I’m Avriel Epps and am thrilled to be joining Cat Lab as a Civic Science Postdoctoral Fellow. Here, I will delve into the effects of algorithmic systems on identity development across the human lifespan, leveraging my background in data science and developmental science. This work builds on my doctoral research at Harvard University, where I also earned my SM in Data Science. My dissertation, focusing on the impact of algorithmic systems on Black youth during the Black Lives Matter 2020 uprisings, included a critical algorithmic audit of YouTube’s search engine and its handling of BLM content in the summer of 2020 as well as how Black adolescent mental health was impacted by algorithmic bias in that same period. Before embarking on my research career, I co-founded an ed-tech startup and had a career in the entertainment industry, acting in children’s shows and releasing an alt-R&B album to critical acclaim. My unique journey as a queer Black girl growing up online, building communities and audiences, and interacting with algorithmic systems, has shaped my expertise and insight into the nuanced dynamics of socio-algorithmic systems—their power, potential for abuse, and their impact on marginalized young people.

At CAT Lab, I am eager to explore the frontiers of participatory action research further, advocating for and developing participatory computational methods. My goal is to ensure that our work at the CAT Lab not only illuminates the challenges that socio-algorithmic systems pose for society but also pioneers just and transformative solutions.

I remain hopeful about the possibility of creating sustainable, open, and regenerative AI tools that prioritize the greater good and eschew extractive, exploitative development practices. I look forward to my journey with CAT Lab as an exploration and continued effort to reimagine the future of AI, ensuring it serves as a force for justice and true human flourishing.