Events

Technology for Social Change series

“We need people designing technologies for society to have training and an education on the histories of marginalized people, at a minimum, and we need them working alongside people with rigorous training and preparation from the social sciences and humanities.” Safiya Umoja Noble.

With this talk series, School of Computing and Information highlights the importance of understanding how computing and information technology can be designed, implemented, and incorporated to support positive change in our communities. With the thought-provoking talks and open conversations, we welcome new ways to challenge our scholarly efforts to embrace positive changes around us. We are delighted to kick start the series with three wonderful scholars who approach this challenge from different angles.

All the talks will be organized in a hybrid format, supporting participation in-person or virtually through zoom. We hope to see many of you at these talks, in-person or virtually. If you are interested to give a talk in future series, please contact our associate dean for DEI (rfarzan@pitt.edu).

Upcoming Talks

Friday, October 15 | Noon

"To Understand the Problem, You Must Understand the People: A Human-Centered Approach Towards Creating an Inclusion and Equitable Society"

Presented by Earl Huff Jr., Doctoral Candidate, School of Computing, Clemson University

Abstract: Computer and information technology are increasingly becoming an important factor in shaping how society advances across several domains. In transportation, for example, we see advances in automated driver assistance systems and autonomous driving capabilities to reduce vehicle accidents and save lives. In education, we see in-classroom technology such as smart boards to enhance the quality of instruction and electronic tools to enable remote learning. As society increases to rely on technology, so will the increase of qualified researchers, designers, and developers. Hence, every year jobs in the computing and tech industry are among the highest growth in the U.S.

However, computing has historically limited the participation of specific populations from accessing and benefiting from opportunities in the field due to differences in privilege, access, and awareness. The resulting lack of diversity in computing affects who can develop technology and how technology is developed to be usable and accessible for all potential users. Certain technologies, such as desktop applications and touchscreen user interfaces, may be inaccessible for people with disabilities, and A.I.-based technologies may be trained on bias data due to a lack of diverse perspectives. Without diversity in computing, there is a risk that the resulting technology may be created without critical perspectives and may unintentionally provide inequitable user experiences for consumers.

This talk discusses current efforts to expand the participation of marginalized groups in computing in terms of access to education and technology. Discussion of groups includes racial and ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, and aging adults. Past and existing interventions helped increase students' awareness, agency, and self-efficacy in pursuing a computing career. Designing and developing technology to be inclusive and accessible for everyone is demonstrated with applications of user-centered design (UCD) to consider the perspectives and needs of future users.

Bio: Earl Huff Jr. is a Doctoral Candidate studying Human-Centered Computing in the School of Computing at Clemson University. He is a Research Assistant in the Design and Research of In-Vehicle Experiences (DRIVE) Lab, directed by his advisor Dr. Julian Brinkley. Prior to starting the Ph.D., Earl earned his Master's and Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Rowan University. His research is at the intersection of human-computer interaction, computing education, and broadening participation. Earl focuses on human-centered approaches in creating inclusive and equitable technology for all users and diversifying participation in computing for marginalized populations. His work has focused on racial and ethnic minorities, women, and people with disabilities. Earl's work has been published in high-quality venues such as ASSETS, the Technical Symposium for Computer Science Education, the International Conference on Software Maintenance and Evolution, and AutomotiveUI.


Monday, November 15 | Noon

Talk title: TBA

Presented by Kristen Williams


Friday, December 10 | Noon

"Centering Identity: Co-Design of Social Robots with Marginalized Learners"

Presented by Angela Stewart, Postdoctoral Fellow, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract: Computing education experiences that center learner identities as assets to their learning have been successful at engaging marginalized learners, and increasing their achievement. However, this approach is rarely taken when designing computing education programs and accompanying technologies. In this talk, I will discuss our culturally-responsive approach to designing an informal robotics camp for girls of color. Additionally, we conducted an analysis of multimodal patterns of behavioral engagement from learners in this camp, with implications for creating more effective educational technologies. Finally, I will describe findings from a codesign study on learner attitudes on creating a robot companion, and how this can be leveraged in culturally-responsive paradigms on computing education.

Bio: Angela is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She received a Bachelor of Software Engineering from Auburn University in 2015 and a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2020. Angela's work sits at the intersection of education, artificial intelligence, and HCI. She investigates creation of educational technologies that support the agency of learners and teachers, towards the goal of creating more equitable, inclusive educational spaces.