Carmel Valley author’s new book shows how computers can be used to make a difference
By Kathy DayLisa Kaczmarczyk figured out how to combine her interests in social issues with her expertise in computer science by writing a book, “Computers and Society – Computing for Good.”
“I wanted to write about societal issues in a way that hadn’t been done before,” the Carmel Valley resident said last week. “So often we hear about problems with computers — hacking, privacy issues — but I wanted to show how people can make a difference using computers and make a living doing it.”
Kaczmarczyk didn’t take a direct route into a career in computer science. Her undergraduate degrees are in drama and Spanish, but she said she always had an interest in computers so she took lots of classes as an undergrad.
“I talked my way into a lot of classes,” she said, adding that when she graduated she had enough training that she was able to get a job in the computer industry before going back to school for a master’s degree.
When she got back into school, she said, she really liked graduate school and completed two graduate degrees, including a Ph.D., along with extensive course work in Intercultural Communication studies and Systems Science.
Then she got two job offers: one in Silicon Valley, one to teach at a community college.
She took the teaching job and “never looked back.” It was then she started doing research and tried to get papers published.
Following a pattern of “school-work-school-work,” she eventually returned to a computer industry job “that didn’t turn out to be what it was supposed to be.”
Today, she is an evaluation and assessment consultant, working with faculty who have National Science Foundation grants in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — research. She serves as an external evaluator on their projects.
Settling in Carmel Valley about two and a half years ago, she decided to pursue her interest in writing a book that “puts a human spin on what people in the computer industry do.”
It’s not all about “sitting in a cubicle in a dark office or being a code monkey,” she said, adding that computers frequently come into play for the good of our society, and that’s where she chose to put her focus.
Her book is designed as a textbook, with case studies looking at Internet voting, efforts to alleviate poverty in the Peruvian Andes, and marrying digital imaging technology with a state-of-the-art computing system to improve patient care in a children’s hospital. It wraps up with a chapter on starting a business.
Written primarily for upper division or graduate level students with some technical expertise, it can be used in a wide range of majors, her website notes, including “computer engineering, computer science, computer information science, information technology, health information science, business management and political science.”
Each chapter includes questions to promote discussion and ideas for class and individual projects, as well as technical information in what Kazmarczyk calls “sidebars.”
Even if you’re not technically inclined, she said, “you can still get everything important out of it. … it’s very human.”
Conceding her own bias about it, she added, “I think it’s fun to read. It’s about people who are passionate about what they do and are making a difference.”
Her sense of the book’s readability was evident, she said, when her mother — “being a good mom” — took a copy to her book club and someone described it as “a book about computers being used for something good.”
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