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Ahmer Arif Researches Inclusive Digital Literacy for NSF Convergence Accelerator Program

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A group of multidisciplinary researchers and partners led by The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington Information School is one of 28 teams selected as part of the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator 2021 cohort, receiving $750,000 in Phase 1 planning funding for a project that aims to reimagine how digital literacy and critical reasoning skills are taught. The project will develop locally and culturally relevant educational approaches for building more inclusive and trustworthy communications ecosystems.

“Co-designing and testing educational resources with our partners will furnish valuable insights into how existing digital divides, forms of social marginalization, and structural drivers of inequity interact with vulnerabilities to problematic information.”

The “Co-designing for Trust: Reimagining Online Literacies With Underserved Communities” project team, composed of a multidisciplinary set of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin (UT), University of Washington (UW), Washington State University (WSU), Seattle Central College (SCC), and Black Brilliance Research (BBR), will plan, facilitate, and assess a series of seven workshops that will focus on critical reasoning skills, the psychological and emotional aspects of information, and broader sociocultural dimensions of trust in information ecosystems. The workshop series will be hosted in collaboration with a diverse group of local stakeholders in Texas and Washington state, including urban and rural libraries, news outlets, civic organizations, and underrepresented communities. 

“Co-designing and testing educational resources with our partners will furnish valuable insights into how existing digital divides, forms of social marginalization, and structural drivers of inequity interact with vulnerabilities to problematic information,” said Ahmer Arif, an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Information (iSchool), who is co-leading the project as a principal investigator along with Samuel Woolley, an assistant professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism and Media; Jevin West, an associate professor at the UW Information School and UW Center for an Informed Public (CIP) co-founder; Emma Spiro, a UW iSchool associate professor and CIP cofounder; and Katie Davis, a UW iSchool associate professor.

The team will design, deploy, and test curricula intended to yield empirical and theoretical contributions to knowledge about existing digital divides, forms of social marginalization, and structural forces of inequity that intersect with the challenges of problematic information people encounter in their everyday lives. The work in phase 1 will also provide case studies for understanding how diverse populations, including rural and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, draw on social and epistemological resources to address problematic information and build trust — and furnish design implications for supporting these activities.

About the NSF-Convergence Program

Launched in 2019, the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator builds upon research and discovery to accelerate use-inspired convergence research into practical application. The program funds a cohort of teams to work interactively toward solving grand societal challenges that impact thousands of people positively.

Read the full project announcement on the UW Center for an Informed Public (CIP) website

Sept. 29, 2021