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The PIT UNiverse Newsletter

June 2024

The humanities – which include languages, literature, art, philosophy, religion and the arts – are often maligned as frivolous or insignificant in a world dominated by computer code. But the humanities are an essential player in the interdisciplinary and ever-evolving field of public interest technology.

Emerging technologies are frequently implemented at a breakneck pace under a generic banner of “progress.” But who gets to define “progress”? What ideals and assumptions undergird it? The humanities offer ways to recognize, articulate, and question the underlying structures of thought – the worldviews and ideologies – that guide the development, deployment, use, and governance of emerging technologies. They provide tools for addressing the problems of these technologies further upstream, so that we do not continually find ourselves reacting to their harms downstream, after it’s too late.

The power of the humanities was on full display last week at the Tech for Humanity Summit, where thought leaders from civil society, government, academia, and industry explored the root causes of technological harms and discussed programs, services, products, and policies they are building to help usher in a more humane technological future. Check out the full livestream video with time stamps and speaker bios here.

As always, we’d love to feature your programs and ideas here in the PIT UNiverse newsletter. Get in touch with us via the form at the bottom of this page.

Centering Human Relationships in the Age of AI

When Deb Raji started her tech career in 2017, racial and gender bias in automated systems was not on the public agenda. At the 2024 Tech for Humanity Summit, she reflected on what's changed since then, how far we have to go, and her journey to find a professional path and community of practice in algorithmic auditing and public policy.

Policy for Public Interest Technology

Our new Policy Fellow Jasmine McNealy explores how PIT-UN members can advance PIT policy at a critical moment in the deployment of AI systems. Learn more about how you can get involved in policy work by reaching out to Jasmine directly: mcnealy [at]
Jasmine McNealy, Fellow, Public Interest Technology

Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) can be a vital tool for fostering voter turnout, and this August, the Spatial Analytics and Visualization Institute (SAVI) at San José State University is offering a virtual workshop series to empower election officials, policy professionals and researchers to pursue data-driven projects that support free and fair elections.

Please forward this email or share this link with colleagues, listservs, LinkedIn groups and anyone who may find the workshops valuable.

A People’s History of Tech is a collective storytelling project. Rather than focus on lone genius inventors or technological innovations, this living archive centers the embodied stories of the human experience of technology.

It begins with the technology that has arguably changed our daily lives the most: the supercomputer we carry around in our pockets, the mobile phone. Reflecting on our place in a more inclusive history of tech reminds us of our agency in imagining the tech we want in the future. Add your story to the timeline.

Climate Change AI Summer School 

Curious about how AI and machine learning can be leveraged to address climate change? Climate Change AI is a nonprofit startup incubated and supported by the Public Interest Technology Initiative (PiTech) at Cornell Tech. Its virtual Summer School offers lectures and hands-on tutorials with expert researchers and practitioners to help participants from around the world develop expertise to make an impact. The content of the program is geared toward those who have some prior engagement with topics in either climate change or AI and are looking to learn more about the intersection of these fields. Learn more & register here.

Teach with Wiki Education

The web is awash in mis- and disinformation, a problem that is only getting worse with generative AI. To develop digital literacy skills and fill content gaps on Wikipedia, Wiki Education helps faculty incorporate Wikipedia assignments into their courses. Students research course-related topics that are missing or underrepresented, synthesize the available literature, and use free tools and trainings to add the information to Wikipedia. Learn more & get started.

Explore “Mixed Reality”

VR headsets like the Apple VisionPro are just the latest gadgets in a long and unfolding history of “mixed reality,” which describes “the merging of a real-world environment with a computer-generated one.” (Wikipedia) MR has potential uses in a range of public interest issues, and raises ethical and theoretical questions about what is “real” and what is “virtual.” A research team at Case Western Reserve University led by Timothy Beal and Michael Hemenway created MyRTLe (“Mixed Reality Teaching and Learning”), a publicly available framework in Canvas that provides tools and resources to facilitate ethical engagement with and critical reflection on the use of MR technologies in the classroom. Learn more & get started.

City University of New York celebrated the first graduates of its B.A. in Applied Public Interest Technology this spring. Congratulations to graduates Yamilet Vasquez and Andrea Guifarro and to CUNY’s Co-Designees Kathleen Cumiskey and Effie MacLachlan for their outstanding work building and promoting accessible PIT pathways.

UMass Amherst celebrated its first graduate from the Undergraduate PIT Certificate and the growth of its PIT team in welcoming Emily Nutwell (PIT Pathways director) and Carolina Rossini (associate director of PIT).

Call for Submissions: Labor Tech Research Network Book, Graduate Student Paper, and Social Justice Awards: As part of its mission to promote scholarship and activism towards more equitable forms of labor and technology, LaborTech is announcing a call for three awards — Book, Graduate Student Paper, and Social Justice. Awardees receive a small cash prize, a certificate and access to a network of 570+ expert members. Learn more & apply here by June 15.

UC Santa Cruz is seeking a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology for the coming year. The position will involve working directly in the Everett Program, an innovative program that empowers students to take direct action on issues of social justice and environmental sustainability in partnership with community-based organizations, using digital tools to help support their work. Learn more & apply here by July 11.

Howard University is among the 15 newest recipients of the Google Cybersecurity Clinics Fund. Fifteen academic institutions will each receive up to $1 million in funding, as well as mentorship from volunteer Googlers, Titan Security Keys, and scholarships for the Google Career Certificate in Cybersecurity. Consortium of Cybersecurity clinics began as a PIT-UN collaboration between UC Berkeley and MIT. Learn more here.

Interested in writing for this newsletter, or having your program featured?

We’re seeking writers and projects for…

  • July: Artificial Intelligence (submissions due June 20)
  • September: PIT & Climate Change (submissions due August 15)

Fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch.

Andreen & the PIT-UN Team

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