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March 20th, 2020

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By now, no one is immune to knowing of today’s situation. Even the 6 year old with whom I babysat on Sunday was aware that it might not be safe to travel from Texas to Atlanta.

I left anyways. I have been in my room at home since Monday with my blinds wide open and no need for any indoor light source. The only joy that came my way that day was seeing children playing outside, riding their bikes as if it was a typical summer day in July. They were having so much fun. So I started taking photographs. Every day since, I have taken pictures of what is happening outside.

Some children have been riding their scooters, others pretend they are at the beach, laying out on their towels in the grass. The neighborhood is theirs, they own this space. They pretend as though the steps up to my front door is a wedding isle and they practice going up and down it. They have no care in the world, doing cartwheels in the street only until their sibling comes up with another idea. Their imagination so broad, time doesn’t exist. We should learn from kids. They know how to deal with today better than us.

I am sad because I will miss my walks to class. My favorite was my 8 ams because of the way the light looked in the morning. I am sad because I cannot see my grandma at her senior living home. I am sad because my friend had to FaceTime his brother for his birthday instead of going downstairs. I am sad about seeing emptiness in the world.

I am happy because I watched my dog and some deer 4 feet away have a docile stare down. I am happy because people are singing on their balconies in Italy. I am happy because the water is so clear and calm in Venice with swans afloat. I am happy because my professors in Florence have hope. I am happy because these children help remind me to enjoy each moment no matter how small.

It is ok to be sad and it is ok to be happy. In this moment, it is difficult to live by these four words, but there is no point in sitting in sadness. So yes, this too shall pass.

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January, 2020

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Digital news is a powerful tool that can bring us together. Living in a technology centered world, our ability to receive and share immediate news allows us to provide instant help and support globally. At the same time, digital news can also divide us and in some instances, lacks a necessary human component.  

Over winter break, two different news updates inspired me to think about how we transmit news digitally - the first, shedding light on the positive impact.

It’s January, I’m lying on the beach, listening to music with no care in the world.  I reach for my phone to adjust the volume and find myself distracted by an urgent news alert.  Bushfires in Australia spread over millions of acres. Thousands of animals dying and many more are at risk.  My heart sinks. I instantly want to help. I research the event only to discover that the situation is far worse than the headlines. 

I quickly craft a message describing the dire situation and terrible effects on wildlife and the habitat.  Adding links to the Red Cross donation page and to an ongoing Facebook fundraiser, I send the message to my friend groups.  Within minutes, they begin to respond and the fundraiser starts to multiply. In the span of just two hours, we raise $1,000 and engage in meaningful discussions, all in response to a single heart wrenching news notification.

The notification by design allowed me not only to become aware of the situation, but provided me with the tools to take action. The notification was interesting to me because it demonstrated how information combined with technology can help us to connect and take action.

While this is an example of a news update that creates a positive reaction, there are also news alerts that ignore the emotion on the opposite side of the screen.

Fast forward to January 26th. I am sitting at a coffee shop and a news notification pops up on my phone.  Kobe Bryant dies at age 41 in a helicopter crash.  While reading the tragic news story I can’t help but think if Kobe’s friends and family also learned of his death through the same news alert.  Just because the tragic event involved a celebrity, does that make the information immediately public and override concerns over privacy?  Since we now have the means to transmit the information instantaneously, does that give us the right to do so?

Tragic news stories unfortunately occur quite frequently. When transmitting a digital news story I am inspired to think about what and how we design, who we are designing for, and ultimately the impact of the design on the audience.

Taking my curiosity to the next level, I researched a few articles to see if others think similarly.  One article I read discussed how certain media outlets published false information about the Kobe Bryant crash and did so in haste even before family members were notified. The way the news was disseminated sparked distrust and a call to action about how digital news should be communicated to the public. 

My goal is to design digital solutions that recognize and account for the possible impacts on varying audiences. As we continue to advance technology including artificial intelligence, I believe that integrating empathy within design is crucial. I am passionate about how we understand and address user empathy and want to approach and solve these challenges from different angles.