Maintenance and Renewal

Session Overview

Date and Time: Monday, August 19, 2 – 3:30pm

Location: East Wing Hall, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles

Livestream: Free for EPIC Members

A focus on maintenance and renewal illuminates essential practices that are often unrecognized or undervalued. These presentations demonstrate the value of ethnographic attention to the way technical systems, data, insights, documentation, and public services are maintained and renewed.


Glitch in the Matrix: What Broken Screens Reveal about Digital Matter


Pierre Bonnier, UX Researcher

As digital screens increasingly populate our cities, we are more and more often confronted with their malfunctions. Through a poetic exploration of the visual effects produced by these broken screens, Pierre offers an opportunity to reflect on the place of materiality and maintenance in the user experience.

With a background in social and cognitive sciences, Pierre Bonnier has been a freelance ux researcher for almost 10 years. His two favorite fields are large-scale industry and public transport. Passionate about urban environments, he also co-founded an agency specializing in the application of behavioral sciences to architecture and urban planning. He works mainly in France, where he lives between Paris and Marseille.

Unveiling the Human Experience of Medicaid Renewals: Using a Data-Driven and Human Centered Design Approach to Improve Public Service Delivery


Alyssa Kropp, Digital Services Expert – Design/Research, United States Digital Service
Emily Mann, Digital Services Expert – Design/Research, United States Digital Service
Heather Myers, Staff Product Designer, United States Digital Service
Izzie Zahorian, Design Lead, United States Digital Service

Explore the data-driven, evidence-based, and human-centered design approach utilized by the US Digital Service to identify key challenges and opportunities in streamlining the Medicaid renewal process. This session highlights our proposed shifts in foundational models, focusing on systemic implementation and the lived experiences of Medicaid members, application assisters, and case workers. Discover the tangible impacts of our interventions and how re-examining federal program assumptions can lead to more effective, service-driven benefit programs.

Alyssa Kropp is a service designer based in Brooklyn NY. She has a love for participatory practices like co-design that she uses to help improve the design and delivery of experiences. Currently she’s working with USDS to help strengthen federal programs, policies, and products across the benefits spectrum, including Medicaid and SNAP. When not designing, you’ll find her reading in a park somewhere.

Emily Mann, an applied anthropologist, uses her ethnographic toolkit to improve the delivery of critical government benefits. At the US Digital Service, she has had the opportunity to work alongside dedicated civil servants to improve access to healthcare benefits at multiple agencies, namely the Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Based in Washington, D.C., she enjoys the local music scene and bird-watching with her cat.

Heather Myers is a product designer who loves using design & research for the public good. She previously worked at the US Digital Service where she used her skills to address big challenges such as responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing administrative burden for low-income Americans on Medicaid.

Izzie Zahorian is a Design Lead at the U.S. Digital Service where she partners with agencies across government to improve the accessibility and usability of their services. She currently leads design research and service design on the Facing a Financial Shock charter established by White House Customer Experience Executive Order. Prior to USDS, she led research on the social acceptance of machine learning technologies at Google AI.

Foundations of Practice: An Ethnographic Exploration of Software Documentation and Its Cultural Implications for an Agile Startup


Nicole Tietz-Sokolskaya, Principal Engineer, Remesh, Inc

Suzanne Walsh, Research Consultant, Remesh, Inc.

Although writing software code is often prioritized over documentation, a surge in demand for Remesh’s software during the pandemic, alongside the workforce shifting from a colocated team to a distributed team, necessitated a pivotal shift towards comprehensive software documentation within the engineering team. The transition required the rapid implementation of adaptable documentation processes alongside a cultural shift towards valuing documentation as integral to organizational success. This case study advocates for human-centric strategies, emphasizing collaborative and evolving documentation practices to support software engineering teams in navigating similar transitions effectively.

Nicole Tietz-Sokolskaya is a software engineer with expertise in performance and software architecture. She has over 10 years of experience at software startups and consulting. Currently, she is Principal Software Engineer at Remesh, a SaaS AI-enabled research platform, where she works on platform stability and performance, security, processes, and provides top-level leadership.

Suzanne Walsh is an anthropologist with expertise in business and health research. With over 25 years of experience in academia and consulting, she currently works at Remesh, a SaaS AI-enabled research platform, as a Research Consultant. Suzanne helps clients puzzle through sticky employee and organization research problems, and leverages machine learning, NLP and GPT to understand qualitative data at scale. She has published in high-impact journals, and authors thought leadership for Remesh.

The People Say: How We Built a Groundbreaking Public Research Platform to Catalyze Human-Centered Policymaking


Chelsea Mauldin, Executive Director, Public Policy Lab
Rajesh Kottamasu, Senior Principal for Design and Strategy, Public Policy Lab
Petey Routzahn, Senior Design Lead, Public Policy Lab

This case study describes a pioneering project to transform the availability of qualitative human research for policy innovation. We recruited and interviewed a pool of older Americans, focusing on low-income, rural, and marginalized populations. We developed a repository of tagged research data, then built a public platform,, to share insights generated with older adults regarding their life experiences and service needs. The platform highlights opportunities for national policy change and healthcare-systems improvement. Additionally, it serves as a proof-of-concept for open and multimedia civic research, indicating the potential for more participatory policy development methods.

Chelsea Mauldin is a social scientist and designer with a focus on government innovation. She directs the Public Policy Lab, a nonprofit organization that designs better public policy with low-income and marginalized Americans. Chelsea is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs and a frequent keynote speaker and panelist. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the London School of Economics.

Rajesh Kottamasu (he/him) is a designer, researcher, and strategist balancing priorities for inclusion, equity, service, and relationships with systematic approaches to collaboration. Raj holds a Master of City Planning degree with a certificate in urban design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a post-baccalaureate certificate in Film, Video, and New Media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University.

Petey Routzahn (he/him) is a hands-on, brains-in designer who creates physical and digital artifacts that help people better understand the world. Pulling inspiration from the social sciences, his interest in design is preceded by an interest in people, nature, and psychology. With a BA in neuroscience and minor in communication design from the University of Southern California, he’s worked with cultural marketing agencies, bio-tech start-ups, branding firms, and advocacy organizations.