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    Prof. Dr. Karen E. Fisher


    Visiting Professor of Information Science

    Mail: fisher(at)uw.edu


    Dr. Karen E. Fisher (Professor, University of Washington, USA; Visiting Professor, University of Siegen, Germany; and Adjunct Professor, Abo Akademie University, Finland) uses mixed methods—design, ethnographic, quantitative—to understand innovation, resilience and information aspects of forced displacement and everyday life in the Middle East with specialty in the Syrian War. Her research collaborators include MENA experts in public health and epidemiology, computer science, and political science. Dr. Fisher has been embedded field researcher since 2015 with UNHCR Jordan (UN Refugee Agency) in the Mafraq region where her long-term missions focus on information and socio-technical problems for health, education, and entrepreneurship. Industry collaborations/awards in MENA include Facebook, Amazon, Google, and the LEGO Foundation. Her 2018 Facebook Award “Data Science & Field Design Methods for Supporting Crisis Informatics in Conflict Zones: Syria” (with Eiad Yafi, Salah Falioun, Reem Talhouk, Kate Starbird & Jevin West) involved extensive fieldwork with multi-stakeholders in Jordan and Lebanon, yielding novel insights about factors of information seeking/sharing, code switching, and counter-appropriation of ICTs. A forthcoming trade book “Za’atari: Food and Culture inside a Syrian Refugee Camp” is based on co-design and co-cooking with 2000 Syrians over 4 years to preserve indigenous knowledge and culture. Current UNHCR missions focus on technological innovations for information systems, health, livelihoods, and education that support Syrians (especially women and girls). In the US, her current work, funded by the IMLS, is examining the prevalence of PTSD among public library staff and methods for trauma-informed care. A frequent invited speaker at conferences, industry and embassies, Dr. Fisher is from Canada where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Russian from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and MLIS and PhD in Information Science from the University of Western, and was a Postdoc Fellow at the University of Michigan.

    Selected Publications Relating to Refugees

    • Fisher, K. (2021). Za’atari: Food and Culture from the Syrian People of Za’atari Camp. Fredericton: Goose Lane.
    • Fisher, K.E. (Forthcoming). People First, Data Second: A Humanitarian Research Framework for Fieldwork with Refugees by War Zones. Journal of Computer Supported Cooperative Work.
    • Fisher, K. E., & Za’atari Camp Librarians. (Summer 2020). Bringing Books to the Desert: For Syrian Refugees, A Network of Libraries and Literacy, American Libraries, 51.7/8, 22-28.
    • Fisher, K. E., & Falioun, S. (2020). Where is your Caravan? A Conversation about Humanitarian Research, Giving Back and the Role of Fixers in Studying Refugees and the Syrian War. ECSCW Workshop on Messy Ethnography. Siegen, DE.
    • Fisher, K. E., Falioun, S., Yafi, E., & Khan, K. S. (2020). Co-Designing with the Iman in a Haram Digital World: Drawing on the Quran and Sunnah to Support People’s Privacy and Information Practices. IslamicHCI, CHI 2020, Arab Islamic HCI Workshop. Hawaii, USA, April 25-30, 2020.
    • Amazon. (2019). Ideation in refugee camps for innovation and marketplace. Seattle, WA.
    • Fisher, K. E., Yafi, E., Maitland, C., & Xu, Y. (2019). Al Osool: Understanding information behavior for community development at Za’atari Syrian refugee camp. ACM Communities & Technologies ’19.
    • Fisher, K. E. (2018). Information worlds of refugees. In C. M. Maitland (Ed.), Digital Lifeline? ICTs for Refugees and Displaced Persons (pp. 79-112). Cambridge: MIT Press.
    • Fisher, K.E. (2018). Privacy and Role of Social Media Tools in live of Syrian Refugee Women in the Middle East. December 6th–8th 2018, Siegen University, Germany.
    • Fisher, K. E., & Yafi, E. (2018). Syrian youth in Za’atari Refugee Camp as ICT wayfarers: An exploratory study using narrative storytelling and LEGO. ACM Compass 2018, Facebook, Menlo Park, CA.
    • Yafi, E., & Yefimova, K., & Fisher, E. (2018). Young hackers: Hacking technology at Za’atari Refugee Camp. ACM CHI, Montreal, Canada, April 21-26, 2018.
    • Borkert, M., Fisher, K., E., & Yafi, E. (2018). The best, the worst and hardest to find: How people, mobiles, and social media connect migrants in(to) Europe. Social Media + Society, 4.1.
    • Fisher, K. E., Talhouk, R., Yefimova, K., Al-Shahrabi, D., Yafi, E., Ewalk, S., & Comber, S. (May 2017). Za’atari Refugee Cookbook: Relevance, Challenges and Design Considerations. CHI 2017. Boulder, CO.
    • Fisher, K. E., Yefimova, K., & Yafi, E. (2016). Future’s Butterflies:” Co-Designing ICT Wayfaring Technology with Refugee Syrian Youth. IDC ’16: International Conf on Interaction Design & Children, Manchester, UK.
    • Fisher, K. E., Yefimova, K., et al. (2016). HCI, forced migration and refugees: Collaborations across borders and fields. CHI 2016 Development Consortium 2016: HCI Across Borders. (May 7-8, 2016). San Jose, CA.
    • Maitland, C., Tomaszewski, B., Belding, E., Fisher, K. E., Xu, Y., Iland, D., Schmitt, P., Majid, A. (Nov. 2, 2015). Youth Mobile Phone and Internet Use January 2015 Za’atari Camp, Mafraq, Jordan. Report to the UNHCR.
    • Fisher, K. E. (2017). Refugees + Libraries: Helping Build Better Futures. American Library Association Sharjah Library Conference Book Fair. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
    • Gates Foundation (2016). Future butterflies and builders of Syria: Community capacity building through people, libraries and technology at the Za’atari Syrian Refugee Camp. Presentation to Global Libraries and Electronic Medical Records (EMR). Seattle, WA: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
    • Karlova, N., & Fisher, K. E. (2013). A social diffusion model of misinformation and disinformation for understanding human information behavior. Information Research.
    • Counts, S., & Fisher, K. E. (2010). Mobile Social Networking as Information Ground: A Case Study. Library & Information Science Research, 32.2, 98-115.
    • Fisher, K E., et al. (Eds.). (2005). Theories of information behavior. Medford, NJ: Information Today.
    • Fisher, K. E., et al. (2004). Information grounds and use of need-based services by immigrants in Queens, NY: A context-based, outcome evaluation approach. JASIST, 55.8, 754-66.