An abridged version of my journey from musician to researcher

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When I was younger I was a musician, a guitar player mostly, and I wrote and sang a lot of songs. Most of my friends were also musicians. My bands achieved some success — we released several albums, we had some fans, we toured twice a year for about five years, and we were invited to play in exciting places like Tokyo and Honolulu. …

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I wanted to share about a somewhat odd productivity technique that I employ in many aspects of my life: I use randomness to choose the order in which I complete tasks. We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed by choice. It has been well-documented that as the number of available choices increase, people’s wellbeing tends to decrease, and making a decision becomes more difficult. In daily work, choice often arises in to-do lists and email inboxes. You have ten things you need to accomplish today — which of them will you do first? If you can’t decide, you may feel paralyzed in a state of indecision and stress. …

Lately, my collaborators and I have been thinking about what it means for a technology to be a trans technology, and how such technologies could be designed. This blog post will summarize two of my recent/forthcoming publications related to these topics:

  1. Oliver L. Haimson, Avery Dame-Griff, Elias Capello, and Zahari Richter. 2019. Tumblr was a trans technology: the meaning, importance, history, and future of trans technologies. Feminist Media Studies: 1–17. [LINK]
  2. Oliver L. Haimson, Dykee Gorrell, Denny L. Starks, and Zu Weinger. 2020. Designing Trans Technology: Defining Challenges and Envisioning Community-Centered Solutions. In ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. …

Toward Decreasing Transgender Mental Health Disparities

This blog post summarizes a research paper that was published in Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA)’s special issue on “Health informatics and health equity: improving our reach and impact” in 2019.

Transgender people (including non-binary people) face substantial mental health disparities, and especially during the transition process, emotional well-being can change rapidly and unpredictably. Understanding an approximation of how people feel over time during gender transition — what I call mapping gender transition sentiment patterns — can help trans people by enabling them to prepare for, and put support in place for, particularly difficult time periods. Yet, tracking sentiment over time throughout gender transition is challenging using traditional research methods. …

This year, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time doing advocacy work related to equity and inclusivity for trans and/or non-binary people. Now that most of this work is making its way into the online and published world, I wrote a short blog post to summarize these resources:

HCI Guidelines for Gender Equity and Inclusivity


Along with Morgan Klaus Scheuerman, Katta Spiel, Foad Hamidi, Stacy M. Branham, and many others, I worked on this set of guidelines intended to help HCI researchers, writers, and event organizers to be more inclusive, equitable, and respectful about gender.

“We hope this document will take a small but practical step — in the tradition of Cavendar, Trewin and Hanson’s ‘Accessible Writing Guide’ — in support of a more gender inclusive HCI, that intentionally addresses inclusion for transgender individuals.” …

Preliminary outcomes from our meeting at CSCW 2018

Diversity and inclusion efforts have been a part of SIGCHI conferences for many years now, but we may look back on 2018 as a tipping point. CHI 2018 earlier this year involved advances, such as an “Un-Panel” promoting intersectionality, equity, and inclusivity, and mis-steps that were duly challenged by community members, such as an offensive keynote speaker and a failed attempt at gender pronouns on name badges. In September 2018, SIGCHI’s Executive Committee listed diversity and inclusion as one of its “grand challenges.” Allison Druin, appointed as SIGCHI’s new Adjunct Chair for Inclusion, published a blog post in October describing “The Possibilities of Inclusion for SIGCHI” and is in the process of forming a committee of “Inclusion Innovators.” Conversations about inclusion and diversity, and research on these topics, are in the forefront at SIGCHI in a way they have not been in years past. Gender inclusion is one important area of focus. …

Promoting inclusive environments by giving colleagues and students agency over disclosure of their personal identities

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The keynote speaker was engaging and inspiring, so when she asked us all to stand up for a privilege-demonstration activity, we stood. “Remain standing,” she said, “if you are viewed as a person of European descent.” I remained standing.

The discomfort that I felt as a white person standing was the point, and I did not mind recognizing my white privilege via physical embodiment. Many people of color sat down. Other people of color, those with light skin tones or racially ambiguous features, shifted hesitantly between standing and sitting, unsure of how they were read by others and what this activity expected of them. …

How people use social media sites to separate their identities and networks during times of major life transition

This blog post summarizes a research paper about people’s experiences with life transitions and social media that will be presented at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing 2018 on November 6.

It’s often difficult to know how to present your identity on social media when you’re going through a major life change. Particularly on a site like Facebook, where people’s connections often include friends, family, and co-workers they know in everyday life, deciding how to present and talk about a changing identity is particularly challenging. To understand how people use social media sites during times of life transition, gender transition in particular, I analyzed 240 Tumblr transition blogs (a genre of blog in which people document their gender transition) and 20 interviews with bloggers. I found that people often go to separate social media communities of similar others, away from their existing networks of everyday connections, to do transition work. People presented multiple identities simultaneously on different sites, and kept identities and networks separate. …

When I first started my PhD at UC Irvine, I thought it would be interesting to keep track of how much I was reading over time. That way, my future self (me now!) could visualize and analyze this data. Every time I took notes on an article or book that I read, I included the date at the top of my note file in Zotero. This week, I finally got the time to export those notes and create this graph of my reading volume over time.

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First, a note on what I mean by “read.” Mostly, this means reading the abstract, introduction, and conclusion to determine the main points, and efficiently skimming the rest, as described in this useful guide that I read before coming to grad school. I am almost never as efficient as I’d like to be, and often do end up reading things completely. Obviously, I read some things much more fully than others. By “things” and “items,” I mean articles, papers, and books. Some things were much longer than others. Some things I read multiple times (this is not reflected in the graph), and most things I only read once. …


Oliver Haimson

Assistant Professor @UMSI researching social computing/HCI, social media, online identity, gender/trans, life transitions.

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