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Gewgaws Lab: Open Source and Humanized Web Design

Karl Stolley, assistant professor of technical communication, bridges technical communication, rhetoric, and computer science while investigating open source and distributed collaboration in Web development.

Stolley's research combines open access, Web standards, activity theory, and emotional design to investigate how technical communicators in particular can shape the ways that we learn, work, and interact with the world. His research examines the making of digital artifacts, including how and for what activity the artifact was made. Stolley uses rhetorical and activity theory "to argue for how others might employ theory-grounded approaches to digital production and design."

To promote work in this area, Stolley has established Gewgaws Lab, a virtual lab aimed at developing open-source humanized interfaces and digital communication technologies. Gewgaws Lab is a design-based counterpart to the Usability Testing and Evaluation Center (UTEC; www.iit.edu/usability), which Stolley codirects with UTEC's founder Susan Feinberg.

The lab's short- and long-term goals include open-source advocacy, education, and outreach, as well as opportunities for IIT graduate students in technical communication to derive capstone projects from their work in the lab. Gewgaws Lab has two initial projects: a Web-based card sorting program for conducting usability tests (SortIIT) and a distributed Web-based system for deploying and sharing educational and instructional materials, particularly writing resources (FreeOWL). The lab will be applying for an NEH Digital Humanities Startup Grant, as well as seeking direct corporate sponsorships and partnerships.