Erik Johnston, ASU Receive National Science Foundation Grant to Study Information Inequality

Andrew J. Zahuranec — August 31, 2018

Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) to investigate information inequalities. Network member Erik Johnston will act as the principal investigator for the project.

Using data from Boston, Massachusetts’s 311 non-emergency reporting system, Johnston’s team will build a tool to understand how people use civic technologies. Research will take place in three stages. First, the project will combine six years of civic, census, and geospatial data with user interviews to identify “information deserts,” spaces where information is scarcer than other areas. Second, the project will conduct semi-structured interviews with civic stakeholders to assess user requirements and verify initial models. Last, the team will try to model the information with participation from municipal officials and other stakeholders.

The team hopes that the resulting insights can help other cities implement smart city technologies and better serve local residents.

From the abstract:

“This research will develop a foundational tool for understanding how civic technologies are used and how information inequalities manifest in a city. User data from new civic technologies that reveal inequalities in the information environments of citizens has only recently become available. Since a large portion of data is demographically or geospatially biased due to varying human-data relationships, computational social scientists have used data modeling and algorithmic techniques to adjust the data and remove biases during data-processing. However, this approach limits our understanding of how and why biased information is created, and our ability to address urban information inequalities and biased data-creation. Consequently, as cities transition to e-government enabled by information and communication technology, they may project the inequities of the past into the smart cities of the future, so a fresh approach is needed.”

Read more here.