About  |  Research Projects  |  Creative Practice  |  Teaching

Nitin Sawhney is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University. As a human-centered design researcher he examines the critical role of technology, civic media, and urban interventions in crisis and contested spaces. He engages user experience design, participatory action research, sensory ethnography, and multi-modal (speech/audio) approaches for complex contexts of human-machine interaction. He has been conducting research at the intersection of AI and HCI for real-time news as well as humanitarian and crisis situations.

At Aalto University, Prof. Sawhney has embarked on a new research project on Reconstructing Crisis Narratives for Trustworthy Communication and Cooperative Agency. This research jointly conducted between Aalto University and THL proposes to analyze and reconstruct crisis narratives using mixed-methods, combining qualitative research for narrative inquiry with computational data analytics of crisis discourses in news and social media among diverse publics. The project plans to design tools and platforms representing and visualizing complex information to engage decision-makers, front-line responders, stakeholders, and the general public in making sense of crises and perceptions of risk and trust.

Prior to joining Aalto University, I conducted research, teaching and creative practice along three inter-related and transdisciplinary areas:

A. Civic Media, Engaged Learning and Participatory Inquiry for socially-engaged pedagogy, inclusive co-design, digital storytelling and civic agency among young participants and vulnerable communities in urban contexts and the Global South.

B. Human-Centered Design for Collaboration and Auditory Interaction by devising curatorial research, digital platforms, wearable/ubiquitous technologies and transitional user interfaces for everyday usage.

C. Sensory Ethnography and Contestational Design focusing on hacktivism, tactical urbanism, documentary film, and performance-based site-specific interventions for creative inquiry and critical design practices in contested spaces or crisis contexts.

My intellectual identity has been shaped by an unconventional trajectory spanning science-technology, media-arts and cultural studies, and international human rights advocacy. The crucial shifts and accomplishments along the way were only possible with the guidance and mentorship of many scholars, practitioners and collaborators (including my students). This digital portfolio provides a glimpse into the ongoing transdisciplinary approach and critical ethos emerging in my research, teaching and creative practice.

See  Published Works  |  Creative Practice  |  Exhibits & Curatorial Works

Some video interviews:

Can Documentaries Create Sensory Experiences?
November 2, 2016

Critical Pedagogy at The New School
September 7, 2012

Citizen Digital and Urban Activism in Russia
July 20, 2012


Designing Participatory Learning, Mobility Shifts
November 22, 2011

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