UW News

May 4, 2023

New faculty books: Children and technology, art and life experiences of Black women, and more

Three book covers on a wooden table.

Recent and upcoming books from the University of Washington include those from the Information School, the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, and the Center for Neurotechnology.

Three new faculty books from the University of Washington cover topics ranging from children’s use of technology to the life experiences of Black women to neuroscience and brain research. UW News talked with the authors to learn more.

Guiding healthy interactions between children and technology

Technology plays a fundamental role in nearly every aspect of our lives, but finding ways to guide healthy usage of technology among young minds remains a tumultuous process.

In “Technology’s Child: Digital Media’s Role in the Ages and Stages of Growing Up,” Katie Davis, associate professor in the UW Information School, explains how technology affects children in the various stages of their childhood. Published in March by MIT Press, the book provides parents and teachers with ideas to help kids navigate the digital world in a healthy way.

“I’ve been researching technology’s role in child development for almost 20 years now, and throughout that time I have repeatedly gotten questions like, ‘Is technology good or bad for my kid?’” Davis said. “So I really wanted to take this complicated landscape of research that has accumulated over the last couple of decades and make sense of it in a way that could offer something concrete for parents, teachers and policymakers, and even for technology designers and researchers.

“The goal here is to offer a concrete framework for making sense of what we know about the interaction between technology design and child development that will guide good decisions on these different levels.”

Using her experiences as a researcher, parent, teacher and older sister, Davis highlights the difficulties in identifying a clear approach to dealing with technology and children.

“We have accumulated quite a bit of research over the last couple of decades. It doesn’t point to one clear answer,” Davis said. “That’s partly because technologies are different. But also children are very different, and their circumstances are very different. A one-size-fits-all approach really doesn’t work when we’re talking about kids and technology.”

In the book, Davis introduces the idea of the “good enough digital parent,” updating the mid-twentieth century theory of the “good enough mother” to fit the modern world.

“The good enough digital parent is trying to do their best,” Davis said. “They’re trying to steer their children towards self-directed, community supported digital experiences, but with the recognition that they’re not going to be perfect all the time. It’s the idea that, with your child, you’re both developing and figuring this out together, making mistakes and adjusting along the way, and then also importantly recognizing that these are challenging things to deal with.”

Davis concludes that some of the onus must be taken off the family unit and placed back on industry and government regulation. It’s important, she said, to think of ways in which the different levels of society can pitch in and help solve these challenges.

For more information, contact Davis at kdavis78@uw.edu.

Emotion, creativity and knowledge intertwine in ‘Feelin’

Early in her new book exploring the art, emotion and life experiences of Black women, Bettina Judd makes clear the title, “Feelin,” is intentional, to be written, uttered and understood exactly as is.

“I’m grounding it in the cultural space of African American language and knowledge production. The context in which the word feelin would be used — I’m feelin that, I’m not feelin that, you feel me — that marks knowledge, a kind of complete understanding of something,” says Judd, an associate professor of gender, women and sexuality studies. “I consider the word whole in its own right, and to use an apostrophe would mark where something is missing. To take seriously the cultural meanings of the term, the language from which it comes from, I’m no longer using the standard English reference. I’m using the cultural term.”

Published by Northwestern University Press, “Feelin: Creative Practice, Pleasure and Black Feminist Thought” is a book that, like the very meaning of the title, Judd wants the reader to experience. Each chapter delves into an issue, idea or perspective through the lens of creative works.

A chapter on song as ecstatic practice delves into the music of a series of vocalists and in particular, of Aretha Franklin and Avery*Sunshine. Another chapter confronts the stereotype of the angry Black woman, and the emotion of anger, through Nina Simone’s song “Mississippi Goddam” (and the backlash she faced for it), and Judd’s own poetry and haunting video reflecting on Sandra Bland, who died in police custody after a 2015 traffic stop in Texas.

That video is just one of many works Judd invites the reader to view, listen to or read by scanning QR codes scattered throughout the book. But they’re not meant to be supplementary, like the CD-ROMS that used to be tucked inside covers, Judd says. “I think of it as a part of the experience of the book. It’s not bonus material. It IS the material.”

Judd sees “Feelin” as a coalescing of ideas over time.

“It was understanding the depth of how these Black women artists, writers and musicians were calling on people to detach themselves from this idea that valuable knowledge is non-emotional and exists only in the realm of what one set of people thinks is rational, and that desire to remove us from knowledge that is felt is another way of discounting our stories, another way of discounting our experience,” Judd said.

And the cover art? Judd’s own, a mixed media piece called “Following the Bright Back of the Woman.”

For more information, contact Judd at bjudd@uw.edu.

Look inside your brain with ‘Neuropedia’

Neuroscience and brain research is a vast and deeply complicated field. A new book by Eric Chudler, research associate professor in the UW Department of Bioengineering and executive director of the UW Center for Neurotechnology, is written specifically to take a public audience inside the fascinating world of the brain.

“Neuropedia” —published by Princeton University Press as part of their Pedia series and illustrated by Chudler’s daughter, Kelly Chudler — explores the mysteries of the brain and offers a peek behind the curtain of what really goes on inside our heads.

“This kind of book is more for the general public. It’s not supposed to be a textbook,” Chudler said. “It’s one of the many ways that I can communicate neuroscience and brain research to the public.”

Chudler hopes the book will help audiences develop a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of the brain and the field of neuroscience.

“There are many misconceptions, what we call neuro-myths, about the brain,” Chudler said. “So, I’d like people to get a basic understanding of the structure and function of the nervous system and some of the controversies involved. I hope that people will be able to appreciate and even empathize with people who are affected by diseases of the nervous system.”

Neurological and psychiatric diseases are a part of human life, and Chudler wants to help combat some of the negative beliefs associated with these diseases.

“I hope that people can better understand what’s going on with friends and family,” Chudler said, “and maybe even reduce stigma attached to neurological and mental disorders and perhaps even help people affected by these conditions.”

Written like an encyclopedia of all things neurological, the book functions like an extended glossary with entries from A-Z.

“People don’t have to read it from cover to cover. They can just flip through and read the short three or four paragraphs for each entry,” Chudler said. “Because each entry is short, you can’t get into too much depth. I hope people will read a particular entry and want to learn more and do some of their own research, because an entire book can be written about each entry.”

The book also includes references, illustrations and resources for those who want to learn more about various topics like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and even the neurological effects of COVID.

“They’ll be provided with a basic understanding of how the nervous system works, some of the limitations of our understanding of the brain, the current state of research and maybe learn some facts or figures for the next time they’re on Jeopardy or at a trivia night,” Chudler said.

For more information, contact Chudler at chudler@uw.edu.