Compassionate Computing: Jang Hee I | Teachers College Columbia University

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Compassionate Computing: Jang Hee I
(M.A., Instructional Technology & Media)


Life Before TC:

While expertise in computer programming has been the ticket to fame and financial success for entrepreneurs from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Jang Hee I sees the possibilities of the field in a very different way. For Jang, it all started observing a blind friend named Mike stuck in the rain waiting for a bus in Boise, Idaho. Years later, when watching a video of Mitchel Resnick of the MIT Media Lab discussing the possibilities of computer technology, Jang’s mind immediately flashed back to the image of Mike in the rain. “I wanted to figure out a way to help expand the opportunities of computer programming to visually impaired/blind people as well,” Jang recalls.

Why TC:

Jang thought the program in Instructional Technology & Media would be the perfect setting in which to develop his ideas about bringing technology to the visually impaired. (He had first come to the United States to from South Korea to expand his educational opportunities: he chose Boise, he says, because he figured he wouldn’t have too many opportunities to speak Korean there and would be forced to learn English quickly. He eventually found his way to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his undergraduate degree.) While at TC, he helped develop (and patent) a physical computing interface called COBRIX, which uses the order, textures, and colors of LEGO blocks to enable visually impaired students to design and test their own computer programs. He has also written several papers on the ways technology can improve education for the visually impaired, and designed an online fund-raising effort that used 3-D imagery to illustrate the devastation of the earthquake in Nepal last April. While finishing his studies at TC, he has doubled as a research scientist at the 3D Printing Lab at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, where he develops cutting-edge algorithms and 3-D printing software, including a 3D object design tool “that allows visually impaired and blind users to render 3D objects through musical and auditory cues.”

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TC Takeaway:

While at TC, Jang began to think more deeply about the possibilities of technology to serve humankind. “This whole experience of helping visually impaired/blind people make me think about whether technology could be used to actually help people become more compassionate about each other,” he says. For Jang, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Drawing on the practice of Compassion Meditation, he began to develop a model of “Compassionate Computing,” focused on developing models of technology “than can help people to feel a deep open-minded, tolerant, and humanitarian awareness for the suffering of others and to be motivated to act in an altruistic way.”


What’s Next:

Jang will have ample opportunities to develop his ideas on Compassionate Computing as a fully funded PhD student in the program in Health Informatics at Indiana University – Bloomington, starting this fall. His goals are not modest, but they are less about finding fame and fortune in the business world than using technology to solve some of the planet’s biggest problems. “I hope to develop technology that can help solve the problems humanity is facing  -- hunger, poverty, education,” he says. “In the long run, my ultimate goal is not about making more money but more about educating people, about being part of the legacy of humanity.

—Ellen Livingston

Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Jang Hee I

Jang Hee I

Jang Hee I

Jang Hee I