Announcing Our 2020 Undergraduate Research Fellows

28 Jan, 2020

Announcing Our 2020 Undergraduate Research Fellows

Each year, the Berkeley Center for New Media pairs undergraduates with a graduate student mentor, offering them the chance to complete real, graduate level research while at Cal. We are thrilled to announce this year's Fellows.

Rebecca Abraham

Rebecca is an EECS major, interested in technology that promotes accessibility and inclusion, and is receiving a minor in education and public policy. Last summer, Rebecca interned at Accenture labs in the Artificial Intelligence team, where she worked on machine learning techniques to classify human voices according to emotion, a task that has applications in autism research. In addition to working as a lab TA at Berkeley, she has created websites for GIA MAG, a Berkeley online art publication for queer/trans people of color, and plays in Berkeley's marching band and wind ensemble.

Rebecca will be working with Rachel Chen on The Magical Musical Mat (MMM), a communication platform that uses touch and music as prosocial resources. It is currently being developed for nonverbal children on the autism spectrum, but can be used by many others beyond this population. When participants step onto the mat and explore different types of touch interactions together, capacitive sensors in the mat detect their haptic, touch-based interactions, triggering musical sounds. Different types of touch, such as holding hands, high-fives, or gentle taps, dynamically and spontaneously change auditory qualities, resulting in a rich diversity of sound-touch expression.

The MMM is currently being developed by Rachel Chen, a doctoral student in Special Education, and Arianna Ninh, a Cognitive Science major with a minor in Computer Science (2019). Rebecca will be working on the development of prototype 5 in collaboration with an autism clinic and a family. Rebecca will be involved in prototype fabrication (using skills such as sewing, making circuitry, etc.), coding the Raspberry Pi with Python, coding Arduino, designing different musical interactions, and updating the project’s website.

Gabrielle Clement

Gabrielle is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.She has studied art history, city planning, archaeology, and currently landscape architecture, to understand how design and the photographic circulation of art and design affects the “individual” perception of themselves, others, their surroundings, and the cultural world they live within. Working at the Environmental Design Archives, Gabrielle has engaged in extensive archival research, both digitally and physically. She has worked with manuscripts, drawings, and many forms of photographic materials, and has also conducted research for reference questions and curated exhibitions. She has further provided research assistance for a documentary film group, Insignia Films.

Gabrielle will be mentored by Tory Jeffay in the project New Media Technology in the Courtroom. New media has had an incredible effect in the U.S. legal system. This is especially evident in our current moment: Body cameras have introduced the first-person perspective of law enforcement as evidence. Teleconferencing software is employed regularly in migrant detention cases. Recidivism algorithms assess defendants' risk of reoffending. While new media scholars such as Ruha Benjamin, Virginia Eubanks, and Kelli Moore have begun to address these contemporary technologies and their problems, the historical timeline for mediated evidence in the courtroom usually begins with the Rodney King trials of the early nineties. Yet emergent media technologies have been part of the courtroom since at least the mid-nineteenth century. This project turns to this longer history in an attempt to uncover the preconditions of our current moment of mediated justice.

Gabrielle will help build an archive of newspaper articles about court cases in the second half of the nineteenth century that used microscope, stereopticon, and photographic enlargement technology. She will read through the accounts and create timelines and summaries of the different cases. A documentary film project is also being developed around this material and her work will directly contribute to this movie.

Bryan Truitt

Bryan is a B.A candidate in Art Practice and Cognitive Science. Bryan has previously worked on a series of conceptual garments that use anti-facial recognition tactics to perform as a subversive and embodied form of resistance against surveillance. These garments were intiially produced collaboratively for a group project in NWMEDIA C203 Critical Making, and have since expanded to be shown at the Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture. The project is informed by research into the ways that surveillance technologies enforce a normative body, and mark certain bodies as other through a process that reinforces white supremacy, transphobia, and other forms of structural violence.

Bryan will work closely with Julia Irwin on The Mediation of the Human Face. This project charts the history of the mediation of the human face, looking at the ways photography, film, and video have been used as measuring devices to capture aspects of the human that evade and exceed quantitative knowability. The questions driving this project are drawn from contemporary concerns about the ethics and efficacy of facial recognition and emotion recognition software, as well as algorithms that use analytics to predict human behavior. A persistent ethical challenge revolves around the fact that artificial intelligence software is perceived to be opaque, which makes pinpointing algorithmic bias difficult. The historic approach is an attempt to open the black box, to understand the pre-algorithmic practices of mediating the face that have indeed been inherited by contemporary systems.

Bryan will help map out a robust historic timeline that tracks the way the face has been mediated via photography, film, and video, as well as in other disciplines, especially psychology, statistics, medicine, and other research related to eugenics and physiognomy.