Hello Thesis!

This is where I will be documenting my thesis journey. It only gets me excited (and nervous, at the same time) to think how my thoughts and ideas would transform over the course of next 8 months.

  • In the last semester, just before we went into our summer vacation we were introduced to ‘thesis thinking’ - meaning, think of anything, literally anything that you care about enough to spend a year of your grad school, learning, exploring and having fun. Anything that feels meaningful to you or a problem in the world you want to fix. Fast forward few weeks and I started with my summer internship at Samsung’s New York office. The team I joined was working on a future TV experience - redefining the way we consume content on TV. My specific project focussed on conceptualizing a Mobile interface for that experience. For the purposes of research, my usual day at work would include interacting with TV (s), ~4-5 streaming devices (+their remote controls), the ‘new product’ my team was working on and the plethora of TV content apps like netflix, hulu, HBOgo and their corresponding smartphone apps. Long story short, the point I am trying to make is that, in those 12 weeks I had a pretty deep dive in the world of product, services, recommendation engines and algorithms. So much so, that I sometimes found myself sleep talking about recommendation systems. But, it was fun. Most of all, the team I was part of was incredible - honest critics, humble & light-hearted humans with a common love for food.

Right after I finished my internship, my husband and I went for a backpack trip in the Himalayas (India) for a week. In contrast, this was a total No-tech time. During the trip we had minimal access to technology, no phone network, no smartphone stickiness except for times when we landed at a place with internet or a telephone line to spend the night. This would allow us to make a call to parents and Instagram a photo or two for friends. It was an experience. It made us live differently, giving us more time to connect with ourselves, our surroundings and small things in life that bring joy and meaning to our life. It made me realize things which I truly connect with. Things I care about.

Two things which stood out for me are:

1. Technology is seeping into every moment of our lives turning us into constant data points that feed back into it. It’s making us work for it to work better. Product companies want people to watch more TV, ‘like’ more things, do more check-ins so that they know more about them and can design better for them. At times I fear, if are just getting sucked into this system/ new-age world and not realizing how our digital lives are influencing us as social beings. Our social existence seems incresingly limited to our lives on the internet.

2. There is still a huge untapped population that has not benefitted from this new ‘connected’ world. They are still far far away from experiencing this ecosystem for various reasons. Perhaps they do not feed into it and the system doesn’t cater to their needs.  

I don’t know if any of the two are better off than the other but I do believe technology holds immense potential to bridge the two. And, hopefully for good.

These realizations coupled with experiences in the trip like, living without electricity in a pitch dark world for nearly 12 hours, seeing people thrilled & celebrating to see their homes lit with electricity for the first time in their lives have stuck with me. It still makes me think how satisfying, full-filling and rewarding it must be for the people who touch lives and make a difference in the world.

In last few months, I have seen my thoughts drifting from ‘how to use data from the connected world and make it more meaningful (to people who use it)’  to “how to use this data and make it more meaningful for people who don’t have access to it”. In some of my projects (like PhotoNY, TabSuggest) in the first year of grad school I tried to address the first thought . For my thesis I am inclined to explore the latter. How? Frankly, I don’t know. Something that I have been scratching my head over is, Food, so many throw it and lot many sleep without it every day. One of those wicked problems that exist in the world!