November 13, 2014

Dr. Ellen Balka awarded with SFU University Professorship


The purpose of Simon Fraser University’s University Professorship is to recognize senior scholars of distinction who are active participants in all aspects of their discipline and who currently hold the rank of Professor. 

The Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology would like to congratulate Dr. Ellen Balka (Professor, School of Communication) and Dr. Robert Woodbury (Professor, School of Interactive Arts and Technology) on being awarded with their University Professorships. Both professors’ research exemplify the connections between communication, art and technology. 
Dr. Ellen Balka.

Dr. Ellen Balka’s research work actively addresses the understanding of the social impacts of communications technology. With a focus in the health sector, her work with the ATIC Design Lab (Assessment of Technology in Context) supports multi-disciplinary research, focusing on the assessment of technology in actual use contexts from users' perspectives, and also the links between the policy environment and the user environment.

In the past, Dr. Balka’s research has brought her to a variety of engaging environments: from analyzing work practices in a Cape Town Emergency Department, to conducting research on a ski hill, investigating medical data collection and the challenges associated with leveraging patient information in a multi-jurisdictional health care system. These days, Balka and her team are working to engage multiple stakeholders from emergency doctors to general practitioners and pharmacists to modify the design of a provincial computer system so that information about adverse drug events is available in all settings where prescribing occurs. A clear passion is brought to light when she describes her favourite aspect of her research: the diversity throughout her work, which encompasses “problem solving, people, relationships, institutions, and making the world a better place.”

Dr. Balka’s most recent research focuses on the analysis of technology implementation. “The Technology of Art and the Art of Technology” looks at developing new insights into how visual artists understand and interact with technologies in their art practices. In addition, the research is looking at how insights about artists’ knowledge of materials they work with can guide the development and implementation of large scale computing infrastructures, which are found to frequently fall short of articulated goals and expectations when implemented. Other current work is concerned with improving the quality of evidence available for epidemiological research, an issue often left unaddressed amidst pressures to quickly computerize the health sector.