At UMD, I am advised by Dr. Amanda Lazar, who specializes in critical research towards how technologies can support aging individuals. I am a member of Dr. Lazar's lab (The Health, Aging & Technology Lab), the Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) and the TRACE R&D center, all of which have conducted seminal work in computing, and accessibility.
Prior to my doctoral studies, I worked with Dr. Robin Brewer at the University of Michigan's iSchool, exploring older adults' interactions with voice based ICTs. During my Masters in HCI at DePaul University, I worked with Dr. Sheena Erete & Dr. Denise Nacu, exploring the intersections of technology, learning and social computing.
Equitable access to widely implemented technologies
Email me at | poojau [AT] umd [DOT] edu
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Widely implemented Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs, e.g. smartphones, voice assistants, PCs, search interfaces) are positioned today as "intuitive" technologies with the potential to, or already providing democratic access to information made available through technological advancements. Yet, diverse groups of users (e.g. older adults, emerging tech users, even young children) have been reported to be on the peripheries of such a promised claim of access over time, due a lack of technology proficiency or literacy. The concept of technology proficiency, or literacy, has been used to refer to the users' "set of skills" to be used in understanding and operating ICTs. Such a "set of skills" has been an open ended concept, used since ICTs entered the realm of public consumption in the 1980s, and applied to diverse technologies (e.g. smartphones, learning management systems) across everyday life contexts (information seeking & sharing, educational activities). While it is unclear what a "set of skills" entails across changing technologies, or how these skills are developed, wide adoption of ICTs are used as grounds to suggest that certain users (compared to others) lack the skills to learn how to use, and effectively use ICTs. This reasoning may miss external factors related to skills (e.g. past work exposure, local contexts such as technology used by those in personal network), and assumes that technologies in use themselves provide favorable grounds for the development of said skills.
I am interested in the question of why problems of ICT access, specifically difficulties in using ICTs for information activities, persist over time and changing technologies for diverse groups of users. I draw on theoretical frameworks and empirical methods in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), and Sociology to study how diverse user groups, such as older adults, learn and incorporate ICTs into everyday use contexts, and how ICTs themselves contribute to their learning and use.