Our weekly SRI Seminar Series welcomes Tawanna Dillahunt, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information whose research spans human-computer interaction and ubiquitous computing fields, including environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
With the narrowing of the digital divide and the ubiquity of smart devices and mobile hotspots in common places, Dillahunt sees an urgent need to explore the use of these technologies for those that stand the most to gain from such resources. Her research team investigates, designs, builds, enhances, and deploys innovative technologies that solve real-world problems to support the needs of people from historically excluded groups, including the development of accessible digital employment tools, applications for ridesharing and delivery for lower-income and transportation-scarce groups, and models for novice entrepreneurs to build their technical capacity.
“Empowering marginalized job seekers: Rethinking digital platforms for equitable and alternative employment”
In today’s digital age, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) hold the promise of addressing one of society’s most pressing challenges: unemployment. These technologies are often celebrated as powerful catalysts for entrepreneurship, income generation, and comprehensive support for job seekers. They encompass everything from job searches and crafting compelling resumes to skills enhancement and providing transportation to work opportunities.
However, we must acknowledge that the accessibility to these employment-enhancing tools is far from equitable. Moreover, these technologies could (and often do) exacerbate the marginalization of already vulnerable populations. To truly harness the potential of technology, we must delve deeper into how marginalized individuals grappling with unemployment engage (or do not) with ICTs when seeking employment. In this presentation, I will share the outcomes of several efforts to foster innovation and rethink the design of technologies to support employment, focusing on the needs and challenges of marginalized groups. My research has surfaced broader challenges impacting the employment landscape, including the digital divide. My current work is centered around an ambitious vision–to reimagine employment by fostering entrepreneurship, building community digital literacy, and exploring forms of resource sharing, such as the innovative concept of timebanks. These endeavors are poised to transform how skills are developed and leveraged in the United States, offering a novel and potentially more inclusive path forward for all job seekers.
Tawanna Dillahunt is a 2023–2024 MIT MLK Fellow in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. She holds a courtesy appointment with the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. She leads the Social Innovations Group (SIG), an interdisciplinary group of individuals whose vision is to design, build, and enhance technologies to solve real-world problems affecting marginalized groups and individuals primarily in the U.S. Her current projects aim to address unemployment, environmental sustainability, and technical literacy by fostering social and socio-technical capital within these communities. At MIT, she is working to explore and raise the visibility of alternative economic futures for Black and Brown Detroiters. Dillahunt is a 2022–2023 William Bentinck-Smith Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, an ACM Distinguished Member, and an inaugural Skip Ellis Early Career Award recipient.
To register for the event, visit the official event page.
The SRI Seminar Series brings together the Schwartz Reisman community and beyond for a robust exchange of ideas that advance scholarship at the intersection of technology and society. Seminars are led by a leading or emerging scholar and feature extensive discussion.
Each week, a featured speaker will present for 45 minutes, followed by an open discussion. Registered attendees will be emailed a Zoom link before the event begins. The event will be recorded and posted online.