Social Impact

Cornell Summer School on Designing Technology for Social Impact

About our summer school

The social impact of technologies is typically thought about fairly late, if ever, in the design process. Indeed, it can be difficult at design time to predict what effects technologies will have. Nevertheless, design decisions can inadvertently "lock in" particular values early on. Moreover, the values and experiences incorporated in the development of new technology continue to be those of dominant social groups. In this workshop, we will draw on science & technology studies, technology design, and the arts to analyze the values embodied in technology design and to design technologies to promote alternative perspectives and positive social impact.

Rising seniors and graduate students at any stage from a variety of disciplines are invited to attend, including - but not restricted to - informatics, computer science, science and technology students, communication, product design, and visual arts. Our goal is to build a cohort of up-and-coming researchers, provide experience in this research area, and provide research and career building. This workshop draws from a legacy of workshops on values in design which have been transformative in this field.

The workshop will take place on June 18-22nd 2018 on the Ithaca Campus of Cornell University.

Travel, food, and lodging will be covered.

The workshop will be restricted to twenty (20) students. Read about our eligibility factors here.

The application will be available mid-January and the deadline is February 23rd, 2018. Application available here.

A link to our program flyer is available here.


Phoebe Sengers: I am an Associate Professor in Information Science and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University, where I lead the Culturally Embedded Computing group. The focus of my work is the long-term social impacts of technology design. I integrate methods from ethnography, history, and design to explore what we imagine technologies will do for us, how they are actually taken up in human practice, and how they could be otherwise. My current major project is a study of the long-term impact of new technological infrastructure on a small fishing village in rural Newfoundland, Canada. I am using this case to examine how technological infrastructures often build in and reinforce urban, white-collar assumptions and values, and how and why these have led to the decimation of rural communities in Newfoundland.

Vera Khovanskaya: I am a 4th year PhD student in the Information Science Department at Cornell University. I study how social implications are built into technology through technical decision-making, and develop methods to identify and alter underlying values in technology through critical technical practice. I am also interested in methods that integrate archival research with early stages of design research and speculative design.

Jasmine Jones: Jasmine's research explores value-sensitive design strategies for tangible IoT computing devices, such as those for health behavior tracking, personal and collective memory sharing, mental health and wellness, and assisted living. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan School of Information and is currently a postdoctoral researcher with GroupLens at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Invited Faculty

Sheena Erete is an assistant professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media and co-director of Technology for Social Good | Research and Design Lab at DePaul University. Her research focuses on understanding and designing technologies used by groups, teams, and communities to solve social issues in urban environments by considering social, cultural, and economic contexts as well as socio-technical infrastructures. Her current projects explore how various Chicago communities use technologies to address social issues such as crime, education, political efficacy, and economic development. The goal of her work is to design socio-culturally appropriate technologies that can be embedded in urban neighborhoods that encourage collaborative pro-social behavior.

Max Liboiron is a feminist environmental scientist, science and technology studies (STS) scholar, and activist. As an Assistant Professor in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Liboiron directs the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist, anti-colonial laboratory that specializes in grassroots environmental monitoring of marine plastic pollution. As part of CLEAR, Liboiron invents feminist, open source, scientific instruments for monitoring marine plastics in the far north. Liboiron’s STS work focuses on how invisible yet harmful emerging phenomena such as toxicants from marine plastics become apparent in science and activism, and how these methods of representation relate to action. Liboiron also runs Discard Studies, an interdisciplinary hub for research on waste and wasting. An in-progress manuscript builds on this related work to articulate pollution as a form of colonialism.

Tonya Smith-Jackson is the program director for the Computer & Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate’s Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS) and contact-person for Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM (CCE STEM) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is a professor and chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the North Carolina A&T State University College of Engineering, founder of its Human Factors Analytics Laboratory, and co-founder of the Cyber-Human Analytics Research for the IoT lab (aka, CHARIoT). Her research applies cultural and cognitive ergonomics to the design and evaluation of systems with specific focus on systems safety and risk analysis, human-computer interaction, identity and behavioral modeling in context, and inclusive design.

Kaiton Williams is a Product Developer & Researcher at Promise, a decarceration startup offering technology-driven augmentation and scaling of community supervision alternatives such as pretrial release. He is also a Cultural Technologist at Impact America Fund, a venture capital firm investing in technology-enabled businesses aimed at addressing the needs of low-to-moderate income communities. Williams completed his PhD in Information Science from Cornell University in 2017, and is a member of the Culturally Embedded Computing group. His research centres on the simultaneous shaping of self and software as black tech entrepreneurs work from and for marginal communities in the US and Caribbean. Previously, he worked at Microsoft for over a decade, holding senior roles in the engineering of its online services.


Eligibility for this workshop will be evaluated using the following three factors:

  1. Our goal is to build a cohort in the area from ethnically underrepresented groups, understood as: African-American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, Native Alaskan, or foreign nationals of similar ethnic background. People outside these groups may apply and be considered, but they are not the primary target audience.
  2. Rising senior through all stages of graduate program; people who are or are considering being PhD-bound.
  3. International students are encouraged to apply; however, due to limits on travel funding available, applicants must be traveling to the workshop from the US (including Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) or Canada (since we are near the border).

Contact Social Impact

email us at cis-diversityprograms [at] cornell [dot] edu.