For many people, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft offer a convenient and inexpensive alternative to taxis. But to UMSI researcher Tawanna Dillahunt, “sharing economy” services like Uber could offer something more — a way for urban Detroiters to move beyond their immediate circle of influence and be exposed to information sources outside the boundaries of their neighborhoods.
If they lack private transportation, and hampered by Detroit’s limited public transit, many residents have limited options when it comes to building their circle of acquaintances and expanding their knowledge to what’s available outside of their immediate circles. UMSI assistant professor Tawanna Dillahunt is currently studying the interactions between passengers and Uber drivers in Detroit, in which riders receive free passage in exchange for filling out a diary detailing their interactions with the drivers and conducting a brief interview.
“The perception is that you have to get out of Detroit in order to acquire resources and new knowledge,” Dillahunt says. “In this scenario, drivers come from all over, including the outskirts of the city, so they’re a potential source of new input and new ideas for the passengers. We see Uber drivers as knowledge and information carriers.” Continue reading