Telling Our Stories – Viviana Bastidas

Each year we meet wonderful women at womENcourage. This year was no different, and in the rest of the year, we will have womENcourage participants telling their stories in blog posts. This month’s blog post is by Viviana Bastidas who is PhD Student at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland and a member of Lero—the Irish Software Research Centre, Limerick, Ireland. She received the B.Sc. degree in Systems Engineering from Mariana University, Pasto, Colombia, in 2005, and the M.Sc. degree in Information Technologies Architectures from Los Andes University, Bogotá, Colombia, in 2016. 

Viviana wrote about her experience attending the “Social Networks Analysis: Theory and Practice” workshop, given by Dr. Deniza Alieva and Gulnoza Usmonova. Their workshop helped participants to learn about social networks analysis (SNA) from theoretical and practical perspectives and introduced them to software that is used by researchers in the field. They discuss several examples of research conducted using SNA tools to inspire the participants to use these instruments in their research.

Let’s hear from her. 

WomENcourage, 2020 ACM celebration of women in computing, was hosted this year virtually by ADA University in Baku, Azerbaijan. I heard for the first time about womENcourage by an email from one of my supervisors, Dr Hao Wu, from the Department of Computer Science at Maynooth University, Ireland. I then applied and got an ACM scholarship as a PhD student to participate in the celebration. The event presents a great opportunity to meet people from a wide range of technical disciplines and to celebrate diversity and balance in our profession. 

The conference this year included different activities such as keynote speeches, career fairs, workshops, and hackathons. One of the main topics in the workshops was Social Networks Analysis (SNA).  SNA studies social structures through the use of networks and graph theory.  In the workshop, we discussed SNA from theoretical and practical perspectives, focusing on how to use SNA software and tools in research (e.g., Ucinet, Pajek, ORA, Automap, Visone, and Gephi).  SNA can help us to deal with the elements and relationships present in practice. For instance, we can use SNA to analyse social media and society in general. 

One of my research interests is on inferring knowledge about the elements and relationships in the Smart Cities context. Smart Cities are complex systems that involve diverse elements and relationships at the cyber, physical, and social levels. These elements are dynamic and heterogeneous, thus if we understand their structure, we can make better decisions about how to design and manage them. To this end, I applied network analysis to explore the elements and relationships involved in the design of the current social architectures for Smart Cities using Gephi. This network analysis led me to understand that various aspects of Smart Cities are isolated or do not get involved in the design of end-systems. For instance, citizens are one of the isolated nodes in the network representation. It means that citizens are normally seen as the main consumers of the city services, however, they are not engaged properly in the design. This leads to the creation of services that do not meet the citizens’ requirements. I believe SNA and network analysis may help formulate and solve the problems that have a network structure, especially when the focus is on the social aspects of these systems.

Finally, I would like to invite other students to participate in the next versions of ACM womENcourage. We must support each other and continue to encourage other women to develop their careers in computing. We have many opportunities to change small or big things in society, and computing helps us to find solutions to do so.

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