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Beth Kolko

Beth Kolko

Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE)


Dr. Beth Kolko began her career as a professor in the humanities, studying how diverse communities used a then text-based internet to organize and enact change. Her current work focuses on the potential of non-experts to create disruptive solutions, and she builds programs that help people become functional engineers so they can solve problems in their communities. She is co-director of the Tactical and Tactile Technology (TAT) Lab and leads the Design in Engineering for Extraterrestrial Planning (DEEP) Research Group. She also created the Hackademia Project which builds innovation potential among broad audiences by imparting functional engineering skills combined with design thinking.

Kolko is the co-founder and former CEO of Shift Labs, a for-profit company building low-cost medical devices for emerging markets leveraging global innovation networks. She has been the Director of Innovation at the Makerbot Foundation (2013), a Fulbright professor at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (2000), a Visiting Faculty Researcher at Microsoft Research (2007), and a Fellow (2007-2009) and Faculty Associate (2009-present) at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. 


PhD, English, University of Texas at Austin
BA, Oberlin College

Selected Journal and Conference Publications

Kolko, B., Hope, A., Sattler, B., Maccorkle, K., Sirjani, B. (2012). “Hackademia: Building Functional Rather Than Accredited Engineers” ACM Participatory Design Conference. Denmark. 129-138.

Cynthia Putnam, Beth Kolko. (2012) “HCI Professions: Differences and Definitions.” In Proceedings of the 2012 annual conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems MAY 5-10. ACM CHI EA ’12 Austin, TX, USA. CHI Works in Progress paper. 338-349.

Ruth E. Anderson; Richard J. Anderson; Gaetano Borriello; Beth Kolko Designing technology for resource-constrained environments: Three approaches to a multidisciplinary capstone sequence Proceedings - IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE. October 2012. 6 pps.

Anderson. Promoting behavior change through community-generated digital video SIGDOC'12 - Proceedings of the 30th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication. 2012:365-366

Putnam, C., Kolko, B and Wood, S.(2012).Communicating about users in ICTD: leveraging HCI personas. In Proceedings of International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD 2012, Atlanta, GA, USA, March 12-15

A. Hope; W. Brunette; W. Gerard; J. Keh; L. Shlenke; R. Anderson; M. Kawooya; R. Nathan; B. Kolko. (2012). “The Midwife’s Assistant: Designing Integrated Learning Tools to Scaffold Ultrasound Practice.” Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICTD).March 2012. pp.

B. Kolko; A. Hope; W. Brunette; K. Saville; W. Gerard; R.; M. Kawooya; R. Nathan.(2012). "Adapting Collaborative Radiological Practice to Low-Resource Environments.” Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). February 2012.pp.97-106.

Walton, R., Yaaqoubi, J., & Kolko, B.E.  (2012). What’s it for? Expectations of Internet value and usefulness in Central Asia. Information Technologies and International Development: 8(3). 69-84.

Kolko, B.E., Putnam, C., Rose, E. (2011) “Reflection on research methodologies for ubicomp in developing contexts”. Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. OnlineFirst publication March 15, 2011  doi:10.1007/s00779-010-0338. 1-9. Print publication 15(6), 575-583. [Not sure if it was counted last year or not which is why I include it here]

Gleave, E., Robbins, B., Kolko, B.E. (2011). “Trust in Uzbekistan." International Political Science Review. OnlineFirst publication February 28, 2011.  10.1177/0192512110379491  1-21. 

W. Brunette; M. Hicks; A. Hope; G. Ruddy; R. Anderson; B. Kolko. (2011). “Reducing Maternal Mortality: An Ultrasound System for Village Midwives.” IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC). Pp. 

Rohit Chaudhri, Darivanh Vlachos, Jabili Kaza, Joy Palludan, Nathan Bilbao, Troy Martin, Gaetano Borriello, Beth Kolko, Kiersten Israel-Ballard, “A System for Safe Flash-Heat Pasteurization of Human Breast Milk.” NSDR. June 2011

 Gorman, T., Rose, E., Yaaqoubi, J., Azaabanye Bayor, A., Kolko, B.E. (2011). Adapting Usability Testing for Oral, Rural Users. ACM CHI Conference. Vancouver, Canada. May 2011. pp. 1437-1440.

Anderson, R., Kolko. B. (2011) “Designing Technology for Resource-Constrained Environments: a Multidisciplinary Capstone Sequence.” ASEE. Vancouver, Canada. June 2011.

Brunette, W, Gottlieb, AH, Gerard, W, Anderson, R, Hicks, M., Boriello, G., Kolko, B. (2010). “Portable Antenatal Ultrasound Platform for Village Midwives.” ACM Computing for Development Conference. December 2010. pp. 1-10.

Putnam,C. & Kolko, B. (2010). “What Exactly is ‘The Internet”?: The Social Meaning of ICTs and Their Ability to Impact Development.” Information and Communication Technologies and Development Conference. December 2010

Anderson, R.E., Poon, A., Lustig, C., Brunette, W., Salihbaeva, O., Johnson, E., Putnam, C., Boriello, G., & Kolko, B. E. (2010).  “Experiences with a Transportation Information System that Uses Only GPS and SMS.” Information and Communication Technologies and Development Conference. December 2010.

Best, M.B., Thakur, D., Kolko, B.E. (2010). “The Contribution of User-Based Subsidies to the Impact and Sustainability of Telecenters – the eCenter Project in Kyrgyzstan.” Special ICTD09 Issue of Information Technologies and International Development. 6:2. 75-89. 

Putnam, C., Rose, E., & Kolko, B. (2009). “Adapting User-Centered Design Methods to Design for Diverse Populations.” Information Technology and International Development 5:4. 49-71.

Walton, R., Putnam, C., Johnson, E., & Kolko, B. (2009). “From Binary to Shades of Gray: Exploring the Relationship between ICT Skills and Employment.” Information Technology and International Development 5:2. 1-18.

Johnson, E., Kolko, B., & Salikhbaeva, O. (2009). Boundaries and information: Sidestepping restrictions through Internet conversations.” First Monday 14:8 – 3. np. 9472 words.

Putnam, C. & Kolko B. (2009). Getting Online but still living offline: the complex relationship of technology adoption and in-person social networks. In Proceedings of Advances in Social Networks and Mining, ASONAM '09. pp. 33-40.

Putnam, C., Kolko, B., Rose, E. & Walton, R. (2009). Mobile phone users in Kyrgyzstan: A case study of identifying user needs and requirements. In Proceedings of International Professional Communication Conference, IPCC '09, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 20-22. np. (6267 words).

Driesbach, C., Walton R., Kolko, B., & Seidakmatova, A. (2009). Asking Internet Users to Explain Non-Use in Kyrgyzstan. In Proceedings of International Professional Communication Conference, IPCC '09, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 20-22.  np. (4124 words).

 Anderson, R.E., Poon, A., Lustig, C., Brunette, W., Boriello, G., & Kolko, B. E. (2009). “Building a Transportation Information System Using Only GPS and Basic SMS Infrastructure.” In Proceedings of ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD '09, Doha.Qatar, April 17-19, 2009.  pp. 233-242.  

Kolko, B. & Putnam,C. (2009). Computer Games in the Developing World: The Value of Non-Instrumental Engagement with ICTs, or Taking Play Seriously. In Proceedings of ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD '09, Doha.Qatar, April 17-19, 2009. pp. 46-55. 

Best, M., Thakur, D., & Kolko, B. (2009). “The Contribution of User Based Subsidies to the Impact and Sustainability of Telecenters – the eCenter Project in Kyrgyzstan.” In Proceedings of ACM/IEEE International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, ICTD '09, Doha.Qatar, April 17-19, 2009. pp. 192-200. 

Kolko, B.E., Rose, E.J., & Johnson, E.J. (2007). Information Seeking as Communication: The Case for Mobile Social Software in Developing Regions.” Proceedings of the 16th Annual IW3C2/ACM International WWW Conference (WWW2007). pp. 863-872. 

Kolko, B.E., Johnson, E.J., & Rose, E.J. (2007). Mobile Social Software for the Developing World. Proceedings of HCI International. Vol. 4564. Springer Berlin. pp. 385-394.

Chen, V. H., Duh, H. B., Kolko, B., Whang, L. S., & Fu, M. C. (2006). Games in Asia project. In CHI '06 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Montréal, Québec, Canada, April 22 - 27, 2006). CHI '06. ACM, New York, NY. pp. 291-294.

Kim, S, Farber, S., Kolko, B.E., Kim, W., Ellsbury, K., & Greer, T. (2006).  “Patterns of Faculty and Student Participation in On-Line Case Discussions of Palliative Care Scenarios.” Family Medicine 38:7. 494-499.

Wei, C., & Kolko, B.E. (2005). “Resistance to Globalization: Language and Internet Diffusion Patterns in Uzbekistan.” The New Review of Multimedia and Hypermedia 11:2. 205-220.

Wei, C. & Kolko, B.E. (2005). “Studying Mobile Phone Use in Context: Cultural, Political, and Economic Dimensions of Mobile phone use.” Proceedings from the Annual IEEE IPCC Conference. July 2005. (4690 words) 

Burgstahler, S., Jirikowic, T., Kolko, B.E., & Eliot, M. (2004). “Software Accessibility, Usability Testing and Individuals with Disabilities.” Information Technology and Disabilities 10:2. np. (5629 words).

Thayer, A., & Kolko, B.E. (2004). “Localization of Digital Games: The Process of Blending for the Global Games Market.” Technical Communication 51:4. 477-488.

Kolko, B.E., Wei, C., & J.H. Spyridakis. (2003). “Internet Use in Uzbekistan: Developing a Methodology for Tracking Information Technology Implementation Success.” Information Technologies and International Development 1:2. 1-19. 

Taylor, T.L., & Kolko, B.E. (2003). “Boundary Spaces: Majestic and the Uncertain Status of Knowledge, Community and Self in a Digital Age.” Information, Communication & Society 6:4. 497-522. Citations: 22.

Haselkorn, M.P., Sauer, G., Turns, J., Illman, D.L., Tsutsui, M., Plumb, C., Williams, T., Kolko, B.E., & J.H. Spyridakis. (2003). “Expanding the Scope of Examples from the Department of Technical Communication at the University of Washington,” Technical Communication 50:2. 174-191.

Kolko. B.E. & Thayer, A. (2003). “Games as Technological Entry Point: A Case Study of Uzbekistan.” Proceedings of the Digital Games Research Association. Utrecht University. 19 pages.

 Spyridakis, J.H., Wei, C., & Kolko, B.E. (2003).“The Relationship of Culture and Information-Seeking Behaviour: A Case Study in Central Asia.” Adjunct Proceedings of HCI International 2003, Crete University Press. pp. 167–168.

Kolko, B.E. (2002). “International IT Implementation Projects: Policy and Cultural Considerations.” Proceedings from the Annual IEEE IPCC Conference, Portland, OR, September 2002. pp. 352-359.

Kim, S., Kolko, B.E., & Greer, T. (2002). “Problem-Solving in Web-based Problem-Based Learning: Third-Year Medical Students' Participation in End-of-Life Care Virtual Clinic,” Computers in Human Behavior 18:6. 761-772. 

Kolko, B. E. (2001). “Discursive Citizenship: The Body Politic in Cyberspace.” The International Journal of Virtual Reality. 5:1. 1-8. 


Kolko, B.E., (Ed.) (2003). Virtual Publics: Policy and Community in an Electronic Age. Columbia University Press. New York.

Kolko, B.E., Regan, A., & Romano, S. (2001). Writing in an Electronic World. Addison Wesley Longman: New York.

Kolko, B.E., Nakamura, L., & Rodman, G.B. (Eds.) (2000). Race in Cyberspace. Routledge: New York.