Olson, Judy

Judy Olson at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Boston, MA in April 1986.

Judith “Judy” Olson (1943 – ) is a Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Sciences in the School of Information and Computer Sciences, the School of Social Ecology, and the Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine. Her areas of expertise include technology in the workplace, information science, and psychology. She is renowned in the field of human-computer interaction for her pioneering research on how geographically dispersed teams work together and how communication technology can better support their work.

Judy Olson with Ben Shneiderman at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in March 1997 in Atlanta, GA.
Judy Olson with Ben Shneiderman at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in March 1997 in Atlanta, GA.

The recurring theme throughout her career has been her focus on technology for long-distance collaboration, including video conferencing, ShrEdit (an equivalent of Google Docs), and other groupware tools. Olson conducted research that combined fieldwork, lab experiments, and agent-based simulations to determine how to help new scientific collaborations succeed. Her laboratory studies specifically focused on the communication challenges facing teams working over distances and the resulting underutilization of remote team members and loss of trust. Olson was elected to the inaugural class of the CHI Academy in 2001 and was awarded the Athena Lecture from ACM-W, the equivalent of a “Woman of the Year” in computer science, in 2011-2012.

Olsons at ACM 2011
Gary and Judy Olson at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in May 2011 in Vancouver, BC Canada.

Olson is not only an expert on collaboration, but also an expert collaborator. She and her husband, Gary Olson, produced a series of papers articulating the technology design principles and social conditions that foster effective collaboration over distance, including their widely-cited paper, “Distance Matters.” In 2006, SIGCHI presented its most prestigious award, The Lifetime Achievement Award, to the joint team of Gary and Judy Olson to honor “their long, productive collaboration as a single, unique contribution to the field of computer-human Interaction, or perhaps more accurately, of human-human collaboration, mediated and enhanced through modern technologies.”

“Judy made the transition from psychology to HCI in the early 1980s and became the consistent promoter of computer supported collaborative work.  Judy came to speak for my User Interface Strategies ’94 satellite TV show (December 1993) and left a strong impression on me.  She and Gary wrote the influential paper on ‘Distance Matters’ (2000) about how even in the age of internet communications, it was easier to collaborate face-to-face than remotely.  Judy’s strong business understanding made her an effective leader and advocate for HCI.” – Ben Shneiderman


Education:

  • Postdoctoral Fellow in Cognitive Psychology, Stanford University (1970)
  • Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, University of Michigan (1969)
  • B.A. in Psychology, Northwestern University (1965)

Affiliations:

  • Donald Bren Professor of Information and Computer Science, Professor in the Paul Merage School of Business, and Professor in the School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine (2008 – Present)
  • Professor Emerita, University of Michigan (2008 – Present)
  • Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, School of Information, University of Michigan (2006 – 2008)
  • Richard W. Pew Collegiate Chair of Human Computer Interaction, University of Michigan (2001 – 2008)
  • Professor, School of Information (1996 – 2008); Professor of Computer and Information Systems and Professor of Psychology (1990 – 2008); Associate Professor of Computer and Information Systems and Associate Professor of Psychology (1983 – 1990), University of Michigan
  • Member of Technical Staff then Technical Supervisor, Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey (1980 – 1983)
  • Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan (1976 – 1980)
  • Lecturer then Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan (1970 – 1976)

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