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David Ribes' Research Group Archive

The following research group descriptions are archived because they are no longer offered, the faculty member is on sabbatical, or the group is taking a break. Please contact the faculty member or an advisor to learn more about these groups.

Winter 2024

Into the Archives

Led by David Ribes, HCDE associate professor, and Os Keyes, HCDE PhD candidate

Considering the history of systems is an increasingly-important part of research in design and engineering - but it's hard to find opportunities to learn how to do that. This DRG aims to provide just that. Working with and in the University of Washington archives, participants will:

  1. Explore archival and historic materials relating to a topic they care about, and;
  2. Come together weekly to discuss and reflect upon what they have learned about that topic, and about the work of researching in archival ways.

We are looking for 4-8 students, from any program in the broad sphere of HCDE, and expect the DRG to take at most four hours of your time a week. 

Spring 2022

Investigating Healthcare/Research Infrastructure: Reading Group

Co-Directed by HCDE Prof. David Ribes and PhD student Meg Moldestad

In this reading group we will explore how to investigate infrastructure in the context of healthcare and biomedical research. We plan to cover a breadth of topics, including (but not limited to) medical service provision, biomedical research, health data and analytics, vaccine/drug production and distribution, public health, and healthcare facility built environments. Readings and discussions will have a particular focus on inequities built into these systems and what design contributions we might make to improve them. 
This is a reading and discussion seminar. Core readings will be assigned each week and students will come prepared to discuss. With support from the co-directors, participants will lead one discussion during the quarter and provide supplemental readings as desired. We will also create a final product that we collectively decide on and design (one example: annotated bibliography). 
Recommended Background

This DRG is most suitable for students with an interest in the infrastructure of both healthcare and biomedical research. BS, MS, and PhD students are all welcome, but we are limiting participation to ~10 students. If you wish to participate in the reading group, please send an email to and with a few sentences explaining your research interests, why you are interested in the group, and what you hope to get from the experience. 

Winter 2020

Data Then and Now Speaker Series & Reading Group

Co-Directed by HCDE Prof. David Ribes, iSchool Prof. Megan Finn, and eScience Dr. Anissa Tanweer

Join us for a 10-week winter speaker series / reading group about the histories, presents and futures of data. The seminar will revolve around a bi-weekly speaker series called 'Data Then and Now' that is co-sponsored by eScience, Information School, and HCDE. Speakers from a number of different disciplines will talk about histories of data, data technologies & practices in order to draw out the antecedents and continuities in this data-centric moment. DRG participants will read papers by our visiting scholars, situate their contributions in the academic literature, and prepare and publish public digests describing the speaker’s work and their talk. We will meet Wednesdays from 4-5p, and the DRG can be taken by PhD students of any background for 1 or 2 credits.

If you wish to participate in the seminar, please send an email to,, and with a few sentences explaining what you hope to get out of the seminar. If we have an overwhelming response, preference will be given to students participating in the STSS program.

Autumn 2019

Reading Group: Queer Theory and HCI

Co-directed by Associate Professor David Ribes and PhD student Calvin Liang

In this reading group, we will attempt to address the questions “What can HCI learn from Queer Theory?” and “What can Queer Theory learn from HCI?”

Queer is not a new term, nor a singular one. It has had competing, often controversial, meanings across its history. One part of this DRG will focus on understanding this heterogenous history. Seminal statements about the role of queer theory for HCI have been published such as Queer(ing) HCI: Moving Forward in Theory and Practice. We will engage these literatures. But no one has addressed the reverse question: what can HCI teach queer theory? We will return to this question throughout the DRG — though we certainly don’t (yet) have answers. The focus of this DRG, then, is both theoretical, and seeking to inform design. 

The first weeks will be focused on reading the foundational literatures on: queer theory, queer HCI, classification & data, and queer history. The final weeks’ readings will be decided collectively by the class, as we gain traction on the topic.

We are looking for a small group of undergraduates, graduate students, and/or faculty to join our reading group. Some knowledge or experience with HCI and/or Queer Theory is recommended, though not required. Students will be expected to complete weekly readings, lead one session, and be prepared to engage in discussions about the readings.

Developing UX maturity in the corporate world

Winter 2019

This DRG is for students who are interested in how academic research and real-world business do (and don’t) mix. 

UX consulting is a booming business. However, the lack of systematic research on how technology companies learn to adopt UX practices can leave corporate stakeholders skeptical of whether investing in UX is worth it. This DRG provides students with a unique opportunity to work directly with a real-world software company, while also helping to build a body of scientific research on how UX maturity develops in corporate settings. 

As a member of the HCDE Corporate Affiliates Program, nFocus Solutions has offered to serve as a research partner for this DRG, focused on understanding how a medium-sized technology company with a legacy enterprise system works to advance itself through the stages of UX maturity. nFocus Solutions is a SaaS (software-as-a-service) provider of datamanagement, outcome measurement and performance management software to the public sector. They serve a wide range of clients across the public sector, ranging from single nonprofits serving 30 children a day, to entire communities working to improve high school graduation rates, to first responders performing search and rescue missions, to the United States Army. 

The quarter will culminate in a presentation to nFocus Solutions.


This DRG will meet from 4 -5:30 p.m. on Thursdays in Fall 2018 (2 credits) and will be led by David McDonald (HCDE), David Ribes (HCDE), and Emily S Lin (nFocus Solutions).

Students will begin the quarter getting oriented to relevant research literature, as well learning about nFocus Solutions and their clients. Over the course of the quarter, students will identify a research contribution they’d like to make (e.g., developing a survey instrument, testing a feedback mechanism), then do field work with nFocus employees to refine their methodology. The final deliverable will be a presentation to nFocus stakeholders.

Recommended Background

This DRG is most suitable for students of all levels (BA, MS, PhD) with an interest in both the research and business sides of user-centered design. Students with a background in organizational studies, social psychology, psychometrics, and/or ethnography are encouraged to apply. We also welcome students experienced with database technologies and/or social service or public sector end-users.

Reading Group: Science and Technology Studies and Disability Studies

Autumn 2017

Led by Associate Professor David Ribes and PhD Student Cynthia Bennett

Note: This reading group is at capacity for Autumn 2017. However, if you were hoping to join, please email Cynthia at so she can get in touch with you if a similar reading group is offered in future.

In this reading group, we will read and discuss work at the intersection of the intellectual traditions Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Disability Studies. we will particularly explore how STS conveys and challenges disability categories and how Disability Studies expands STS. Recently, work has recognized the intersection of these fields as ripe for enriching our understanding of science and technology and disability. For example, STS provides lenses for studying the social impacts of technologies and infrastructures such as government systems on disability categories and the lived experiences of people with disabilities. In concert, the disabled body and a Disability Studies perspective (which opens up possibilities for disability as richer than something to be cured) expands STS which has been critiqued for ‘writing out’ non-normative bodies in its discourse. For more information about this intersection, read this blog post:

Readings will be assigned each week and students will come prepared to discuss.

This reading group is targeted toward students whose work overlaps with STS or Disability Studies as well as for people who study disability through other theoretical lenses. It is not necessary to have studied either tradition formally, but having read in at least one of the areas will help as we will scaffold only nominal introductions of each field at the beginning of the quarter.

Credits: 2
Time: TBD Once registration is complete, the coordinators will poll for availability.
Location: UW Seattle campus

Exploratory Methods: Digital Ethnographies of Data Science

Spring 2017

Join us this spring for a DRG that will focus on contemporary data science projects. You will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of objects of study associated with the ‘Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs’ (BDHubs) and the ‘State of Alaskan Salmon and People'  (SASAP), two contemporary ventures that seek to transform the sciences in general, or the sciences of salmon.

Course activities will be hands-on and action-oriented. You will be asked to deploy ethnographically-informed methods and documentary analysis practices to explore, collect, and collate issues in the contemporary data science milieu. Occasional readings, relevant to the thematic focus of the group’s work, will be assigned as well.

The goal of these inventive methods is not to transform the projects to quantitative data, but to find ways of preserving some sense of the dynamic and textured qualities of ethnographic observation, while still communicating these understandings in compact ways to others. By the end of the quarter, students will be familiar with digital and trace ethnographic research methods, and communicating those kinds of findings. 

This is a 2-credit (CR/NC) research group offered to undergraduate (HCDE 496) and graduate (HCDE 596) students. 

Comics Made By You: Visually Communicating the Sociotechnical

Prof. David Ribes with Jeremy Kayes

Comics can be a form of user experience design, of storyboarding and of technical communication. They can serve to convey complex ideas, concepts, and emotions in an accessible and sometimes profound way giving us the power to explore and tell stories. For this DRG we will explore the heart of Human Centered Design and Engineering by conveying fun, funny and engaging comic-based narratives examining the concept of 'sociotechnical systems.'

The goal of this directed research group is for participants to create and ultimately publish a collection of comics about sociotechnical design, broadly construed. For example, we might expect BS students to draw comics about their experiences learning about HCDE, MS students to draw about their favorite projects or professional experiences, and PhD students to take on the grand challenge of turning their research in to comics. You do not need to be able to draw. If you can draw a stick figure, you can draw a comic. Depending on how fast you work and how many units you sign up for, 3 to 6 complete pages is a realistic goal for the quarter.

We will be joined this quarter by Jeremy Kayes, author of the book The Indies and Founder and Organizer of the 3-year-old, 520 member, Seattle Indie Comic and Game Artist (SICAGA) Meetup group. Jeremy has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and works as a User Interface Developer.

Students will be responsible for buying their own art supplies and for getting access to Adobe Photoshop through UW resources, such as Odegaard Learning Commons, or by purchasing a license. We will discuss art supplies during the first class.

BS, MS, and PhD students are all welcome, but we are limiting participation to ~10 students. Students will enroll for 2-3 credits (CR/NC) through HCDE 596 (for graduate students) or HCDE 496 (for undergraduate students).