Roderic Crooks

Technology and Community

Professor Roderic Crooks studies what happens when technology moves out into the world — particularly into minoritized communities. His work seeks to understand how different groups of people make technology meaningful in their lives, and to turn this understanding into meaningful advice for future technology development and deployment. The idea is to bring communities that traditionally have not had a voice into conversation with the tech sector. “Rather than talking about distribution — who has a computer,” Crooks explains, “it’s about process — that is, how do we enable people to use technology to accomplish ends they have defined for themselves?”

Data-Driven Politics

One area of interest for Professor Crooks is how public schools have turned to data science in search of apolitical, unbiased solutions to persistent problems in segregated, resource-deprived communities. “People assume that the data can speak for itself,” says Crooks. In reality, data aggregation, analysis and visualization are “spaces of subjectivity and interpretation,” he explains. “The data scientist is making choices that will ultimately influence what is taught and how the school allocates resources.” Crooks works to ensure data scientists and educators understand these influences to minimize unintended consequences.

New Perspectives in Education

Professor Crooks has also researched efforts to introduce iPads to make schools in South and East Los Angeles technologically sophisticated. “There’s a lot of hope for technology in those spaces to produce equity,” says Crooks. However, he observed that rather than improving STEM opportunities, after two years, “the devices receded into the background and were used more for surveillance and standardized test taking.” Recognizing that “we can’t steer people to a particular field of study without regard to personal and community history,” Crooks aims to recognize the adaptive and creative ways in which students and teachers are already using technology, encouraging a bottom-up approach to infusing technology into education.

“Technology use can’t be prescribed from the outside. Effective technology use requires community member input.”

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