The Digital Edge explores the changing contours of Black and Latino teens media behaviors. Drawing from a nearly two-year ethnographic study, the book addresses issues like:
• the factors that contribute to the diversity crisis in STEM
• the challenges and opportunities associated with tech rich classrooms in lower-income schools
• the inventive ways Black and Latino students work around the many social, economic, and educational barriers that influence their participation in the connected world
• why schools should shift from a "work readiness" ethos to a "future readiness" ethos
Don't Knock the Hustle is Watkins' follow-up to The Digital Edge and explores how "young creatives" are using tech and social ingenuity to build a new innovation economy that disrupts sectors as varied as design, media and entertainment, education, and civic engagement. In this book, Watkins explores:
• the crafty ways young people navigate the "gig economy"
• how young media makers bring innovation to TV, film, and pop music
• how youth-driven forms of political engagement function like civic start-ups
• how young social entrepreneurs are reinventing education and exposing Black, Latino, and female students to STEM, computer science, and design thinking
Watkins is the founding director of the Institute for Media Innovation, a new boutique hub for research and design located in the Moody College of Communication. IMI brings together a unique collection of social scientists, media creatives, journalists, and designers to translate research-driven knowledge into critical and creative engagement with a media, tech, and AI-driven world that grows more influential everyday.
Watkins is the Director of UT's Good Systems Racial Justice Research Focus Area (RFA). The RFA brings together researchers, industry, and other stakeholders to explore ways that algorithmic fairness can be built into the automated decision making systems that allocate critical resources and services to citizens and consumers. This work illustrates how creators and operators of artificial intelligence systems must be intentional when it comes to eliminating racial bias through frequent audits, impact assessments, and inclusive design.
In partnership with Good Systems, the Institute for Media Innovation is exploring the implications of ethical artificial intelligence. One Good Systems supported project examines how Black and Latinx children interact with artificial intelligence. Working with researchers from the School of Information, the project considers how issues of racial and cultural difference influence how young people adopt and use artificial intelligence devices. A second project involves a collaboration with researchers from Psychology and Computer Science to design a chatbot for individuals who present with postpartum depressions symptoms. Research suggests that women of color, for example, are much less likely to have access to services.
The Institute for Media Innovation has also launched research related to COVID-19. These projects include how young adults are grappling with the economic shock of the pandemic, the future of work and coworking spaces, and the design of technology to address the rising rates of mental illness.
Watkins' work has been profiled in places as varied as the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Newsweek, TIME, ESPN, NPR, and featured at venues like SXSW, The Aspen Institute, and The New York Times Dialogue on Race.
- The Impact of Social and Digital Media
How is the widespread adoption and use of digital and social media changing the way we live, learn, play, and work? Virtually every institution from the Papacy to the President of the United States uses social media. What do the use of these technologies say about the evolution of human behavior, social change, and social and civic life?
- The Future of Learning in the Age of Digital Media
In the U.S. roughly 8 of 10 teens now owns a mobile device. In a growing number of cases these devices are faster and more powerful than any computer that was available forty years ago. What are the implications for learning in a world were information and expertise are networked and distributed in unprecedented ways? What kinds of skills, competencies, and dispositions are emerging as critical in the 21st century and how can youth develop these through their use of new media platforms?
- Redesigning Learning
The rise of a knowledge economy and the creative class are remaking our world and our economy. How do we begin to remake our learning institutions in ways that resonate with the shift toward open-source models of learning, making, and innovation?
- The Digital Divide
What are the challenges related to widening social and economic inequality in the U.S.? As the digital divide has shifted from issues related to access to matters related to engagement, participation, and literacy how should communities, schools, and organizations rethink their efforts to create more equitable futures in the world of technology and beyond?