COVID-19 and recent racial injustices like the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have highlighted the importance of social ties. Amidst the viral pandemic, many have socially distanced themselves from their social networks, breaking down crucial support systems and creating threats to one's psychosocial well-being. On the other hand, recent racial injustices have also sparked unprecedented social movement that have mobilized social networks to take collective action for social change. As such, both of these stressors emphasize the importance of social ties and networks for both social support and collective action.
In particular, low-SES communities and racial minority groups have been disproportionately impacted by these stressors. As such, we are interested in investigating how local organizations, embedded in these communities, currently build and faciliate social ties among their constituents, and how current uses of communication technology might improve or hinder these social ties. Specifically, we examine this sociotechnical infrastructure in the context of youth empowerment programs. These programs often focus on building social ties among youth, peers, and adults as a means of providing social support and building capacity for collective action. Through understanding these programs as a sociotechnical infrastructure, we hope to envision how technology might augment existing capacities among community-based organizations as a means of supporting the formation of social relationships among low-SES and racial minority youth.
Our research group examines how novel interactive computing systems can help people to achieve a state of wellness, as defined by the World Health Organization: "Wellness is the realisation of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically."
We are particularly interested in issues of health equity, designing innovative software tools for populations who disproportionately experience barriers to wellness. To this end, our research explores how social, mobile, and ubiquitous software systems can support health literacy, healthy behaviors, and health advocacy in low-socioeconomic and racial/ethnic minority groups. The Wellness Technology Lab utilizes user-centered, participatory design methods to design and build engaging and motivating software systems, and conducts in-depth field studies to evaluate user experience with and impact of these tools. Our work contributes to the fields of human-computer interaction (HCI), computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), social computing, ubiquitous computing (Ubicomp), and personal/consumer health informatics.