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Research in Information Science Award Acceptance

Heather O'Brien received the 2022 Research in Information Science Award at the Annual Meeting. The following are her remarks upon accepting the award:

It's an incredible honor to be receiving this award today. I first want to extend my deep appreciation to all of my colleagues who serve on the awards committees for ASIS&T and to the specific individuals who supported my nomination. I also want to express my gratitude to the many mentors I've had over my research career, many of whom are in this room, including Heidi. I started my research journey with doctor Elaine Toms who saw potential in me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. And as a PhD student, I participated in the ASIS&T Doctoral Consortium and was mentored by Dr. Barbara Wildemuth, which was truly in a formative experience.

Over the years I have collaborated with many wonderful people in this community and the learning from these partnerships and friendships has meant a great deal to me. My first ASIS&T conference was in 2005 where I presented a poster of my doctoral work and I remember being in awe that people whose work I had read and admired we're willing to stop and talk with me and share their advice and critiques. Since that time Asus just been at home for me, and it's especially wonderful to be here this year among friends again.

I've been working in the area of user engagement for over 15 years. I persist in the hope that user engagement can be used not as an end in and of itself, but as a way to facilitate meaningful interactions between people and technology. While I continue to focus on information seeking and retrieval, I've also joined teams of health researchers and librarians to support projects in the spheres of online health and knowledge mobilization and sharing.

Engagement is frequently defined and measured according to how often and how long people interact with technology and metrics like clicks and downloads have become a proxy for sustained attention and use. Yet research in our field and allied areas is demonstrating harmful outcomes of human computer interactions. In a recent paper, “Rethinking disengagement in human computer interaction,” my colleagues and I considered this research, highlighting the double-edged sword of user engagement, something that is both desirable and problematic. Overall, we concluded that there is a need to consider user engagement in light of the agency people experience when using technologies, and to make space for disengagement as a naturally occurring part of engagement. As information researchers and designers, we can ask questions of information spaces, like why we want to engage technology users and who benefits from that engagement.

I take inspiration in a recent paper by some of my UBC colleagues Michelle Kaczmarek, Saguna Shankar, Rodrigo dos Santos, Eric Myers, and Lisa Nathan, who expressed that, when it comes to designing technologies, it is possible for care and responsibility to come first. This ethos gives me hope for the next 13 years of reengagement research.

Thank You