Jolie Klefeker graduates on May 14 from the College of Engineering and Applied Science with a BS in Technology, Arts and Media, but as a researcher in the ATLAS Institute’s Unstable Design Lab, her work often rises to the level of a successful PhD student.
Her research achievements include authoring three papers accepted by major academic conferences, selection as a Grace Hopper Research Scholar, receiving ATLAS Institute’s Outstanding Undergraduate Award and the College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award.
"I am very proud to be graduating and of the research I have done,” said Klefeker. “It's taken personal growth to get to this point, and I'm proud of that too."
Klefeker’s distinguished work on smart textiles included a work-in-progress accepted by ACM’s 2018 CHI: Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems; another work-in-progress to the 2019 Designing Interactive Systems Conference; and a full-length, peer-reviewed publication for CHI 2020.
Laura Devendorf, assistant professor of information sciences and director of the Unstable Design Lab, said that Klefeker’s CHI 2020 paper was “one of the best-reviewed papers I have seen in my career.”
“CHI is an incredibly prestigious venue for cutting-edge research in human-computer interaction that receives thousands of submissions and accepts roughly 24 percent,” Devendorf said. “Many of the most talented researchers and PhD students struggle to have their papers accepted there.”
Devendorf notes that Klefeker was the lead author on all three papers, meaning all the research was led, performed and written by her.
“The fact that she completed this work on top of her undergraduate studies is even more impressive,” she said.
While working as a student researcher in Devendorf’s lab, Klefeker became fascinated in the online subculture of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) videos, which show people slowly interacting with objects and whispering into microphones, triggering tingling bodily sensations in site visitors. Through this Klefeker recognized a broader cultural desire for slow and sensory-rich interactions with digital media, a way to “subvert fast-paced technology to promote slow and mindful interactions.” Her research examines whether the aesthetics of ASMR media can inspire the design of technology that provokes reflective thoughts and relaxation.
Klefeker grew up in Littleton, Colorado, where she alternated between aspirations of becoming a race car driver, fashion designer, attorney, astronaut and music journalist. Beginning in high school, she became a DJ for 1190 KVCU, CU Boulder’s radio station, and later served as the station’s music director. She also plays piano.
Initially planning to study marketing at CU Boulder, her plans pivoted after listening to ATLAS Director Mark Gross and TAM Director Matt Bethancourt present the TAM major on Admitted Students Day.
“I absolutely fell in love with TAM,” Klefeker said. “I was really excited to take art classes and be creative, but to also push myself out of my comfort zone and launch into coding and making.”
Her favorite class? Critical Technical Practice taught by Devendorf. The class led to her research in the Unstable Design Lab; Klefeker’s first published paper was also her final class project.
“It was a life-changing class,” Klefeker said. “I discovered a love for theory and academic writing and was formally introduced to the concept of human-computer interaction research.”
When not in the lab or class, Klefeker worked as a web developer for Cycling ‘74, an audio software company, where she plans to continue working as a full-stack engineer after graduation. Her long-term plans include attending graduate school to continue her research on human-computer interaction and design.
“TAM gave me the skills to teach myself outside of the classroom, whether it’s how to break down a dense journal paper into smaller pieces to understand it, design skills such as effective brainstorming and prototyping, or how to dig through documentation to solve a bug when I’m programming,” she said.
As for her advice to the incoming class of 2024, she says, “Fail! It’s the best way to learn and to grow. Also, sleep!”
Unstable Design Lab projects
Using ASMR to Sense the Life of Things
Josephine Klefeker, Libi Streigl and Laura Devendorf. 2020. What HCI Can Learn from ASMR: Becoming Enchanted with the Mundane. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '20). (Honolulu, Hawaii (canceled) – April 25-30, 2020).
Josephine Klefeker and Laura Devendorf. 2019. Envisioning Reflective and Relaxing Design with ASMR. In Companion Publication of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2019 (DIS '19 Companion). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 225-229. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3301019.3323903. (San Diego, CA — June 23 - 28, 2019).
Josephine Klefeker and Laura Devendorf. 2018. String Figuring: A Story of Reflection, Material Inquiry, and a Novel Sensor. In Extended Abstracts of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA. '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Paper LBW086, 6 pages. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3170427.3188570 (Montreal, Canada – April 21-26, 2018).