The         Lab

Examining Technology, Race, Equity, and Ethics in Education

The TREE Lab

Current Projects

There are several projects currently underway within the TREE Collective, which are run by different student-faculty-community working groups. You can read more about these initiatives below.

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BreakPoint Journal

With all its perks, technology is normally touted as our path to that more equitable, shining future, a boon to save us from ourselves. But what if it’s not? We have evidence to believe that often, technology does the opposite, re-entrenching us in our inequities, even without malicious intent.

The onset of the Information Age has not solved the pernicious societal ills that have lingered with us since the beginning: oppression, exploitation, inequity, and all the nuanced ways in which innocent people have been setup to fail in their quests to live fulfilling, satisfying, and happy lives. And at what point do we break? Dreams, aspirations, bodies, communities, oppressions…at what point, and in which ways, is our tech contributing to, or creating, our fractured world?

This is what our journal seeks to take apart, reassemble, and hand back to you, our readers. We reanalyze technology and its effects, so that we may assist you in understanding your reality, and we hope this will aid us all in figuring out where we should be adjusting so that when the future arrives, we aren’t more oppressed than we are now. Breakpoint NU is a quarterly publication, examining technologies on Northwestern’s campus, Chicago, and beyond.

Team Members

Akansha Raj Katherine Johns Kimani Isaac Mary Truong Titobi Williams
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Computing, Ethics, and Society Course

Societies are being rapidly shaped by computer-mediated systems. These systems provide tremendous benefits (e.g. online shopping, convenient access to information, connection to friends and family) and risks (e.g. biased decision-making, surveillance, disinformation, and exclusion from critical material opportunities) that are important to examine and understand.

As part of a broader, interdisciplinary initiative between the Department of Computer Science and the School of Education and Social Policy, and supported by an Alumnae Curriculum Innovation Grant, we are designing a course to explore the ethical dimensions of these “everyday” and emerging computing technologies — social media platforms, search engines, internet infrastructure, recommendation systems, ML/AI, and so forth — by looking at their histories, assumptions, and impacts.

This includes examining how computing infrastructures reify / disrupt individual, social, and cultural practices; how they interact with important social values; and how they can be understood vis-a-vis various ethical frameworks.

The course is open to all students. For CS majors and minors, the course aims to help students to consider and grapple with ethical dimensions of their work, in order to inform a more critical technical practice. For students pursuing non-computing disciplines (i.e. “non-majors”), the course aims to provide a solid foundation for thinking about the possibilities, risks, and impacts of computer-mediated infrastructures on society.

Team Members

Natalie Melo Olivia Gallager Caryl Henry Sarah Van Wart Sepehr Vakil
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Computing & Society Learning Resources

The Facial Recognition Group aims to educate on facial recognition and surveillance technologies by creating a learning module accessible to all that breaks down technical concepts and describes social implications. Future goals include creating other course modules that engage in ethical critique and explain technical concepts like machine learning and algorithmic bias. Within our course modules we want to engage and educate learners through building interactive demos, telling stories, and explaining algorithms using pseudocode.

Team Members

Thomas Young Titobi Williams Rhea Ramaiya
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Young People’s Race Power and Tech Project (YPRPT)

YPRPT (Young People’s Race Power and Tech Project), the flagship project of the TREE lab, is an afterschool program co-designed with community partners including Evanston Township High School, and three Chicago community-based organizations - Family Matters, Endangered Peace, and the Lucy Parsons Labs. Through the bridging of civics, computing, and the arts, YPRPT aims to contribute to a reimagining of what “technology learning” is and could be in an era of ubiquitous computing.

Team Members

Sepehr Vakil Gregory Voelkel Jessica Marshall Jessica Rodriguez Rhea Ramaiya Thomas Young Endangered Peace Productions Family Matters