Key research interests

WHO: I am a human-centered computing PhD student at Georgia Tech and a member of the DataWorks research team. I am primarily advised by Dr. Betsy DiSalvo, co-advised by Dr. Carl DiSalvo, and collaborate closely with Dr. Ben Rydal Shapiro (GSU). Before Georgia Tech, I studied computer science at Wellesley College.

WHAT: I am interested in how people understand data and begin to make use of it. I examine the tools and devices they employ to do so, as well as the impact of a dataset’s sociotechnical origins in determining its use. Working primarily in critical data studies, my approach is also informed by prior research experience and ongoing interest in programming languages, usable security and privacy, and information credibility.

WHERE: My primary research site is DataWorks, a data services firm and work-training program. At DataWorks, we are figuring out how to build an alternative data annotation site that does not reproduce the exploitative work practices common among data annotation platforms and providers. The Data Fellows are full-time university employees with competitive pay and benefits, and become experts in data cleaning, organization, and standardization through a mix of dedicated training modules and work on real client projects. Through the unique structure of DataWorks, we are also able to create comprehensive understandings of how a dataset came into being, both in origin and its current form, helping determine fair and pro-social later use.

WHEN AND HOW: Currently in the fourth year of my PhD, my dissertation research is specifically focused on preserving the sociotechnical context in which a dataset is constructed, so that later use of systems (e.g., an ML classifier) trained on a given dataset can be contextualized; I care about contextualization as a way to more enact more just and respectful deployment of data-intensive systems, along with increasing system accuracy. Right now, I am exploring how context can be preserved in data work mediated by digital pieceworking platforms (e.g., Amazon Mechanical Turk). I am also working on building software systems and tools that support documentation in data work, while minimizing additional human labor and respecting the privacy of those working with, represented by, or included in the data being processed.

Other research “hobbies”

My tangential research interests include:

  • reading about anything related to data and computing, particularly studies of how computing and computational tools are used for surveillance, prescribing boundaries on human movement, and enaction of borders, nationality, and immigration;
  • keeping a kind of data diary of the temporal and financial cost of protecting my personal information on the web – mostly to highlight the barriers to doing so;
  • right to repair and restoration of old and aging computer systems, along with free & open source software, in protest of planned obsolescence and platform capture.