Dissertation Defense

I near the end of my PhD program at Purdue University and am happy to invite you to join my virtual dissertation defense. This is a culmination of my research in Colombia on climate change adaptation for the past three years. I welcome you to join!

Dissertation Defense Presentation

Date: Wednesday, April 22, 4:15 pm – 6:15 pm EST

Virtual Meeting Link:  To avoid Zoombombing, please send me a quick note via this form and I’ll send you the virtual invitation privately.

Approximate timeline: 

  • 4:10: Guests may begin to join call (public meeting does not begin until 4:30)
  • 4:15 – 4:30: Committee members will confer privately
  • 4:30 – 4:55: Jessica will present her dissertation
  • 4:55 – 5:20: Committee members will ask questions on the dissertation
  • 5:20 – 5:55: All guests invited to ask questions on dissertation
  • 5:55 – 6:10: Committee members will confer privately
  • 6:10 – 6:15: Outcome publicly announced

*Please remember to keep your audio on mute unless you wish to ask a question

Abstract: This dissertation extends our knowledge of digital affordances[1] in communicating complex scientific information by building and testing a climate change adaptation website for the Colombian coffee sector, www.climaycafe.com. This project offers both a practical component (scholarship of engagement) and theoretical component (extension of our understanding of the objective/subjective nature of affordances). Practically, it seeks to create a collaborative solution to the lack of information access supporting climate change adaptation that farmers identified in prior research. Theoretically, it extends our understanding of affordances in a digital environment through a qualitative assessment, specifically how occupational identity influences the objective/subjective nature of affordances. Data is gathered through an iterative qualitative assessment of users’ interpretation of the perceived affordances on the website.

We face challenges on a global scale that require complex solutions. Ultimately, this dissertation seeks to increase our general understanding of how we can create better digital tools to support improved communication for decision-making around complex issues. Digital tools are cost-effective, high-potential outreach platforms to support decision-making. Improving our understanding of (1) the objective/subjective factors influencing users’ digital affordances as well as (2) creators’ goals for a digital tool compared with its actual use can improve the creation of these tools and their outcomes. Improving this understanding can reveal hang-ups in our processes and the ways in which we can overcome them to create better tools to support the communication that is necessary to confront tough challenges. Specifically, this dissertation focuses on how we can improve digital affordances supporting climate change adaptation. Climate change impacts are increasing around the world and we will need to respond accordingly. Websites are cost effective and have the potential for broad reach. However, with scarce resources for supporting climate change adaptation globally, it is important that these communication and information support tools are created strategically with the users in mind.

[1] “Affordances” arises from Gibson’s theory of affordances (1977) in which he articulates how we interact with environments and use “tools” within any given environment based on a objective/subjective mix of our own needs and a tools’ properties. Within a digital context, this implies how a user adopts a digital feature, which is not necessarily how the designer intended it to be used. This moment of use, or enactment, is when the feature becomes a user affordance. It can be difficult to predict how a feature will become a user affordance, as it does not always align with creator expectations.

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