Digital justice is a growing area that explores how societies are, will, and should be affected by digital technology. Cell phone texting, for example, is a widely accessible communication method, making it a valuable tool for reaching a broad and diverse audience including those who may not have easy access to the Internet or other forms of communication.

In partnership with two service journalism outlets that have provided critical information about local communities through texting to bridge the information divide beyond traditional news reporting, this project develops a database of text-line interventions and actionable insights about how text-lines help address the basic needs of underserved communities.

Building upon work on the digital divide, solidarity in sociotechnical systems, and the constructive role of media in challenging systemic inequities, this project contributes to understanding how digital technology can challenge longstanding inequities – rather than reinforcing them. The database will be the first central repository that showcases how service journalism utilizes digital technology to connect, engage, and assist underserved communities, whose basic needs often go unaddressed in dominant media.

Dr. Jihye Lee (Ph.D., Stanford University, 2022) is an Assistant Professor in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations at UT Austin’s Moody College of Communication. Her research focuses on social and economic inequality in high-stakes strategic communication settings such as targeted advertising, government public benefits, and health information. Emphasizing the importance of studying people in their everyday environments, her work draws methods from social and computer sciences (e.g., mobile data mining, visual computing, NLP, field experiments). Her dissertation, A tale of two Americas: How rich and poor navigate the digital landscape, received Herbert S. Dordick Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association (ICA) Communication and Technology Division. Her work has been supported by the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Brown Institute for Media Innovation, etc. Her ongoing project explores the policy and ethical implications of the datafied society.

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Dr. Anita Varma (Ph.D., Stanford University, 2018) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Media at UT Austin’s Moody College of Communication. Her research focuses on the role of solidarity in journalism. Dr. Varma served as division chair of the Media Ethics Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication from 2022-2023. Her dissertation, Solidarity in Action: A Case Study ofJournalistic Humanizing Techniques in the San Francisco Homeless Project, received theinaugural Penn State Davis Ethics Award in 2019. In 2023, Dr. Varma received the James Murphy Top Faculty Paper Award for her lead authored study, “‘They Always Get Our Story Wrong’: Addressing Social Justice Activists’ News Distrust through Solidarity Reporting.” Her scholarly work has been published in Journalism StudiesJournalism Practice, and Journalism. Dr. Varma is currently a board member of the Society of Professional Journalists (Northern California chapter), Press On: A Southern Collective for Movement Media, and The Objective.