Dr. Gi Woong Yun, director for the Center for Advanced Media Studies and an associate professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism, will help to create a more accurate online map of minority-owned businesses in northern Nevada. Yun received a Google Research Award earlier this year to determine why Google Maps lacks data for businesses owned, managed by or catering to minority groups and to map those underrepresented entities in northern Nevada.
Yun and co-principal investigators, Dr. Donica Mensing and Dr. Sung-Yeon Park, will focus on identifying the psychological and social barriers that often prevent minority entities from registering with Google Maps and proposing remedies to overcome those barriers.
“If we can find strategies that can improve minority business presence online, including maps, search and others, minority business owners can utilize such strategies to be more visible,” Yun said.
In a society in which artificial intelligence is becoming the standard, the research will also help identify how to prevent machine bias, the idea that certain algorithms and circumstances create bias against minorities.
“Machine bias could become a critical problem in our future. One of the sources of bias is the uneven amount of data online.” Yun said. “For instance, the relative lack of data points from minority population could make machines (e.g., artificial intelligence) rank minority information lower compared to the majority information.”
Dr. Mensing, associate dean of the Reynolds School, hopes that this grant will be an opportunity to consider more deeply reasons why business owners may avoid being listed on Google Maps as well as what assets and rules might be implemented as a means to encourage their participation.
The research will also include developing a process in which location-based database tools like Google Maps can be used to help minority communities build their communities from within. Both the improved mapping of minority-owned businesses and a set of processes to help make the technology accessible are intended to encourage more prosperous and easily accessible minority-owned businesses in the northern Nevada business community.
“We hope to find the procedural attributes that are critical to be part of the online economy, particularly in the context of minority businesses online,” Yun said.