S. Craig Watkins

S. Craig Watkins

Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial Professor, Department of Radio-Television-Film, School of Journalism and Media, University of Texas at Austin

Visiting Professor 2021-2022

Hosted by Prof. Fotini Christia and Prof. D. Fox Harrell, MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society

Bio

An internationally recognized expert in media, S. Craig Watkins is the author of six books exploring young people's engagement with media and technology. His two most recent books—The Digital Edge and Don't Knock the Hustle—result from his work with the Connected Learning Research Network, a research collaborative funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

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.

Source: School of Journalism and Media, University of Texas at Austin