SocioTechnical capital, employment and economic mobility

Understanding the prospects for adapting technologies, such as online labor markets, to build and exploit both personal and impersonal SocioTechnical Capital (e.g., particularly among those with limited social and human capital) requires an understanding of the barriers that will need to be overcome to make such tools beneficial. This project aims to investigate these barriers and seek for ways for technology to mitigate them. This project also investigates existing tools that may be useful to these communities, and we design and implement customized tools to mitigate these barriers as well.


  • Uncovering the Values and Constraints of Real-time Ridesharing for Low-resource Populations

    Dillahunt, T. R., Kameswaran, V., Li, L., and Rosenblat, T. (2017)
    Real-time ridesharing services (e.g., Uber and Lyft) are often touted as sharing-economy leaders and dramatically lower the cost of transportation. However, how to make these services work better among low-income and transportation-scarce households, how these individuals experience these services, and whether they encounter barriers in enlisting these services is unknown. To address these questions, we onboarded 13 low-income individuals living in transportation-scarce environments to Uber as passengers. Our participants found these services to be reliable and benefited from rich social interactions with drivers; however, barriers such as cost, limited payment methods, and low digital literacy can make such services infeasible. We contribute platform designs that could lead to increased digital literacy and application transparency. To be more inclusive and to reach critical mass, we suggest that these companies foster belief in commons and community trust by coordinating with local businesses in low-resource areas with lower digital literacy.
  • Project Boost: Addressing the Socio in a Socio-Technical System to Improve Income-Earning Opportunities in Urban America

    Kameswaran, V. Marathe, M., Dillahunt, T., Pal, Joyojeet, Reinecke, K., and Toyama, K. (2016)
    “Sharing economy” ventures such as Uber and Airbnb use rhetoric that claims to provide income-earning opportunities for those seeking them. Research to-date, however, suggests that the people who most benefit from these services are those with significant advantages to begin with. In other words, even effective, widely accessible technology isn’t enough to address socio-economic divides on its own. We propose Project Boost, which seeks to document all of the non- technological elements required for citizens of Detroit to benefit from online income opportunities. In particular, we seek to understand what residents who wish to earn income by giving local tours require beyond a website. We have already begun on the project, and at the workshop, we would like to continue planning with our geographically scattered team, and invite others to work with us or attempt similar programs in other cities.

    This project was presented at the CHI 2016 Workshop - Development Consortium 2016: HCI Across Borders
  • Designing for Disadvantaged Job Seekers: Insights from Early Investigations

    Dillahunt, T. R., Bose, N., Diwan, S., and Chen-Phang, A. (2016)
    The Internet plays a pervasive role in job search and employment, especially for professionals and for those who are highly qualified. While job seekers from all occupational groups and employment status rely on aspects of the Internet for employment, past research suggests that disadvantaged job seekers are being ‘left behind’ and will continue to be left behind as the Internet takes on a more eminent role in the employment process. To mitigate this outcome, we extended prior literature and took a user-centered design approach to design and implement a web-based employment application that provides job seekers with resume feedback from local volunteers. We piloted our application to understand: 1) the context and circumstances of our application’s shortcomings and 2) UX principles that address these shortcomings. We extend employment research that aims to alleviate the negative effects of technological advancement on disadvantaged job seekers.
  • Increasing Sociotechnical Capital with Crowd-sourced Career Advice

    Ghandikota, I., Kaur, J., Dillahunt, T.R.
    Despite the passing of the economic recession of 2008, many people are still unable to find stable jobs. The goal of this project is to help to address this problem by providing easy access to individuals for access to employment resources such as resume and interview feedback. We explore both Crowd-sourcing and Friend-sourcing as mechanisms to address these issues.

    This project was presented at the Michigan UROP symposium in April 2015.
  • Jobs Near Me: Aggregating Jobs for Unemployed Populations

    Patterson, H., Kaur, J., Dillahunt, T.R.
    Social networking tools and online markets tend to target highly educated and highly paid professionals who are likely to be employed or have a professional background (e.g., CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, Amazon Mechanical Turk). Past research suggests that very few of these applications target or provide opportunities for populations that may be unemployed, or who have limited education. The goal of this project was to better understand how these applications could be better suited for unemployed populations. After conducting a brief review of related HCI and sociology literatures we conducted a survey and competitive analysis of employment-related applications available today. Next, we conducted an analysis of user ratings and comments of these applications, and a one-hour usability test of Snagajob and Indeed, two of the most popular employment applications on the Android App Store. Initial findings suggest that though users find employment applications helpful, they would benefit from additional features such as the ability to upload an existing resume or CV to their profiles, filter options when searching for jobs, and alerts about the application process after applications have been submitted. Our participants faced challenges while using employment applications such as an inability to create strong profiles, irrelevant search options and failure to know if employers actually received their applications, which suggested application unreliability.

    This project was presented at the Michigan UROP symposium in April 2015.
  • The digital-sharing economy presents opportunities for individuals to find temporary employment, generate extra income, increase reciprocity, enhance social interaction, and access resources not otherwise attainable. Although the sharing economy is profitable, little is known about its use among the unemployed or those struggling financially. This paper describes the results of a participatory-design based workshop to investigate the perception and feasibility of finding temporary employment and sharing spare resources using sharing-economy applications. Specifically, this study included 20 individuals seeking employment in a U.S. city suffering economic decline. We identify success factors of the digital-sharing economy to these populations, identify shortcomings and propose mitigation strategies based on prior research related to trust, social capital and theories of collective efficacy. Finally, we contribute new principles that may foster collaborative consumption within this population and identify new concepts for practical employment applications among these populations.
  • Past Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literature suggests that engaging in meaningful activities with ICTs may be related to socio-economic security, social inclusion, empowerment, and increased social capital. However, we identify a pervasive lack of understanding in existing literature, which raises an important research question: how can we build social capital where little social capital exists? We conducted a preliminary study to explore whether and if so, how, individuals in an economically distressed population with limited social capital use technologies to increase social capital and achieve socioeconomic security. We contribute details about barriers affecting social capital (e.g., difficulties finding and making the right connections and an overall lack of trust within communities). We also suggest ways in which ICTs can assist populations that could benefit most from increased social capital and economic security.