Photo of Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Associate Professor of Computer Science
Donald L. Wilson Professor of Enterprise and Leadership
Director, Wilson Program in Enterprise and Leadership

Grinnell College
Noyce 3809
Office hours: See my schedule.

Spring 2015 courses:

Past Courses

This August, I will be joining Whitman College's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, where I will lead the development of a new computer science program.

Student research

In summer 2013, I started a project with Nediyana Daskalova '14, Nathalie Ford '15, Ann Hu '14, Kyle Moorehead '15, and Ben Wagnon '14. We aim to design technology that helps Grinnell students get more sleep. We are using a participatory design approach, informed by persuasive technology theory. You can read a longer project proposal and a research paper. This project is currently on hiatus.

In fall 2011, I supervised Scott Kaitz '11 in his study of why people join smoking cessation and weight loss support groups on Facebook. This is related to my larger interest in persuasive technology.

In summer 2010, I worked with students Sambit Behera '11 and Xin Jin '12 on GreenRes.Net, an online community to connect college and university eco-residences.

In summer 2011, I worked with students Chase Felker '12 and Radka Slamova '13 on improving the user experience of the Grinnell Local Foods Coop's web site. This is related to my larger interest in HCI and environmental sustainability. We presented our work at SIGCSE 2012.

In summer 2008, I worked with students Tim Miller '09 and Pat Rich '10 on participatory design of technology to promote resource conservation on the Grinnell campus. You can read my original overview or a news story about the results of their work. See also our research paper: ADAPT: Audience Design of Ambient Persuasive Technology.

In summer 2007, I worked with Sam Rebelsky and students Lorelei Kelly '08, Max Kuipers '09, and Tim Miller '09 on implementing the media computation approach in CSC151. The result was DrFu, which has now been superceded by MediaScript.



My chief scholarly interests lie in the area of human-computer interaction (HCI).  I see this area as broadly addressing a scientific question and a design question: How do people interact with computers? And how can we design computer systems to enhance rather than detract from the human experience?  My work as a computer scientist emphasizes the latter.

In my current work, I am exploring methods for the design of ethical persuasive technology: technology that is designed to change what we think and do. I had a research leave in 2009-2010 to work with Grinnell's EcoHouse, engaging in participatory design of such technology.

In my dissertation at the University of Washington, I engaged in Value Sensitive Design of user interfaces for UrbanSim, a large scale urban planning simulator, with an eye to transparency, fairness, and democracy to support the legitimacy of using UrbanSim as part of the political process.  I considered documentation for technical uses, a platform to allow advocacy groups to prsent their views on using simulation data, and new interfaces to enable citizens to interact directly with simulation results.

Other professional interests include ubiquitous computing, networks, distributed systems,  the role of ethics and social issues in the CS curriculum, and computational nutrition.


My teaching interests span introductory computer science, computer systems, design, and the social influences and implications of computing and other technology.  In my time at Grinnell, I've taught Functional Problem Solving (CSC 151), Computer Organization & Architecture (CSC 211), Operating Systems & Parallel Algorithms (CSC 213), Computer Networks (CSC 364), Software Design (CSC 223), Human-Computer Interaction (CSC 232), Evolution of Technology (TEC 154), and two Tutorials on technology and society.

I like to create a conversational atmosphere in my classes, and I especially enjoy talking about problems for which there is not one right answer.


My personal interests and pleasures include beadwork, knitting, sewing, and other crafts, walking, gardening, cooking, reading, talking with cats, and collecting computer science jokes. You can look at my increasingly neglected, broken, and out-of-date personal web site.

I had way too much fun with new laptop a few years ago. You can see a photo tour of my garden in Seattle or my first office at Grinnell.


Selected Teaching Publications

Selected Research Publications

 * Co-authors are Grinnell students or alumni.
Janet Davis (

Created August 14, 2006
Last modified July 8, 2015