5 Questions With Elena Parmiggiani

Who are the people behind ECSCW 2023? In this series of blogs, we ask our organizing committee some really personal questions. In this post, we talk to Elena who is one of the general chairs of the conference.

1. When and where was your first ECSCW conference?  

My first CSCW-related conference was COOP in 2014 (COOP later merged with ECSCW). Both the pre-conference workshops and the main conference were an eye opener in terms of understanding the history of the field and the importance of focusing on work.

2. What sparked your interest in your field of study? 

Difficult to explain, but I’ll try 🙂 I am skeptical by nature so I like to identify problems before solutions. More in general, I think that technologies (and innovations) never exist in a vacuum, but are part of a network of social and technical elements that cooperate. I am fascinated by people’s work practices in real-life contexts and the way people make sense of problems and find a way to articulate a solution in practice. On a more philosophical level, I inhabit the middle ground generated by my educational background that was both very humanistic (up until high school) and very engineering-oriented (I have a BSc and MSc as a computer engineer).

3. What was the last book you read and how did it affect you?

Academic: Towards a History of Epistemic Things (Hans-Jørg Rheinberger). It made me think even deeper about the way our knowledge of phenomena is dependent on, and the result of, the instruments and frameworks that guide our work.

Non-academic: I have just finished two books I read in parallel: War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy and Poeta al Comando (Poet in Command) by the Italian historian Alessandro Barbero. War and Peace was particularly important to reflect about the broad and deep dynamics that guide European history and politics. I cannot believe I hadn’t read it yet. Poeta al Comando is a beautiful fiction based on Gabriele D’Annunzio’s last days as ruler of occupied Fiume (today Rijeka). It was great to immerse myself in another time and place. I am really passionate about history and I am always looking for great historical novels!  

Next up is Raised from the Ground by José Saramago!

4. Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies? 

Talents I am not sure… but when it comes to hobbies I really like to hide in books by Latin authors (especially I century BC – I century CE, Cicero being my first choice) and try to refresh my knowledge of Latin, today unfortunately getting rusty. I also read a lot of novels and essays about history, especially on the Romans age (especially republic and empire).

5. If you weren’t an academic, what career do you think you would have pursued? 

Very difficult to say… When I was in elementary school I wanted to become an astrophysicist! But I think I’d have become an academic anyway, but in the humanities 😊 More seriously: I think I would have worked a few years in the IT industry to then retired to run a cat shelter.