Dr. Karen E. Fisher of the University of Washington Information School provides an overview of our work.

We are a team of interdisciplinary researchers seeking to understand people’s information worlds and how technology may be used to improve lives and create futures. Our project stems from several years of investigation with immigrant and refugee teens from all over the world exploring how they hack technology in their daily lives. In this research we explore how technology can help young Syrian refugees reimagine their lives and build their futures.  


Our work at the UNHCR Za’atari Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan confirms that young people are alike everywhere: their instincts to be creative, to dream and to be connected are the same. But doors must be opened.
— Dr. Karen E. Fisher, University of Washington

Our Mission

We aim to amplify young voices, spark imaginations and uncover perspectives that would otherwise remain hidden. We believe in connected learning, an educational approach for the digital age, where people learn from peers and mentors, and where learning is connected to everyday life.

The University of Washington Information School is interested in the relationship between information, technology, and people. The UW iSchool's approach to instruction and scholarship builds on the traditional roles filled by information professionals and a strong emphasis on the technologies through which information is increasingly delivered. By tackling key social and technical problems in the information field, the iSchool has become an important link between users of information and designers of information systems, connecting society with the information it needs.

Our People

Dr. Karen E. Fisher

Karen is a Professor and instigator at the Information School and an Adjunct Professor in the Communication Department at the University of Washington in Seattle. An advocate of humanitarian research, she focuses on how researchers in the field of Human Computer Interaction can work with industry and nonprofits to help people around the world. Her top priority is working with Syrian youth and their community at the UNHCR Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, seeking to understand people’s information worlds and how technology may be used to improve lives and create futures. Karen also works with Arab migrants in Europe, exploring their information behavior and the economic impacts of their migration. With a motto of “Youth First,” Karen's InfoMe group has conducted workshops with teens from around the world and across the U.S. to understand the young people's information behavior and learn how they help families and friends by serving as information and technology brokers. With a Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of Western Ontario and a Post Doc from the University of Michigan, Karen’s current and recent work is supported by the UNHCR, Google, NSF, Amazon, the LEGO Foundation, Microsoft, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her book Theories of Information Behavior remains the top-selling monograph at asist.org.  


Katya Yefimova

Katya is a first-year Ph.D. student at the University of Washington Information School in Seattle. Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, social issues and design. She studies how immigrant and refugee youth use disruptive information technologies, aiming to understand how these technologies can help marginalized communities. Before pursuing her doctoral studies, she worked as a newspaper reporter and online content editor. 

DR. EIAD YAFI

Eiad Yafi is an Assistant Professor at Malaysian Institute of Information Technology, University of Kuala Lumpur in Kuala Lumpur. He has an intensive experience in ICT4Development with a focus on ICT for sustainable education and immigrants. He has worked for many years with youth in the Middle East and South Asia. Eiad, who is Syrian, had lived abroad for many years.  He has returned to Syria, after graduating from Hamdard University in New Delhi with a Ph.D. in Computer Science (Data Mining), to conduct empirical research trying to understand how ICT can foster the development of life skills and qualification of Syrian youth and children that drive them to become active citizens.  He has worked closely with experts from different international organizations, including IDRC and Open Society Institute. He is an expert in designing research instruments for Arab youth and is currently conducting research on the use of ICTs and information among Arab migrants in Europe, investigating their information behavior. In addition, Eiad is a co-investigator of the information and technology work carried out at the UNHCR Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. 

Dr. Negin Dahya

Negin is an assistant professor at the University of Washington Information School in Seattle specializing in gender, digital media, and informal learning. Her current research in focuses on understanding the role of text and instant messaging on mobile phones for refugees pursuing higher education in refugee camps. Specifically, this research seeks to understand both the network connections and nature of content and communication over text and instant messaging related to refugee higher education from within the confined and restricted environments of refugee camps.

DR. CARLEEN MAITLAND

Carleen is an Associate Professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University. Her expertise includes both critical and practical analyses of international, sectoral and organizational contexts where information and communication technologies (ICTs) are used to foster economic and social development. Her work has been carried out in the U.S., Europe, Africa and the Middle East, while working with diverse organizations such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), Save the Children, and the U.S. State Department, to name a few. She received a Ph.D. in the Economics of Infrastructure from Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, in 2001, as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Stanford University. She served as a program manager in the U.S. National Science Foundation from 2010 to 2012, both in the Office of International Science and Engineering and the Office of Cyberinfrastructure. Her website is http://cmaitland.ist.psu.edu/

dr. Brian Tomaszewski

Brian is an Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. He is a geographic information scientist with research interests in the domains of geographic information science and technology, geographic visualization, spatial thinking, and disaster management. His published research on geographic information systems (GIS) and disaster management related topics has appeared in top scientific journals and conferences. Brian’s experience includes past work with internationally focused organizations interested in GIS and disaster management such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) ReliefWeb service, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs Platform for Space-Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), and United Nations Global Pulse. He also served as a visiting research scientist with the United Nations Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn, Germany. Brian's research on geospatial technology educational development and spatial thinking in Rwanda has been supported by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK-DFID).

Dr. Maren Borkert

Maren is an Assistant Professor at the School of Economics and Management, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, at Technical University Berlin, Germany. She holds a Doctorate in Sociology with specialization in migration and inter-ethnic relations and has more than 15 years of research experience. Maren published and edited numerous reports, studies, articles and book publications on migration and integration (regimes), ICT and social innovation/social change. She gained extramural research experience as a research officer at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in Vienna between 2008 and 2010 where she conceptualized, coordinated and conducted research in international and European research projects in the field of migration, development, human trafficking and digital migration studies. Her current research, DiversITpreneurs, focuses on transnational migrant women entrepreneurs, ICT and innovation. The project aims to provide an interdisciplinary and multi-national analysis of transnational migrant women entrepreneurs, their use of ICT and role in creating innovation-driven economic growth and social inclusion. Maren is member of the European Network of Excellence on International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion (IMISCOE) since its foundation in 2004.

dr. volker wulf

Volker holds the Chair of Information Systems and New Media at the University of Siegen. He is also the Managing Director of the School of Media and Information (iSchool) at the University of Siegen. In addition, he heads the business field of User-oriented Software Engineering (USE) at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology (FhG-FIT) in Sankt Augustin. His research interests lie primarily in the area of IT system design in real-world contexts. This includes the development of innovative applications from the areas of cooperation systems, knowledge management and community support. One special focus lies on flexible software architecture which can be adapted by end-users. Further research focuses on methods of user-oriented software development and introduction processes. Most of Volker more than 250 publications have been internationally peer-reviewed. These include his publication of the books “Expertise Sharing: Beyond Knowledge Management” and “Social Capital and Information Technology” (MIT Press Cambridge MA) and “End User Development” (Springer Dordrecht).

Dr. Nijad Al-Najdaw

Nijad is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Deputy Dean at Prince Abdullah Bin Ghazi Faculty of Information Technology, Al Balqa Applied University, in Amman, Jordan. In 2006 he received his PhD in Machine Vision and Autonomous Systems from Loughborough University, UK. Then after, he joined the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering as a Research Associate (Post-Doc position). Nijad has been awarded many research grants and international awards during the past few years.

Dr. hala annabi

Hala is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington Information School in Seattle. Originally from Amman, Jordan, she assists with designing data collection instruments. Her primary areas of scholarship include the impact of ICT on organizational learning, the retention and development of women in IT, IS enrollment and pedagogy, and leadership development pedagogy. Hala earned her PhD in Information Science and Technology from Syracuse University. She helped start the Institute for Innovations in Information Management at the UW iSchool and was founding director of College of Business Honors Program at Ohio University. 

Dr. Gunilla Widén

Gunilla is Professor of Information Studies at Åbo Akademi University (ÅAU) in Finland, where she focuses on the role of libraries in supporting an equal information society. Her work involves how libraries in the EU, particularly Scandinavia, can collaborate and provide information services and other interventions to migrants and refugees. Related research includes understanding the motives behind information and knowledge-sharing using information culture and social capital theory. Her information behavior research explores the generational effects of social media across populations. Gunilla’s large-scale projects for the Academy of Finland investigated key skills in information society, and aspects of social media and changing information behavior (2006-14). She received her Ph.D. in Information Science in 2001 from ÅAU and is a Docent in Information Management at University of Tampere and a member of the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters since 2016. During 2004–05 she was a visiting researcher at School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University. She is head of the library programme at ÅAU with the responsibility to educate Swedish-speaking librarians and experts in library and information services in Finland.

Zainab Al-Tameemi, MD

A physician from Iraq, Zainab graduated from Baghdad College of Medicine, then worked in Baghdad for 3 years. She spent the last year of her residency working exclusively with children. She received a Fulbright scholarship to study masters of public health/social and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. Zainab is very motivated to work on Syrian refugees issues. "It's a kind of payback to the kind people of Syria, who once opened their doors and hearts to my people after 2003," she says.