Nitin Sawhney’s research, teaching and creative practice engages the critical role of technology, civic media, and artistic interventions in contested spaces. He examines social movements and crisis contexts through forms of creative urban tactics, participatory research, performance, and documentary film.
As a Principal Research Scientist at Dataminr, Nitin has been conducting research at the intersection of AI and human-centered design for real-time news as well as critical humanitarian and crisis contexts. He engages UX research, ethnography and multi-modal (speech/audio) interaction to research and design for complex contexts of human-machine interaction.
Nitin Sawhney was previously an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at The New School, and Faculty Fellow with the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography and Social Thought (GIDEST). His research, teaching and creative practice engaged the critical role of technology, civic media, and artistic interventions in contested spaces. He examined social movements and crisis contexts through forms of creative urban tactics, participatory research, performance, and documentary film.
Nitin completed his Ph.D. at the MIT Media Laboratory in 2003, where he conducted research on distributed collaboration for sustainable design and developed audio-based wearable computing platforms. He taught at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) in 2010-2011.
He co-founded Akaza Research, a startup software firm, to develop open source tools and online repositories for public biomedical research with support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and directed new product development at Cytel, Inc. for statistical simulation tools to support adaptive clinical trials.
Nitin was a research affiliate with the MIT Center for Civic Media, where he co-founded the Department of Play, a research collaborative, to design participatory mobile video, mapping and pedagogical tools to support creative expression and civic agency among marginalized youth. He was awarded a Visionary Fellowship at MIT for the Jerusalem 2050 Project in 2008.
Nitin has conducted digital storytelling initiatives with Palestinian youth in refugee camps since 2006 through Voices Beyond Walls, a participatory media initiative he founded. He co-directed the award-winning documentary film Flying Paper, produced with children in Gaza with support from National Geographic. He established the Engage Media Lab at The New School to support participatory media programs and research with youth in Jerusalem and New York.
In 2011-12, Nitin led OccupyDataNYC, a series of hackathons and exhibitions visualizing socio-political data and tactics of urban protest, conducted with activists and researchers at The New School, NYU, and CUNY. In 2014-15, he established Guatemala Después, a curatorial research project examining contemporary artistic practices with collaborative exhibitions in Guatemala and New York. He also co-directed the documentary film, Zona Intervenida, examining historic memory through site-specific performance interventions in Guatemala.
In 2016-2017, he devised Sacred Soundwalks, a sensory media project and sound installation exploring narrative memory of sacred sites in Kathmandu, Nepal and along historic pilgrimage routes to Mt. Kailash in Tibet. In June 2018, he presented research on “Audio Journaling for Self-Reflection and Participatory Assessment among Teens” at the International Conference on Interaction Design and Children in Trondheim, Norway.
Nitin’s recent essay “Zona Intervenida: Performance as Memory, Transforming Contested Spaces” was recently published in Rethinking Peace: Discourse, Memory, Translation, and Dialogue, edited by Jeremiah Alberg, Alex Hinton and Giorgio Shani, Rowman & Littlefield International (March 2019). He is currently preparing an essay, “Invisible Lives, Visible Determination”, for the upcoming book Children, Youth and War to be published by University of Georgia Press.
Nitin was nominated faculty fellow for the Graduate Institute for Design, Ethnography & Social Thought at the New School in 2018-2019, supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As part of his fellowship he is researching how various forms of contestation and agonism in collective social contexts challenge and transform participatory design, particularly for Civic Media/Design and Urban Mobility Data.
Nitin Sawhney Academic CV 2019 (PDF)
Contact: nitin AT media.mit.edu
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