Headshot of Eric Corbett
Headshot of Eric Corbett

Congratulations to Smart Cities Postdoctoral Associate Eric Corbett, who has been awarded the Mellon ACLS Fellowship to support ongoing research on public engagement with AI in NYC!

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) 2021 Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society Fellowship program offers opportunities for faculty in departments or programs which grant PhDs in fields of humanistic study to engage significant societal questions in their research, serve as ambassadors for humanities scholarship beyond the academy, and deepen their support for innovations in doctoral education on their campuses. This program is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Scholars and Society Fellows conduct research projects while in residence at cultural, media, government, policy, or community organizations. The awards enable mutually beneficial collaborations between fellows and their host institutions and the communities they serve. Fellows return to their classrooms prepared to apply insights from their residencies and community engagements that enrich training for current PhD students in the humanities and related social sciences.

The specific project Eric is working on is a collaboration between Queens Public Library and NYU’s Center for Responsible AI, titled “Democratizing AI: Towards Robust Engagement in Public Sector AI Use.”

AI systems are improving public service delivery and government operations, but not without raising concerns with equity, accountability, and transparency. To address these social justice challenges, many have started to demand that public officials provide opportunities for public engagement with the design and use of AI systems in government. Yet few case studies exist on how to do public engagement with AI systems. Building from an ongoing partnership between Queens Public Library and New York University, this project will address this challenge for democratic governance by conducting a systematic analysis of existing public engagement methods in AI and providing an original case study of public engagement in AI from New York City.

Scholars and Society Fellows’ work in the post-residency year will open new realms for PhD career pathways, integrate public humanities methods and approaches into doctoral curricula, and introduce students to the variety of careers in which PhDs are creating theoretical knowledge, teaching, and communicating their research expertise.