MLK Scholar Presentation: "Inclusive Futures: Transforming Technology Design through Alternative Narratives" with Tawanna Dillahunt

Synopsis: Technology permeates nearly every facet of our lives—it shapes our health and well-being, transforms our work and workplaces, and revolutionizes transportation and education. However, this digital transformation has been far from equitable. Studies reveal that job seekers and entrepreneurs from lower-income and underrepresented ethnic groups are often excluded from the benefits of digital platforms designed to bolster these aspects of our lives. They not only remain on the margins of technological benefits but are also conspicuously absent from popular technology design fiction or speculative critical design scenarios.

In this presentation, I’ll discuss my research motivations and background as an Intel software engineer-turned-Information-professor and draw inspiration from my research in Detroit’s resilient working-class communities. I will unveil innovative approaches to capturing alternative narratives of digital futures and delve into strategies essential for disseminating these narratives widely. Harnessing these narratives, our team seeks to serve as a catalyst for change, guiding the transformation of technology design toward a future defined by inclusivity, diversity, and equity.


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. Leading the Social Innovations Group (SIG), she directs a collaborative and interdisciplinary team dedicated to designing, building, and improving technologies that address real-world challenges affecting marginalized groups and individuals, primarily focusing on issues in the United States; however, has engaged in research worldwide. Her ongoing projects focus on fostering social and socio-technical capital to tackle unemployment, promote environmental sustainability, and enhance technical literacy within these communities. As part of her endeavors at MIT, she is committed to delving into and elevating awareness around alternative economic futures that can positively impact Black and Brown Detroiters.

Tawanna 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.

This event is hybrid. 

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