Student Spotlight: A Writer Turns to the Digital Humanities to Promote Equity

Caitlin Cacciatore (Photo courtesy of Cacciatore)

By Lida Tunesi

Caitlin Cacciatore, who will start at the Graduate Center this fall in the Digital Humanities master’s program, is a writer. She has written poetry and prose since she was little, recently won second place in Baruch College’s COVID Diaries Essay Contest, and writes even when she’s supposed to be doing something else. Writing about her views and values is not enough, though, Cacciatore said, and she feels she has to actively live by those values, too.

“While the pen is a mighty tool, I feel it is also necessary to be out in the trenches, working to make the world a better, more equitable place,” Cacciatore told the Graduate Center.

This is what led Cacciatore to the Digital Humanities program. She is interested in the intersection of ethics and equity with technology, and the instances in which the intersection is weak. There are artificial intelligence systems designed to evaluate whether to give someone a loan that have inherited human racial biases, Cacciatore gave as an example, and fitness trackers that don’t measure heartbeat well on darker-skinned people.

“We need to be very aware of programming our own extant and past biases into our technology,” Cacciatore said. “We need to start designing for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender identity or expression, or any other category we use to define our identity.” 

As a queer, differently abled woman, Cacciatore said she sees patterns of bias that might escape someone with a different identity. She hopes to someday work as an ethics consultant to help right these wrongs.

Cacciatore attended Baruch College for her undergraduate degree, where she designed her own major in artificial intelligence through Baruch’s “ad hoc major” option. She took coding classes, computer ethics courses, and managed to fit in astrophysics and creative writing, too.

Creative writing is more than a casual hobby for Cacciatore. While at Baruch, she won first prize in the Fall 2020 Harman Screenwriting Contest, and the 2021 Jerome L. Schulman Memorial Poetry Contest. Cacciatore is diligent, keeping a spreadsheet to track submissions as she sends her words off to magazines, literary journals, anthologies, and contests. Some of her work is available to read through her website.

While she might have considered going to school for writing at one time, Cacciatore said she has too many other passions that she couldn’t ignore. As a digital humanities student, she hopes to learn about equity initiatives in technology as well as other fields, like climate justice.

“My goal is to help build a more inclusive world,” Cacciatore said, “one in which scientific and technological progress benefits us all.”  

Submitted on: AUG 10, 2021

Category: Digital Humanities | Diversity | GCstories | General GC News | Student News | Voices of the GC