The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Smith-Doerr Receives Fulbright Scholar Grant

Laurel Smith-Doerr | UMass Sociology

Laurel Smith-Doerr has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant to Germany. In the spring 2020 semester, Smith-Doerr will be hosted at the Centre for Globalisation and Governance of the University of Hamburg where she will conducting research on her project, “Automating Privilege: Reproducing Inequalities in Artificial Intelligence Knowledge Production Processes in the U.S. and Germany.” The project will contribute to social science theory on organizational governance and equity, and her study of variation in American and German tech companies’ recruitment processes may also illuminate where change is possible for more equitable practices.

“There has been a lot of recent attention to how automation and artificial intelligence will affect the future of work. What is often missing is attention to racial equity--the history of work in the US tells us that not all people will be affected in the same ways by automation technology,” Smith-Doerr says. “There have already been examples of how AI-powered technologies have had racial biases built into them--in addition to the problematic online face recognition software that did not recognize people with darker skin tones, for example, a recent study at Georgia Tech found autonomous vehicles had sensors that were more accurate at identifying white pedestrians than people of color.”

She says that the idea for her project “developed significantly” from a 2018 NSF-funded interdisciplinary workshop she led at UMass Amherst on the topic of emerging technologies, racial equity and the future of work.

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May 13, 2019