I AM BECK TENCH.
I am a wife, daughter, friend, teacher, gardener, cyclist, kind stranger, and PhD student at the University of Washington Information School. I have deep and abiding curiosities about contemplative practice, technology, and public space. Specifically, I’m interested in how public space and technology can be designed to facilitate contemplative experience (and also, perhaps, cultivate and sustain regular contemplative practice).
Through my work, I hope to help myself and others develop skills and a greater capacity for accessing personal wisdom; connecting with others through compassion and friendship, improving the quality of our lives through awareness of life as we’re living it, and mitigating or minimizing the harms of attention-driven digital culture.
My undergraduate work trained me to be a designer and technologist. I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication and spent my early career designing websites, programming in early web languages (HTML, CSS, Coldfusion, ASP, PHP), and conducting light user experience research as an information architect.
In 2008, I became the Director for Innovation and Digital Engagement at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC, where I designed novel digital experiments in partnership with the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Michigan State University. Some of those experiments were mentioned in major media outlets like the New York Times and NPR’s Science Friday (thanks to Nina Simon pointing those reporters our way), and I had the opportunity to speak about them at places like MIT, the Smithsonian, and even internationally. A complete list of those experiments is archived on this Workflowy list.
While I worked for the museum, I served on my local library board for five years, eventually becoming the chair. At the same time, I worked with librarians across the state of Illinois through a program called ILEADUSA. For six years, I gave an annual keynote address and then worked with individual teams of librarians across 9-months, supporting them in taking risks with their projects and making change in the culture of their libraries.
In 2014, I took a sabbatical in Ocracoke, NC, and started working independently with cultural organizations, libraries, museums, and foundations. My work spanned digital engagement, institutional culture change, and experience design.
In the spring of 2015, I was a visiting lecturer in the University of Washington’s Museology Graduate Program. I developed and taught the course “Digital Experiments in Museums and Libraries” and also co-taught a course on “Careers and Social Capital” with Kris Morrissey. It was at this time that I met David Levy and began to explore research and teaching as a next step in my career.
In the fall of 2016, I began my graduate studies as a PhD student in the University of Washington's Information School. I have my own research projects (The Morning Pages Study and a partnership with Skokie Public Library), and also work with others on their research, namely Jaime Snyder's Visualizing Bipolar project and Susan Hildreth's workshops to inform future MLIS curricula. I also am a teaching assistant for an undergraduate design thinking course, INFO 360, and the MLIS Capstone Projects.
I welcome conversations with friends and followers and regularly have coffee or Skype chats with complete strangers who email and ask to chat. If you'd like to think together, please send me an email.
Beck Tench is a wife, daughter, friend, teacher, gardener, cyclist, kind stranger, and PhD student at the University of Washington Information School. She researches how the design of physical and digital spaces cultivates contemplative experience and practice. She is particularly interested in understanding how space facilitates a greater capacity for accessing personal wisdom, connecting with others through compassion and friendship, improving the quality of our lives through greater awareness of life as we’re living it, and coping with the distractions of digital culture.
She was formally trained as a designer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and spent her career before returning to academia helping museums, libraries, and non-profits embrace risk-taking, creativity, and change through technology and personal space-making. Her work from that time was mentioned in the New York Times, National Public Radio, Scientific American, and several books and blogs.