Research Projects

Technology-Enabled Resilience

Getting a divorce. Being diagnosed with a disease. Going through a relationship breakup. Living through a natural disaster or war. Forming an identity. Engaging in political discourse. All of these events are often life-disrupting and debilitating. While some disruptive events are short-lived, some can be a routine part of everyday life.

Disruptive events are not new. What is new is that today people have access to an ecosystem of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)  that they can draw on to be resilient—that is, to bounce back from and manage disruption. Research in the fields of HCI and CSCW has increasingly deployed the theme of resilience to examine the intersection between ICTs and natural disasters, such as earthquakes or tsunamis. However, research tends to focus on the improvisational sociotechnical behaviors people develop to adjust to changed circumstances in the short period following specific disaster events. At present we lack deep, broad and systematic knowledge about how ICTs enable resiliency during ongoing, long-term disruptions. My research aims to address this gap.

This leads to the question of how people who experience a prolonged disruption in their lives use Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to build resilience? This question has been the major driving force behind much of my scholarship, where I have explored how people utilize ICTs during periods of, or experiences with, everyday disruption.

My research has explored several long-term disruptions. To date, I have studied the uses of ICTs by Israeli and Iraqi citizens who experienced long-term, highly visible disruption, caused by war. I am currently examining disruptions that are far less visible, and have extended my explorations of resilience to populations experiencing disruption in less extreme environments. In other words, there are many ways to think of disruption and how individuals, groups, communities, and organizations draw on ICTs to develop resilience. For example, my current research explores resilience as related to the experiences of marginalized populations. That is, people who are pushed to the boundaries of society based on various intersections of their identity, such as their race, class, gender, and sexual orientation (i.e. veterans seeking mental health care).

Below, I briefly describe these research trajectories, provide representative publications, and where applicable, link to functional and prototype systems that have been produced as part of these efforts.


Resilience in Ongoing Crisis with ICTs

In my dissertation work, I explored how people living through ongoing disruption as caused by war draw on ICTs to rebuild their routines or build new routines when old ones were unavailable.

Representative Publications

Semaan, B., Mark, G. (2012). ‘Facebooking’ Towards Crisis Recovery and Beyond: Disruption as an Opportunity. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2012). Seattle, WA. New York: ACM.

Semaan, B., Mark, G. (2011). Technology-Mediated Social Arrangements to Resolve Breakdowns in Infrastructure During Ongoing Disruption. Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 18 (4). New York: ACM.

Mark, G., Al-Ani, B., Semaan, B. (2009). Resilience Through Technology Adoption: Merging the Old and the New in Iraq. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2009). Boston, MA, USA. New York: ACM.

Mark, G., Semaan, B. (2008). Resilience in Collaboration: Technology as a Resource for New Patterns of Action. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2008). San Diego, CA, USA. New York: ACM.


Transition Resilience with ICTs

In this larger, National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project (IIS-1657429) focused on transition, this work started with an initial focus exploring how United States (US) military veterans draw on ICTs to build resilience as they transition into civilian society. Recently, I have extended the scope of this work to focus on other populations with  marginalized identities, and examining their uses of ICTs to develop new pathways forward in their lives whereas they might be experiencing intolerance, hostility, or other issues, in their physical world environments. To that end, I am currently exploring ICT use and design opportunities amongst the following populations: LGBTQ populations; veterans and veteran families; refugee migration and resettlement; marginalized college students; new mothers; invisible illness such as chronic health conditions and mental health; and other transitioning populations.

Representative Publications

Akter, T., Dosono, B., Ahmed, T., Kapadia, A., Semaan, B. (2020). “I Am Uncomfortable Sharing What I Can’t See”: Privacy Concerns of the Visually Impaired with Camera Based Assistive Applications. Conditionally Accepted to the ACM USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX 2020).

Britton, L., Barkhuus, L., Semaan, B. (2020). ‘Mothers as Candy Wrappers’: Critical Infrastructure Supporting the Transition into Motherhood. To Appear in Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Supporting Groupwork (GROUP 2020).

Dym. B., Fiesler, C., Brubaker, J., Semaan, B. (2019). ‘Coming Out Okay’: Community Narratives for LGBTQ Identity Recovery Work. To Appear in Proceedings of the ACM (PACM): Human-Computer Interaction: Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2019).

Dosono, B., Rashidi, Y., Akter, T., Semaan, B., Kapadia, A. (2018). Challenges in Transitioning from Civil to Military Culture: Hyper-Selective Disclosure through ICTs. In Proceedings of the ACM Journal (PACM): Human-Computer Interaction: Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2018).

Semaan, B., Britton, L., Dosono, B. (2017). Military Masculinity and the Travails of Transitioning: Disclosure in Social Media. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2017). Portland, OR. New York: ACM.

Semaan, B., Britton, L., Dosono, B. (2016). Transition Resilience with ICTs: ‘Identity Awareness’ in Veteran Reintegration. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016). San Jose, CA. New York: ACM.


Online Creativity, Expressive Writing, and Resilience

During and after experiences with trauma, people often write. Whereas many people keep personal diaries and reflect on their daily experiences, in the context of computing, people are now writing for more public audiences, such as by writing in and maintaining a blog, or joining and contributing to online writing communities, such as transformative fandom spaces like Archive of Our Own (AO3). In this series of studies, I am exploring the adoption and use of online writing spaces and how expressive writing contributes to resilience.

Representative Publications

Dym. B., Fiesler, C., Brubaker, J., Semaan, B. (2019). ‘Coming Out Okay’: Community Narratives for LGBTQ Identity Recovery Work. To Appear in Proceedings of the ACM (PACM): Human-Computer Interaction: Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2019).

Al-Ani, B., Mark, G., Semaan, B. (2010). Blogging through Conflict: Sojourners in the Age of Social Media. In Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Intercultural Collaboration (ICIC 2010). Copenhagen, Denmark. New York: ACM.

Al-Ani, B., Mark, G., Semaan, B. (2010). Blogging in a Region of Violent Conflict: Supporting the Transition to Recovery. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2010). Atlanta, GA, USA. New York: ACM. Honorable Mention for Best Paper.

Mark, G., Semaan, B. (2009). Expanding a Country’s Borders During War: The Internet War Diary. In Proceedings of the ACM International Workshop on Intercultural Collaboration (IWIC 2009). Palo Alto, CA, USA. New York: ACM.


Resilience Making: Grassroots Design Amongst Populations with Marginalized Identities

In this series of studies, I am interested in exploring how people with marginalized identities design new technologies, or re-appropriate existing technologies like Facebook groups and transformative fandom communities (i.e. Archive of Our Own), as a means of creating resilience for themselves or their greater communities. Moreover, I am exploring how design thinking itself contributes to resiliency.

Representative Publications

Semaan, B. (2019). ‘Routine Infrastructuring’ as ‘Building Everyday Resilience with Technology’: When Disruption Becomes Ordinary. To Appear in Proceedings of the ACM (PACM): Human-Computer Interaction: Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2019).

Dym. B., Fiesler, C., Brubaker, J., Semaan, B. (2019). ‘Coming Out Okay’: Community Narratives for LGBTQ Identity Recovery Work. To Appear in Proceedings of the ACM (PACM): Human-Computer Interaction: Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2019).

Semaan, B., Britton, L., Dosono, B. (2016). Transition Resilience with ICTs: ‘Identity Awareness’ in Veteran Reintegration. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016). San Jose, CA. New York: ACM.


The Resilience of Socio-Technical Systems: Designing Resilient and Sustainable Online Spaces

In this series of studies, I am exploring how to design resilient and sustainable online communities–that is, online spaces that are safe, absent ridicule and harassment, and that allow people to seek and disclose sensitive information. To that end, I am exploring how people with marginalized identities are using online communities, the extent which these spaces are inclusive and safe, and how people (users, moderators, etc.…) are working towards creating safety and inclusivity in online spaces.

Representative Publications

Dosono, B., Semaan, B. (2019). Moderation Practices as Emotional Labor in Sustaining Online Communities: The Case of AAPI Identity Work on Reddit. To Appear in Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2019). Glasgow, Scotland. New York: ACM.

Introne, J., Erickson, I., Semaan, B., Goggins, S. (2019). Designing Sustainable Online Support: Examining the Effects of Design Change in Forty-Nine Online Health Support Communities. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).

Introne, J., Semaan, B., Goggins, S. (2016). A Sociotechnical Mechanism for Online Support Provision. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016). San Jose, CA. New York: ACM.


Towards Civic Resilience

In my career, I have also examined the role of ICTs in enabling civic resilience—or how ICTs enable people to maintain agency in their political activities and/or in helping generate a more inclusive and diverse public. Specifically, I explore civic resilience through the lens of participatory democracy, as participation in public discourse that drives decision making is critical to democracy. Through several collaborations, I am conducting research examining a fast-growing, but little understood type of political participation: online information seeking, deliberation, and decision making in the context of Web 2.0 technologies. Here, I am interested in understanding the political activities engaged in by both citizens and politicians, across the ecosystem of ICTs that are currently at people’s disposal, such as Facebook and Twitter. I am utilizing several methods to understand online political interactions, including digital ethnography (observations and interviews), lab experiments, and “big data” collection and analysis. Moreover, I am employing design science and speculative design approaches to build tools that help promote healthy political interactions, and in trying to combat severe societal issues like polarization. For example, my collaborators and I have designed and implemented a prototype political deliberation environment, dubbed Poli, that promotes diversity and pushes against polarization.

Representative Publications

Nelimarkka, M., Rancy, J.P., Grygiel, J., Semaan, B. (2019). (Re)Design to Mitigate Political Polarization: Reflecting Habermas’ Ideal Communication Space in the United States of America and Finland. To Appear in Proceedings of the ACM (PACM): Human-Computer Interaction: Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2019).

Dosono, B., Semaan, B. (2018). Identity Work as Deliberation: AAPI Political Discourse in the 2016 US Presidential Election. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2018). Montréal, Canada. New York: ACM.

Kou, Y., Semaan, B., Nardi, B. (2017). A Confucian Look at Internet Censorship in China. In Proceedings of the Technical Committee 13 International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (INTERACT 2017). Bombay, India. Springer.

Kow, Y.M., Kou, Y., Semaan, B., Cheng, W. (2016). Mediating the Undercurrents: Using Social Media to Sustain a Social Movement. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016). San Jose, CA. New York: ACM. Honorable Mention for Best Paper.

Semaan, B., Faucett, H., Robertson, S., Maruyama, M., Douglas, S. (2015). Designing Political Deliberation Environments to Support Interactions in the Online Public Sphere. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2015). Seoul, Republic of Korea. New York: ACM. SIGCHI Best of CHI Best Paper Award.

Maruyama, M., Robertson, S., Douglas, S., Semaan, B., Faucett, H. (2014). Hybrid Media Consumption: How Tweeting During a Televised Political Debate Influences the Vote Decision. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2014). Baltimore, MD. New York: ACM.

Semaan, B., Robertson, S., Douglas, S., Maruyama, M. (2014). Social Media Supporting Political Deliberation Across Multiple Public Spheres: Towards Depolarization. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2014). Baltimore, MD. New York: ACM.