Computing for Recognition: Design and Development of Just Technologies with Marginalized Communities

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Many of today's advanced computing tools and technologies are built and marketized to improve the quality of life of people worldwide, including the Global South populations. Examples of such technologies include computer-mediated collaborative (CMC) tools, FinTech, and advanced artificially intelligent tools for healthcare, among others. However, these tools and technology rarely understand people's sensibilities of justice, values, and identities. These three together fall under the umbrella of recognition. I build on Dipesh Chakrabarty, a South Asian political philosopher, and define recognition as a social instrument that validates marginalized communities in a multicultural society by ensuring justice for them, honoring their values, and acknowledging their identity. Misrecognition of people's justice, values, and identities further marginalizes them in a multicultural society as their voice is misheard and disregarded in the history, economy, and local and broader policy-making, and further jeopardizes their empowerment. This thesis discusses such marginalized community's empowerment through ``computing for recognition" and looks at the rural communities in Bangladesh, a low-income and low-resource country in South Asia. In a six-year-long ethnography-based thesis project, I focused on studying and building computing technologies for recognizing the identities and values of justice for marginalized communities. I deployed a variety of qualitative, quantitative, and design methodologies to probe and address social justice agendas in low-resource, marginalized communities. My field studies in Bangladesh revealed the challenges faced by rural populations and minorities, including rural women, low-literate and faith-based communities, and survivors of sexual harassment. I co-designed and evaluated computing technologies, including accessible, low-cost, and intelligent mobile and web applications, to understand the problems better, provide the community with tools to aid their existing methods of accessing ICTs and solving problems, and hence, contribute to improving the quality of their life in the longer run. My thesis projects include: (a) conducting ethnography to study how they conceptualize and practice their recognitions in and over computing technologies and (b) developing and designing systems and applications using co-designing strategies. My thesis addresses the recognition of marginalized communities through three broad themes: transformative, bypass, and polysemic design. My thesis (i) argues that marginalized community's expectations from the technologies showing differ from the expectations of the users in the Global North and intends of the technology designers in the West, (ii) reinforces marginalized community's existing strategies of transformative and distributive justice through codesigning tools to combat some of the long-existing patriarchal and gender discriminatory values and further contributes to their small-scale macro level empowerment, and (iii) pushes the methods of political design within HCI in a direction that bypasses the existing roadblocks and on going conflicts of values on the community's empowerment and designing beyond the user in a way that particular set of the people in the community may benefit.

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269 pages


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Feminism; Global South; HCI; Human Computer Interaction; Science and Technology Studies; STS


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Fussell, Susan

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Rzeszotarski, Jeffrey
Jackson, Steven

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Information Science

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Ph. D., Information Science

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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