chelsea.barabas | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by chelsea.barabas

Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology

After a decade designing technologies meant to address education, health, and global poverty, award-winning computer scientist Kentaro Toyama came to a difficult conclusion: Even in an age of amazing technology, social progress depends on human changes that gadgets can’t deliver. Last week, he came to MIT to share the insights he’s distilled in his new book Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.

“Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets: Transmedia Organizing and the Immigrant Rights Movement” - Sasha Costanza-Chock's Latest Book Release

This is a live blog from a talk given last Thursday by Sasha Costanza-Chock, Assistant Professor of Civic Media in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing Department at MIT. It was collaboratively written by Gordon Mangum, Yu Wang, Lilia Kilburn, and Chelsea Barabas. For another great record of this talk check out EthanZ's blog post.

To open his talk, Sasha shares some of his prior experiences working as both an activist and a researcher of social movements. Previously he worked extensively with an organization called VozMob, which enables people to use cheap phones to enable people to post media. When he arrived at MIT, he took the base software developed with the VozMob project and created Vojo, a platform for sharing stories via phone or SMS.

Awesome Insights from Hack 4 Diversity

This past weekend I attended CODE2040’s second annual Hack 4 Diversity, a weekend-long hackathon focused on addressing issues of diversity within tech. CODE2040’s summer fellows, along with some amazingly helpful and inspiring members of the broader community, spent the weekend working on projects to promote diversity in a sector that is still comprised largely by white males. Teams explored a broad range of challenges that minorities and women face along the path to entering the professional world of tech.

Calculated bias: The pitfalls and potential of algorithmic recruitment

Ten years ago, a pair of researchers decided to investigate the role that racial bias plays in the contemporary labor market. They sent out fictitious resumes to companies who published help-wanted ads in newspapers from Boston and Chicago. To manipulate the perceived race of the applicant, each resume was given either a very Black sounding name (i.e. Jamal, Lakisha) or a very White sounding name (i.e. Emily, Greg). The results revealed significant discrimination against stereotypical African-American names: White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. The variation was particularly stark for well-qualified applications. For White names, high quality credentials elicited 30 percent more callbacks, whereas a far smaller increase was documented for African Americans. More recently a similar set of methods were used to document biases against women pursuing careers in academic science (university faculty rated male applicants as significantly more competent and hireable than females with identical credentials).

Why is tech so white? Future Research on Educational Pathways to Tech

CODE2040 Team

Last week I received a Summer Fellowship grant from MIT’s Public Service Center to fund my research in collaboration with CODE2040, a nonprofit organization that creates career pathways into the technology sector for underrepresented minorities. Recently there has been a growing concern over the lack of diversity within tech. While 57 percent of the professional workforce is comprised of women, they hold only 25 percent of the occupations in computer and engineering occupations. The numbers get worse when we zero in on the startup space, where 87 percent of founders of internet companies are white. Asians comprise 12 percent of the population, leaving only 1 percent for Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and other groups.