Recent Theses and Project Topics (Non-IS Majors)

Paolo Padova (2023)
This senior thesis sought to analyze the environmental sabotage of a radical environmental group from the 1980s, Earth First! as a form of technology. The main sabotage technique studied was called "tree spiking" which entailed driving a spike into a tree to break any chainsaw that might try to fell the tree. The purpose of analyzing these tools and techniques of sabotage was to challenge assumptions about technology, radical direct-action activism, and environmentalism. In studying Earth First! sabotage as technology I used theories and tools that draw primarily on Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and Anthropology. A critical assumption at the core of the thesis, and STS more broadly, is that technoscience is developed through social processes and is co-constructed with, and in relation to, ideas of gender, race, class, etc. In the thesis I showed that Earth First!'s ideas about gender were reflected in their sabotage technologies and that sabotage technologies could change Earth First!'s politics. I concluded the thesis by suggesting that for environmentalists today to understand how technology interacts with the environment they must understand technology as something that internalizes the relations of those who use it and can change those relationships.

Lily McIntyre (2022)
TikTok, a social media network focused on sharing bite-sized videos, has gained extreme popularity in the past few years, notably during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the high levels of app usage and unregulated user-generated content, there is a large research gap in terms of the possible impact of TikTok on users’ self-esteem perceptions. Certain trends such as #WhatIEatInADay are irrevocably tied to conventional beauty and body standards and have gained traction and concern in the media. Other types of videos, such as footage of parties and lively social gatherings, also have potential impacts on users’ feelings but gain less media coverage. This thesis consisted of a mixed-method approach to assess some of TikTok’s possible effects on its users. First, a qualitative survey was administered via Qualtrics to 92 Tufts undergraduates that assessed user demographics, app behavior, and how those variables related to different facets of user self-esteem. Then, follow-up interviews were conducted via Zoom with 7 survey participants who indicated their willingness to participate. The results indicated that TikTok and self-esteem levels were significantly correlated among this sample. Body image was negatively associated with certain TikTok engagements. With regard to the perceived effects of TikTok use on respondents' social lives, results indicated that the ways in which the app was used for social purposes seemed to be more related to respondents' age than anything else, especially while factoring in the effects on social life from COVID-19. Moving forward, it is recommended that researchers study the effects of TikTok longitudinally to see if some of the preliminary findings reported in this thesis are sustained over time and among other samples. Further, researchers might focus on how TikTok use is related to issues of civic engagement.

Mengqi Wang (2022)
Teaching Time-lapse Photography in the Robotics STEAM Classroom
My senior thesis is on teaching time-lapse photography in the robotics STEAM* classroom, which touches upon photography, education, and robotics!

Throughout the year, I had the opportunity to iterate on the design of a light painting and robotics activity and brought it to a local middle school to examine student interests and learning. I’ve always known that I wanted to do something for children, and doing this interdisciplinary thesis allowed me to experience being a curriculum designer, a classroom instructor, and a researcher all at once. I was introduced to the field of educational research and seriously thought about appropriate content and difficulty levels as well as how to design and analyze a case study. Seeing students’ high involvement, growing self-image, and creativity also makes me have greater faith in project-based learning. Reflecting back, my thesis was a perfect way to combine my interest in Cognitive Science, Child Study, and Computer Science and I was glad to discover my passion for experience design and learned to better embrace uncertainties.

* STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.