Narges Mahyar

Narges Mahyar 

Postdoctoral Fellow | Design Lab at University of California San Diego

Narges Mahyar is a postdoctoral fellow in the Design Lab at University of California San Diego. Her research falls at the intersection of social computing and design with the goal of augmenting groups’ abilities to solve complex problems. She is interested in exploring new strategies for engaging the public in massive decision-making processes related to civic issues. Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia where she designed and developed collaborative technology and visualization techniques for increasing public engagement in urban design. Her work received the honorable mention award from Interactive Surfaces and Spaces conference in 2016 and the outstanding paper award from Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture 2017. Her dissertation focused on designing visualization tools and interaction techniques to facilitate Collaborative Visual Analytics. She received the best paper award from IEEE VAST 2014 for her work on supporting collaborative sensemaking. She holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Victoria, an MS in Information Technology from the University of Malaya and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tehran Azad University.

Why do you believe innovations in participatory democracy are important?

There are lots of literature around how legally required participation methods in the US —in particular public hearings, review and comment procedures— not only do not meet most basic goals for public participation, but they are also counterproductive, causing anger, mistrust, tensions and revolts. These methods do not achieve genuine participation in planning decisions;
they do not satisfy members of the public that they are being heard;
they seldom can be said to improve the decisions that agencies and public officials make; and they do not incorporate a broad spectrum of the public.
Innovation is necessary and I believe technology can play a significant role.

What do you hope to see at the 2018 Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference?

Other innovators, and like-midid people, discussions around challenges and opportunities.