The School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh welcomes Leanne Bowler as the newly named director of the Sara Fine Institute for Interpersonal Behavior and Technology (SFI).

SFI was founded in 1999 in honor of Sara Fine, who was a professor at the School of Information Sciences for over 20 years. The SFI organizes lectures, hosts distinguished speakers and visiting fellows, fosters research projects, and coordinates programming around science and technology with a focus on information technologies, interpersonal behavior, and human-machine relationships.

The SFI annual lecture series most recently featured Alondra Nelson, Dean of Social Sciences at Columbia University, who gave a lecture entitled “The Social Life of DNA in the Era of Big Data.” She discussed, among other topics, the expansive use of genetic ancestry testing, the recent controversy over the Henrietta Lacks genome, and the unique features of DNA as Big Data.

Bowler, who stepped into the directorship May 1, values the important role SFI plays exploring humanistic questions about the relationship between people, information, data, and technology.

“We live in an information-intense, data-driven world that is increasingly mediated by technology,” remarked Bowler. “What is the impact on humans and society? Critical questions about the human experience within this emerging cyber infrastructure need to be asked.”

Bowler plans to address these questions by using the opportunities offered by SFI and its unique structure to facilitate conversation and comprehension.

“The Sara Fine Institute will tackle such questions, presenting speakers and programs that contribute to a broader understanding of the situational, cultural, psychological, and philosophical factors that influence human interactions with information, data, and technology,” added Bowler.

In addition to serving as the director of SFI, Bowler currently holds an associate professor position at the School of Information Sciences where she leads the Children and Youth specialization. She holds master’s degrees in library science and educational psychology, as well as a doctorate from McGill University in Montréal, Québec. Her research and teaching interests lie in the area of youth interaction with information, data, and technology.

In the past, Bowler has also worked as an information professional in a variety of settings including public and academic libraries, and patient resource centers in hospitals.