Current and Recent Research

User-Centered Design of Language Archives




UCD Language Archives 1.jpg

More than half of the world’s 7,000 or so languages are at risk of no longer being spoken by the end of this century. Most belong to small indigenous groups. The United Nations has highlighted this issue by declaring 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Online language archives can potentially play a valuable role in language preservation and revitalization. I have initiated a dialogue between the fields of language archives and user-centered design to improve users’ experiences with language archives and make them more accessible and useful. The planned outcome is a set of guidelines or leading practices for future archive developers

The first step in this research trajectory was a 2016 workshop that brought together representatives of key stakeholder groups (funded by NSF grants 1543763 and 1543828). Outcomes included 1) mapping the diverse perspectives of different stakeholder groups, 2) creating a typology of language archives and their varying relationships with user groups, and 3) identifying current access issues.

The second step in this research trajectory is to collaborate on the development of language archives, to learn what user-centered design involves in specific contexts. Two projects are described below.

Collaborators: Gary HoltonHeather Roth


Wasson, C. Conducting User Research to Inform the Design of Language Archives. 2017. Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation (CELP) Blog, Linguistic Society of America. 31 August.

Wasson, C., G. Holton and H. Roth. 2016. Bringing User-Centered Design to the Field of Language Archives. Language Documentation and Conservation 10:641-681.

Wasson, C., G. Holton and H. Roth. 2016. Findings from the Workshop on User-Centered Design of Language Archives: White Paper.

User-Centered Design of CoRSAL



Boro students performing traditional cultural practices and displaying artifacts, Bishmuri village, January 2018; teacher: Keshab Mashahary

Boro students performing traditional cultural practices and displaying artifacts, Bishmuri village, January 2018; teacher: Keshab Mashahary


CoRSAL (Computational Resource for South Asian Languages) is planned to be an online repository of linguistic and cultural information from communities in Northeast India that speak Tibeto-Burman languages. In such communities, children still learn the traditional language at home. However, schools are mainly taught in English or a state language. Many linguistic and cultural practices are not being transmitted to children, as modernization and globalization change their worlds.

Targeted user groups for CoRSAL include the language communities, linguists, computational linguists, and other social scientists. These user groups have diverse and contrasting needs, which creates interesting user-centered design (UCD) challenges.

UCD activities for CoRSAL so far:

  • User research with four contrasting user groups conducted by my Fall 2016 Design Anthropology class at UNT

  • Prototype interfaces for CoRSAL developed by Santosh Basapur's User Experience Design class at Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute of Design in Spring 2017, based on findings from my class

  • User research in Northeast India with four communities that speak Tibeto-Burman languages, January 2018, supported by UNT India Venture Fund

Collaborators: Shobhana Chelliah, students in my 2016 Design Anthropology classSantosh Basapur, students in Basapur's 2017 User Experience Design class, Emma Nalin, Sumshot Khular, Prafulla Basumatary, Dhrubajit Langthasa, Bihung Brahma, Jyotiprakash Tamuli, Jodi Williams, K.D. Bell, Sue McRae StoverAlexis PalmerManish Shrivastava, Dipti Misra Sharma, Oksana Zavalina


Wasson, C., M. Medina, M. Chong, B. LeMay, E. Nalin and K. Saintonge. 2018. Designing for Diverse User Groups: Case Study of a Language Archive. Journal of Business Anthropology 7(2):235-267.

Wasson, C., S. Chelliah, S. Khular, and S. Basapur. 2017. Ensuring the Usefulness of a Language Archive for Indigenous Communities. Poster presented at the 2017 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM). October, Santa Ana Pueblo, NM.

Al Smadi, D., S. Barnes, M. Blair, M. Chong, R. Cole-Jett, A. Davis, S. Hardisty, J. Hooker, C. Jackson, T. Kennedy, J. Klein, B. LeMay, M. Medina, K. Saintonge, A. Vu, and C. Wasson. 2016. Exploratory User Research for CoRSAL. Report prepared by students of UNT Design Anthropology class for S. Chelliah, Director of the Computational Resource for South Asian Languages (CoRSAL).

Hereditary chiefs conducting welcome ceremony for elders and youth visiting the traditional homeland of the ‘Nakwaxda’xw, April 2018

Hereditary chiefs conducting welcome ceremony for elders and youth visiting the traditional homeland of the ‘Nakwaxda’xw, April 2018

User-Centered Design of Language and Culture Archive for Gwa’sala- ‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations




The Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations are a small community of people who mainly live on the Tsulquate Reserve at the northern end of Vancouver Island. Prior to 1964, they lived as two separate tribes in traditional homelands along the coast of British Columbia. They are considered part of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nations.  

Like many other First Nations, generations of this community suffered significant loss of linguistic and cultural knowledge through Canada’s forced assimilation policies, including relocation and residential schools. The community is now engaged in efforts to reclaim their language, culture and territory.

As part of these efforts, the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw School, along with other collaborators, is planning to develop an online resource that will make linguistic and cultural materials easily available and useful to the community.  Materials include both pre-existing and new recordings and documents.  My role is to contribute a user-centered design approach to this process.

Collaborators: Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations, Daisy Rosenblum, Lucy Hemphill-Haché, Melissa Marsh, Reed Allen

Meetings + Networks:

A New Approach to the Analysis of Participatory Decision-Making


2013-2015, tbc


Julia Gluesing and I combined our areas of expertise to develop a novel approach to the analysis of participatory decision-making that integrates methods for analyzing the meetings where decisions get made with methods for analyzing interactions among the broader social networks that influence what happens in the meetings. (Funded by NSF grant 1408169.)

Collaborators: Julia GluesingElizabeth Sidler, Molly ShadeKen Riopelle


Gluesing, J., C. Wasson and K. Riopelle. 2017. Environmental Governance in Multi-Stakeholder Contexts: Integrating the Analysis of Decision-Making in Meetings with the Analysis of Network Interactions. In Networked Governance: New Research Perspectives, ed. Betina Hollstein, Wenzel Matiaske, and Kai-Uwe Schnapp. Berlin: Springer, 211-245.

Wasson, C. 2016. Integrating Conversation Analysis and Issue Framing to Illuminate Collaborative Decision-Making Activities. Discourse and Communication 10(4):378-411. 

Wasson, C. and J. Gluesing. 2015. A Wicked Methodology for the Analysis of Wicked Problems: Integrating the Analysis of Meetings and Networks.  Proceedings of the 59th Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences

The Social Life of the Car




The goal of this study was to generate a foundational understanding of how people in the U.S. understand and drive their cars. The study laid the groundwork for future ethnographic research projects that can take a deeper look at more narrowly defined topics. Our client was Nissan Research Center-Silicon Valley, whose mission is to develop self-driving cars.

Collaborators: Brigitte Jordan, students in 2014 Design Anthropology class


Jordan, B. and C. Wasson. 2015. Autonomous Vehicle Study Builds Bridges between Industry and Academia. Proceedings of the 2015 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, 24-35.

Jordan, B., C. Wasson, and H. Roth. 2015. Ethnographic Study Lifts the Hood on What REALLY Goes On Inside That Car. Blog post on EPICpeople

Wasson, C., T. Brickle, C. Ferman, C. Ferrell, S. Gonzalez, M. Halwani, H. Hasan, A. Hartt, A. Hickling, J. Kim, L. Machado, L. McLaughlin, A. Pottkotter, H. S. Roth, M Shade, T. Smith, and A. Whatley. 2014.  The Social Life of the Car. Report Prepared for Nissan Research Center-Silicon Valley. December 10, 2014.

UNT News Release

User Research for the UNT Data Warehousing/ Analytics/ Dashboards Initiative 



The goal of this study was identification of the key decision-making data needs of UNT’s Chancellor and Presidents, Cabinet Members, and Vice Chancellors, to inform the development of a complete redesign of UNT’s data warehousing system. 

Collaborators: William MoenHeather RothRama Dhuwaraha, UNT Data Warehousing/Analytics/Dashboards (D.A.D.) Initiative Team, now renamed the Insights Program  


Wasson, C. and H. Roth. 2015. Final Report: Phase One User Research for Data Warehousing/Analytics/Dashboards Initiative. Prepared for the D.A.D. Core Team, University of North Texas, 17 September. 

For earlier research, see Publications