CIFellows Spotlight highlights the work of the Computing Innovation Fellows (CIFellows) for the computing research community.

Cyn Liu began her CIFellowship in January 2021 after receiving her PhD from Indiana University, Bloomington in Fall of 2020. Liu is at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) working with Paul Dourish, Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics at UCI and Director of the Steckler Center for Responsible, Ethical and Accessible Technology.

Current Project

Cyn Liu

Responding to climate change, environmental crisis, and the global pandemic, my current research focuses on exploring, creating, deploying, and evaluating (multi-)sensory data representation models that leverage our bodily senses to raise environmental awareness, increase data literacy, and support community health initiatives.

Over the past decade, the emergence of low-cost sensors, proliferation of personal devices, and expansion of wireless networks have made it possible to collect environmental data at a fine-grained level. However, my work has shown that there is still a gap between generating fine-grained environmental measurements and representing data in a way that is legible, accessible, and meaningful to stakeholders with different knowledge and needs. Specifically, environmental measurement is often represented in numeric scales through graphs, dashboards, and maps, detaching it from the day-to-day embodied experiences people have with the environment; creating challenges for stakeholders to use data to inform practices and make decisions.


The potential impact of this work is three-fold. First, we will contribute alternative data narration models and systems that are complementary to traditional forms of data representation (e.g., statistical models) but provide new opportunities to engage with data through a wider spectrum of senses. Second, we will take a stakeholder-driven research process to broaden public participation and aid the understanding of public health and environmental policy. Finally, the research has the potential to benefit public health specialists and data scientists. For example, the (multi-)sensory data representation models we develop could also be applied to increase understanding of public health data (e.g., COVID-19 spread), further broadening our impact.

Other Research 

Broadly speaking, I am interested in democratizing technology to support civic participation and environmental justice. For example, my dissertation and on-going research contribute to the development of theories and methods that pursue more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient futures, specifically by accounting for a wider range of species as stakeholders (e.g., animals, plants, and microorganisms).

As a designer-turned-social-scientist, I take an interdisciplinary approach combining methods from social science, arts-and-design, and the humanities to turn large-scale and ambiguous questions into actionable design implications. Please visit my website to see more details about my work.