Seminar: Amplifying the Griot: Frameworks for Respectful Technology to Support Underrepresented Stories

Lindah Kotut headshot



Lindah Kotut

Ph.D. Candidate

Friday February 5, 2021

1 pm

Location: online-only


Designing technology for rural application is often perceived as designing for solving a problem, in contrast to the emphasis on technology to support urban communities. As more technological advances focus on these contexts and communities, it is important to consider, identify, and examine these tensions and the impact they have on affected people. In this talk, I will elaborate how I use stories from impacted communities as avenues for understanding technological impact, and as guides for the design of equitable and resilient tools and technologies.

Stories are accessible, universal, and powerful. They also allow for a combination of different areas of research: in using Human Computer Interaction (HCI) to understand the impact of technology on human behavior, in parsing human language with Natural Language Processing (NLP), in understanding patterns in storytelling with machine learning, and in leveraging theories from social science to understand how people think, how they organize themselves, and how this translates to online spaces. I will share results of this approach: (1) to elicit methodologies for designing respectful technologies by learning from how indigenous master storytellers share their stories, and (2) how this guided our design approach for rural contexts based on stories of ultra-long-distance hikers on online forums. Using the respectful approach as a scaffold, I will then describe ongoing and future work: how we can design tools to amplify other communities to tell their own stories offline and online, and more broadly, how these techniques offer key opportunities to understand other emerging and growing areas in computer science including fairness and accountability in algorithms, ethics, and Artificial Intelligence.



Lindah Kotut is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. Her research sits at the crossroads of Human Computer Interaction, Privacy and (Cyber)security. She uses storytelling to understand technology (re)use, to elicit unmet needs and to guide design of tools and technologies that are respectful, ethical, and equitable in amplifying underrepresented stories and storytellers.