A Word of Caution: Advocating for Human-Centered Design in the Further Development of Social Media Technology; Quantifying the Economic Impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River Basin

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0001-5727-5505
Fitzsimmons, Matthew, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Rogers, Hannah, EN, University of Virginia
Lakshmi, Venkataraman, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia

Throughout my thesis portfolio I investigate the complex relationship between the development of technology and the development of society. Sociotechnical issues are particularly challenging to investigate thoroughly because there are various analytical frameworks through which a problem can be confronted, and each framework may result in a completely different, but valid, problem statement and solution. Therefore it is important to perform a genuine analysis that is not only focused on the parameters and specifications of one analytical method, but also acknowledges the inherent limitations of the study and denotes further directions of study that would help to further elucidate the subject. My STS paper considers human-centered design (HCD) as a viable design philosophy to
address the widespread consequences of social media addiction. My capstone paper considers the economic effects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River basin.
Although the two papers varied greatly in scope and content, striking similarities in the challenges I faced while completing both projects provided a unique learning experience that allowed me to complete both projects with an increased appreciation for the task at hand. The
unifying factor between the two projects was how difficult it was to form a comprehensive problem statement. The wide web of psychological, physiological, societal, and technical factors
that contribute to social media addiction mirrors the intricate interactions between hydrology, agriculture, climate, economics, and politics in the Nile River basin. In both the individual STS project and the group capstone project, either I or my group restated the problem multiple times over the course of several months. In order to address the underlying problem, and not just a symptom of the deeper condition, it is necessary to continually refine the problem statement as understanding of the situation grows. Although this
process is frustrating, because it may feel like starting from scratch over and over again, the situation becomes less murky, and the iterative process occurs quicker as minds begin to fully
grasp the situation. A concern about social media addiction leads to a deepdive into social media legislation, leads to thoughts on behavioral design, leads to the concern of ethics in addictive
technology, leads to a desire to advocate for human-centered design in social media technology. Similarly, a concern of water scarcity for Egyptian farmers leads to questions about how land use
and land cover has changed in the Nile basin, leads to questions about hydropower production and rural electrification in Ethiopia, leads to questions about how the economies of countries in
the Nile basin will be impacted by the GERD. Exploring these two topics simultaneously created an environment that was not only
conducive to learning, but also incredibly impactful as a climactic ending to my undergraduate engineering career. By applying a range of technical skills and analytical problem solving methods to the two problems at hand, I was afforded an opportunity to demonstrate the skills that I have gained during my time at UVA.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Social Media, Addiction, Human Centered Design, Water Resources, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Hydropower
Issued Date: