questions:

Question: What is “technofluence”?

Answer: One of the good things that came up last year was at the last teacher meeting in the spring of 2020, we had a marathon writing session and we framed our first vision and mission.

We identified a keyword, technofluence, and said that, as a school, we will commit to this work. It is, therefore, three things: fluency with technology, application development and implications. These are the three pillars.

We want students to develop the fluidity of technology tools, how to apply them and ask themselves, what are the implications?

All technological tools have certain advantages and it is becoming increasingly clear, especially in the fields of media and social media, things driven by artificial intelligence, that these methods amplify certain biases that are already prevalent in the media.

We are creators who make art and supports and attractive products, but we pay attention to the underlying assumptions that exist.

Q: And how will students view the implications of the technology they create?

A: This is one of the questions we address. Is it in all classes, in a specific class or in the capstone project?

If we treat it in all classes, it limits the work you can do. Some classes should be development only or application only. They are deep technology classes.

Maybe he’s developing new classes.

We would love to see how students use all three muscles to develop their one-year cornerstone projects. I would like to see how they fully welcome it and see if we can do large-scale community impact projects. I will be working with a new team of capstone instructors, including incoming teachers DB Bauer, Luke Kautz and David Tinapple to begin to achieve this vision.

Q: When you became interim principal, you discussed how the school focuses on artificial intelligence and games. What about these areas?

A: We are in the advanced stages of launching a certificate on the idea of ​​artificial intelligence for media development applications, led by faculty directors Suren Jayasuriya, Ed Finn and Sha Xin Wei.

We have found a lot of interest from high school and high school students who want to understand artificial intelligence and we are working on a summer program, as part of our Digital Culture Summer Institute, run by the directors of Kim Swisher and Loren Olson faculties.

The idea of ​​games really came to light during the pandemic, with games as a means of connecting with a community and games as a way to learn and promote a sense of fairness. I feel like the gaming industry, as a company, exploded during the pandemic and our students absorbed it and manifested themselves in their projects.

A student built a game in Spanish for his cornerstone. They chose a prison as the setting and the purpose of the game was to get out of prison trying to communicate with people in prison in Spanish. It was, “How do you immerse yourself in a language-based community during a pandemic?” And gaming is one way to do that. I saw it as an impressive project to foster linguistic fluency.

Q: Your area of ​​expertise is portable technology. What are you working on?

A: My interest is in artificial intelligence methods applied to portable device data.

As portable devices take off, there is a great opportunity to understand motion data and other types of physical motion measurements that come from these sensors and try to understand the whole spectrum of human behavior, which has many applications. .

There is great interest in using non-invasive and usable technology to measure biomarkers, which in the past could only be measured with a blood test. For example, blood glucose levels cannot be easily measured with a portable device, but we can correlate changes in these levels with physical activity measured by biosensors.

Many of our teachers are interested in using portable parts for performances, such as Seth Thorn, Grisha Coleman and more.

We just received a $ 250,000 gift from the Edson Foundation to develop a wellness-based experience to create a setback for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. One idea was to use interactive methods, such as home screens or virtual reality, to create an experience to immerse them in a pleasant world. We work with a team of faculty, students and consultants, including Tejaswi Gowda, Max Bernstein, Xavier Nokes, Ri Lindegren, Todd Ingalls, David Coon, Dennis Bonilla, Elle Spencer Lewis and more.

I will be involved in this project over the next year.

Q: You recently finished work on a project that involved people with Parkinson’s disease. How was that?

A: I worked on it for five years and this project is already finished. The Parkinson’s project also dealt with interactive systems that create biofeedback, led by colleagues in nursing and bioengineering: Narayanan Krishnamurthi, Jimmy Abbas and also Todd Ingalls. We were seeing sensors connected to people’s feet that could signal gait cadence to drive feedback, so they could feel walking and correct their gait cycles.

Q: What types of jobs do graduates of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering get?

A: We are primarily a liberal arts program, which means they have broad-based skills. Many are doing startups. A recent graduate began a top-tier position with Amazon. Others become video editors, media (and game) designers. Many have gone to Unity, a great software platform for a lot of virtual reality and augmented reality games, with some of our teachers like Robert LiKamWa and Garth Paine playing a major role in this channel.

Many are engaged in jobs that require practical technological fluency, but are also good at directing and managing people.

Top photo: Portrait of Pavan Turaga by Charlie Leight / ASU News

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