PhD Defense by Eric Corbett

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  • Date/Time:
    • Thursday July 9, 2020 - Friday July 10, 2020
      2:00 pm - 4:59 pm
  • Location: REMOTE
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Summary Sentence: Trust, Distance, and Design

Full Summary: No summary paragraph submitted.

Date: July 9th, 2020

Time: 2pm - 5pm (EST)

Location: Remote (Open to the public on BlueJeans:


Dissertation Title: Trust, Distance, and Design

Candidate: Eric Corbett


Dissertation Committee

Dr. Chris LeDantec, Chair Georgia Tech

Dr. Yanni Loukissas, Georgia Tech

Dr. Carl DiSalvo, Georgia Tech

Dr. Andrés Monroy-Hernández, SNAP Inc.



American democracy is currently experiencing a “crisis in trust” as American's trust in their government has decreased significantly over the past half-century. To restore trust in government, public officials and technologists have increasingly turned to technological solutions such as smart city platforms, civic technology apps, and automated decision-making systems. These solutions are often guided by neoliberal design logic that limits designing with trust to pursuing efficiency and transactionality in civic relationships. The technologies this logic produces will not solve the crisis and can even exacerbate it; for instance, when the higher priority is assuring that a community’s voice is heard, that a process is fair, or that the most vulnerable are able to safely express themselves. To address these concerns, I argue design in the crisis needs a new design logic—one that is centered around how technology can close manifestations of distance in civic relationships.


This dissertation explores how the social psychological concept of distance—the subjective experience of how far or how close something or someone feels to oneself—can be used as a framework to guide designing civic technology with trust. To develop this framework, I first conducted a series of ethnographic and design-based inquiries to understand how public officials in Atlanta City Government work to close distance in civic relationships. I then used the implications for design uncovered from these studies to inform the design a sociotechnical system I developed for the City of Atlanta’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. By reflecting on the design of the system, I contribute a design framework Trust Work. By centering designing with trust around distance, my framework informs civic technologies that respond and counter the growth of distance in civic relationships perpetuated by the crisis in trust.


Additional Information

In Campus Calendar

Graduate Studies

Invited Audience
Faculty/Staff, Public, Graduate students, Undergraduate students
Phd Defense
  • Created By: Tatianna Richardson
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jul 8, 2020 - 9:17am
  • Last Updated: Jul 8, 2020 - 9:17am