June 11th, 2015 | Published in News
Congratulations to Lynn Dombrowski for successfully defending her dissertation titled: “Sociotechnical Food Justice: Examining and Designing Public Interventions for Systemic Social Issues”
Committee: Gillian Hayes (Co-Chair), Melissa Mazmanian (Co-Chair), Carl DiSalvo, Geoffrey Bowker
In my work, I examine and design public sociotechnical interventions for systemic social issues. I use food insecurity, or a lack of enough food for all household members, as a case of a systemic social issue. Hunger is a major concern that affects millions of Americans. Within the US, government and nonprofit organizations exist that work to alleviate symptoms of hunger and address underlying causes of food insecurity. Despite their efforts, these organizations struggle to meet local food needs. My work explores these efforts and how food inequality is an issue that concerns social justice and interaction design.
I highlight three studies focusing on public sociotechnical interventions to address hunger. First, I examine how hunger-focused nonprofit organizations help their local community members access and use online government applications. I demonstrate that while state-led technological initiatives hold the promise to create additional access to government nutrition programs, actual access and use requires considerable direct assistance by other key stakeholders. Second, I share findings from a study in which I co-designed an inter-organizational location-based information system to help local nonprofit address information goals. Based on this study, I highlight the significance of inter-organizational politics when designing for collective action among hunger-focused nonprofit organizations. Finally, I held participatory design workshops with urban farmers, hunger-focused nonprofit organizations, and community members to deal with local issues of food insecurity. With these workshops, I examine how different ways of conceptualizing justice impact the design process surrounding public interventions aimed at social issues. I present insights that inform design practice for social-justice oriented design projects. Collectively, this work contributes to larger discussions within human-computer interaction on the strengths and limitations of sociotechnical interventions in addressing systemic social issues.”