Dissertation Award Past Winners


Information about our recent Dissertation Award honorees follows, and details on the selection process can be found below.

2016 Winner

Ashwin J. Mathew, Ph.D.
School of Information, University of California, Berkeley
Where in the World is the Internet? Locating Political Power in Internet Infrastructure
Advisors: Prof. Coye Cheshire; Prof. John Chuang

Biography: Ashwin J. Mathew is a Visiting Scholar at the UC Berkeley School of Information, and Internet Infrastructure Researcher at Packet Clearing House, an international organization responsible for providing operational support and security to critical Internet infrastructure. He graduated with a Ph.D. from the UC Berkeley School of Information in 2014. Before that, he spent a decade working as a software engineer and technical architect in companies such as Adobe Systems and Sun Microsystems.

Research Abstract: The Internet is a complex global infrastructure, constructed over a system of interconnections between thousands of individual computer networks. Through ethnographic research into communities of network administrators in North America and South Asia, I found that this system of interconnections is stabilized and ordered on a global scale through social trust relationships amongst the Internet’s technical personnel. I argue that this socio-technical formation – which I term “distributed governance” – locates political power in Internet infrastructure, producing the appearance of placeless virtual space over physical telecommunications infrastructure.

Click here to view Dr. Mathew’s dissertation.

Remarks from Award Co-Chairs Michael Seadle and Shigeo Sugimoto: “This dissertation exemplifies the close ties between information technology and social science (in this case, ethnographic) research. The author looked at how the decision-making processes in the contemporary networked environment influence and depend on political circumstances, and gathered his data through skilled observation and direct involvement. In the final the reviewers all agreed that this was an outstanding work that richly deserved the prize.”

2016 Runner Up

Briony Birdi 2
Briony Birdi,Ph.D.
Information School, University of Sheffield
We are here because you were there: an investigation of the reading of, and engagement with, minority ethnic fiction in UK public libraries.

Biography: Briony Birdi is a Lecturer in Librarianship at the Information School, University of Sheffield, where she also completed her PhD and MA in Librarianship. Her research focuses on reading research and the promotion of literature and reading, and public and youth libraries, with an emphasis on social justice and diversity. She currently leads the Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society (CPLIS), which provides a focus for the School’s work in the public library sector. Since 2009 Birdi has been working at the University on a part-time (0.6 and 0.8) basis, balancing an academic career and family life.

Research Abstract: “This mixed methods thesis comprises three empirical investigations of the previously overlooked readership of minority ethnic fiction. The first surveyed reading habits and attitudes, via a quantitative questionnaire (n=1,047) and qualitative interviews. The second qualitatively explored perceptions of reader ‘types’ using personal construct theory and the repertory grid technique. The third, quantitative study adapted the repertory grid to investigate readers’ beliefs, attitudes and intentions to read fiction genres. From the literature and empirical findings a model of genre fiction reading was developed; this identifies a new reader profile, and gives a causal ordering to the characteristics of the fiction reader.”

Click here to view Dr. Birdi’s dissertation.

Remarks from Award Co-Chairs Michael Seadle and Shigeo Sugimoto: “This dissertation addresses a current social and political issue involving minority ethnic fiction using three empirical studies to survey reading habits. The reviewers also agreed that this dissertation was a serious competitor for the prize and clearly deserved to be the runner up.”

2015 Winner

Xinru Page, photo by Jenee CookXinru Page, Ph.D.
Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine
Factors that Influence Adoption and Use of Location-Sharing Social Media

Biography: Xinru Page is an Assistant Professor in Computer Information Systems at Bentley University. Her current research focuses on privacy, technology adoption, interpersonal communication, social media and human computer interaction. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Information and Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine. Before rejoining academia, Xinru led interaction design and product management in industry, and was chosen as a Women Tech Council award finalist. At UC Irvine, she received a Dean’s fellowship and Yahoo! Best Dissertation Fellowship Award.

Remarks from the Dissertation Award Chairs:
Xinru Page’s dissertation, “Factors that Influence Adoption and Use of Location-Sharing Social Media,” studies users and non-adopters of location-sharing social networks to understand whether privacy concerns impact usage. It presents a validated model of location-sharing adoption, derived from grounded theory as well as structural equation modeling of nationwide survey data, and explores how to incorporate these theories into the design of location-sharing social media.

The reviewers noted that the dissertation was timely and important, both addressing the gaps in research and practice while making a tangible contributions to both. In particular reviewers cited the mixed methods approach with one calling the dissertation a multi method tour de force which masterfully integrates qualitative and quantitative research. They also identified the significance of the findings, particularly the importance of identifying communication style as an important new variable of potential interest to HCI scholars and system designers.

Xinru Page completed her dissertation at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine, which nominated her.

Click here to view Dr. Page’s website.
Click here to view Dr. Page’s dissertation.

2015 Runner Up

Laura_ShebleLaura Sheble, Ph.D.
School of Information and Library Science of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Diffusion of Meta-Analysis, Systematic Review, and Related Research Synthesis Methods: Patterns, Contexts, and Impact

Biography: Laura Sheble earned her PhD in Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Within the broad space of research and data practices, informetrics, and science-society interactions, Laura is interested in questions related to diversity and synthesis, novelty and reuse, visualization, change over time, and the co-influences of research and practice. Previously, she was a systems librarian at the Detroit Area Library Network and e-resources librarian at Wayne State University, where she earned an MLIS. Laura works with the Center for Health Equity Research at UNC to map use of systems science methods in the health sciences.

Remarks from the Dissertation Award Chairs:
Laura Sheble’s dissertation is entitled “Diffusion of Meta-Analysis, Systematic Review, and Related Research Synthesis Methods: Patterns, Contexts, and Impact,” and investigates the diffusion and impact of research synthesis methods. Bibliometric analysis indicates modest engagement with the methods in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by increasing engagement across a greater diversity of fields in the 1990s and 2000s. Finer grained analysis of five fields examines contextual factors that contribute to or impede diffusion and reveals differences and similarities across field contexts.

Reviewers noted that the topic of the dissertation was very relevant to the future development of the information fields and recognized the fact that there was an increasing need for studying the research process itself in order to speed up and optimize the research. The dissertation addresses a gap in research and contributes new knowledge that potentially can have important implications on how evidence-based research can be conducted and research findings from multiple studies in various fields can be synthesized.

Laura Sheble graduated from, and was nominated by, the School of Information and Library Science of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Click here to view Dr. Sheble’s website.
Click here to view Dr. Sheble’s dissertation.

2014 Winner

Jennifer Lynn Douglas, Ph.D.
University of Toronto Faculty of Information
Archiving Authors: Rethinking the Analysis and Representation of Personal Archives

Biography: Since completing her Ph.D., Jennifer Douglas has been teaching courses in archival theory and management at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. Her current research focuses on the creation and functions of community archives in online grief communities, looking specifically at online archives created by parents of stillborn babies. In addition to her Ph.D., Jennifer holds a Masters in Archival Studies from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Arts, English Literature from the University of Victoria. She has published articles on the principles of provenance and original order, on the nature and treatment of writers’ archives, on medieval women’s letter writing and on archival description as genre (forthcoming).

2014 Runner Up

Parmit K. Chilana, Ph.D.
University of Washington Information School
Supporting Users After Software Deployment through through Selection-Based Crowdsourced Contextual Help

Biography: Parmit Chilana is an Assistant Professor in Management Sciences at the University of Waterloo, specializing in human-computer interaction and information systems. She received her Ph.D. from the iSchool at the University of Washington in June 2013. For her dissertation, Parmit invented LemonAid, a new selection-based crowdsourced software help retrieval approach for web applications and carried out a multi-site deployment study to evaluate LemonAid in the field. Parmit also co-founded Qazzow, a venture-funded startup company that is commercializing LemonAid’s help approach for e-commerce applications. Parmit has previously been recognized with Facebook’s inaugural Ph.D. Fellowship and Canada’s SSHRC Doctoral Award. She received her Masters degree from the iSchool at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and BSc in Computing Science from Simon Fraser University.

2013 Winners

Jaime Snyder
Syracuse University
Image-Enabled Discourse: Investigating the creation of visual information as communicative practice
Biography: Jaime Snyder is a post doctoral research fellow at Syracuse University’s iSchool and a research consultant at Cornell University’s Interaction Design Lab. Her dissertation, “Image-Enabled Discourse; Investigating the Creation of Visual Information as Communicative Practice,” examines the creation of visual representations of information as a form of social interaction and engagement. This work has been recognized with a 2012 Syracuse University Doctoral Award, the 2012 ASIST Proquest Doctoral Dissertation and the 2010 ASIST Thomson Reuters Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Award. Snyder earned her PhD in Information Science and Technology from Syracuse University in 2012.

  • Submitter: Steve Sawyer, Professor
  • Advisor: Elizabeth Liddy, Dean, Trustee Professor

Tammy Toscos
Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing
Digital vigilance: Pervasive technology for children with type 1 diabetes
Biography: Tammy Toscos is an Assistant Professor of Health Informatics at Indiana University Purdue University, Fort Wayne and a Postdoctoral Health Services Research Fellow at Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis. Tammy earned a Ph.D. in Informatics at Indiana University, Bloomington in 2011 where she studied Human-Computer Interaction Design (HCI-d) with Dr. Kay Connelly and Dr. Yvonne Rogers as her primary advisors. Tammy’s research lies at the intersection of HCI-d and Health Informatics, focusing how to design interactive technologies to help people achieve personal health goals.

  • Submitter: Geoffrey Fox, Distinguished Professor
  • Advisor: Kay Connelly, Associate Professor

2013 Runner Up

Josh Blumenstock
University of California, Berkeley
Essays on the economic impacts of mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa

Biography: Joshua Blumenstock is an Assistant Professor at the Information School at the University of Washington. His research focuses on the economic and social impacts of information and communication technologies, and the development of new methods for the quantitative analysis of large-scale data. Recent projects use terabytes of data on network communication to understand the diffusion of mobile technologies (Pakistan and Mongolia), the welfare impacts of Mobile Money (Rwanda and Uganda), and the role of technological innovation in reducing corruption and violence (Afghanistan). Joshua holds a Ph.D in Information Management and a M.A. in Economics from U.C. Berkeley, and Bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Computer Science from Wesleyan University.

  • Submitter: Coye Cheshire, Associate Professor
  • Advisor: AnnaLee Saxenian, Dean and Professor

About the iSchools Doctoral Dissertation Award

The iSchools Doctoral Dissertation Award promotes outstanding work in the information field, recognizing the best dissertation to have been completed at a member-iSchool in the preceding academic year.

Each year, nominations are solicited from all members of the iSchools organization. Nomination instructions can be found on our Doctoral Dissertation Award webpage.

The winner and runner up each receive a cash prize, and also a travel allowance to help offset the cost of attending the iConference to collect their award.